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Can the USS Enterprise-D connect to another ship via docking?

Like for example, a smaller ship approaches the Enterprise in order to meet with the crew or something without using the transporters. Could that ship then dock directly with the Enterprise?

Has there even ever been any canon reference to the Enterprise being able to manually dock with another vessel? Or can the Enterprise only use transporters or shuttles to get to another ship?

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    I know this is not what you really mean, but note that it is almost permanently connected to the Captain's yacht. – Wikis Feb 20 '14 at 22:29
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From Memory-Alpha:

Docking Port
[...]
On Galaxy-class ships like the USS Enterprise-D, docking ports were located on Deck 25 on either side of the forward torpedo launcher in the stardrive section. The Enterprise docked at Starbase 74 (TNG: "11001001") and Starbase 133 (TNG: "Remember Me") via these ports. The Enterprise also docked at Deep Space 9 in this manner (TNG: "Birthright, Part I"; DS9: "Emissary"), as did the USS Odyssey. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar") Another Galaxy class starship, the USS Venture, had a docking port on the extreme port tip of its saucer section and connected to Deep Space 9 at this location. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior", "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", "Sacrifice of Angels")

So Galaxy class ships such as the Enterprise-D had docking ports that were used to dock with various starbases. If you can dock with a starbase then presumably you can dock with another ship using the same hardware.

Memory Alpha even includes a screenshot from 11001001 so you can see what the docking ports look like and how they're used:

enter image description here

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    Just because ships can dock at starbases that doesn't necessarily mean they can dock with each other. By analogy with cables, it may be that ships have a male connector and bases have a female one. – Mike Scott Feb 8 '14 at 8:08
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    @Mike: I don't think it is that much of a stretch to infer ship-to-ship connections; I can't think of any examples in TNG but there is historical precedent in Enterprise. Worst case you can replicate a gender bender to sort out any connector issues. – mu is too short Feb 8 '14 at 8:40
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    Your answer is correct, but I'd also like to point out that the smallest ships would just land in the internal bays of the Enterprise. Furthermore, Enterprise doesn't seem to have much in the way of retractable docking bridges, so we're left to wonder if the other (large) ship would have those either. We're probably looking at just transporters and/or shuttles when transferring ship-to-ship in deep space. – John O Feb 8 '14 at 23:05
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Intrepid class vessels can certainly do this, but there are things that the Intrepids can can do that a Galaxy class can't (land on a planet for one thing), so this isn't necessarily conclusive.

However, if you look at the docking port configuration on the Enterprise D (the one where the starbase footbridge is hooked up in your the image by another answerer), it's very reminiscent of the docking ports on vessels where we see ships come along side and dock (see two examples in TMP, the orbital station shuttle and the Surak, for example). So my intuition is that, yes, a Galaxy class could dock with another ship, though in practice other alternative technologies make that not a frequent occurrence.

  • This happened frequently in ST:ENT, actually. (Not the Enterprise D, of course, but an earlier model.) Mainly because transporter technology was fairly new back then and everyone was afraid to send living people through it at first, so almost every encounter with people from other ships involved a docking port. – Darrel Hoffman Feb 19 '16 at 22:49

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