Memory Alpha article about Intrepid class ship says, that for example Voyager had 15 decks and only 141 crew members, when setting off for her maiden voyage to Badlands. That's statistically less than a ten crew members per one deck. Isn't that a huge waste of space and resources?

I understand, that statistical calculation is wrong and that deck are used for many more purposes than just hosting crew members. But still, isn't that a huge waste of space and resources (energy, air etc.) to power up, warm and oxygenate such large areas, when there is such small number of people per deck?

I know, that with new economics, it isn't a matter of how much would that cost, to build such a large ship for such a small crew. So, what are the real reasons? What is the reason for not taking much more crew -- more scientists, support crew members, security officers, etc., etc.,

I don't mean, that Voyager's maiden voyage was actually a rescue mission, on which virtually any hand could be useful. Which we can clearly see, when it turns out, that on a such large ship and for such large crew there is only one doctor. Which -- when killed -- must be replaced by EMH.

The same goes for Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The ship is just enormously huge, when to compare it to the number of crew members and again have only one doctor.

So... Why Star Trek vessels are so big, when their crew is so small?

  • 1
    en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Intrepid_class_decks - seems to answer your question.
    – user8719
    Mar 25, 2014 at 18:25
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    There are many references to multiple other doctors on the Enterprise throughout TNG - Crusher/Pulaski were the Chief Medical Officer in charge of a medical team of doctors and nurses.
    – HorusKol
    Mar 26, 2014 at 0:38
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    Their ships aren't really all that large. If you compare them in size to our ships of the line historically, their proportions are actually quite tiny considering their incredible firepower. A starship like the Enterprise is only about 600 meters long, yet capable of rendering a planet lifeless in a matter of hours. The USS Nimitz is only 663 meters long and has a crew of 3600 plus 2300 air crew members. I think of the Federation's starships as incredibly tiny especially considering their destructive capacity. Jan 6, 2015 at 23:38
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    On TOS, Dr. M'Benga was depicted in "A Private Little War" and "That Which Survives." Additionally, Dr. Sanchez served as a Medical Examiner in the episode "That Which Survives." In TNG, Dr. Selar was an additional physician depicted in "The Schizoid Man," "Tapestry," "Suspicions," "Sub Rosa," "Genesis," and other episodes. Nov 15, 2015 at 16:03
  • 3
    The extra space is to store tribbles.
    – RichS
    Jan 31, 2020 at 18:45

9 Answers 9


A Galaxy-class starship, at 42 decks, had approximately 1000 crew-members. Assuming a similar concentration for Intrepid-class vessels like U.S.S. Voyager, that would have a crew of roughly 300. As you can see at the link I provided, however, there are only 257 rooms on an Intrepid-class starship. Obviously this type of vessel is not built with families in mind, unlike the Galaxy-class, which could actually hold 3000 on occasion.

I see no reason to believe more than 200 personnel would ever be needed on an Intrepid-class ship. After all, most of the decks would not be used for living space. Bearing in mind that Star Trek: Generations and Encounter at Farpoint both showed that starships don't usually take on their full crew until after the conclusion of their shake-down cruise, and it's not surprising that Voyager had such a low crew compliment.

Also, both ships had more than one doctor. Voyager's medical staff were killed in the pilot, and TNG only ever concentrated on Crusher and Pulaski. Even TOS's Enterprise had more than McCoy; he was just the senior doctor on board. Dr M'Benga appeared in several episodes, and was noted as a xenobiologist who specialised in Vulcan physiology. Presumably such differentiation in skills would be common aboard starships, as it is in hospitals and militaries in our own time.

  • 23
    Why is surprising that a ship with 257 rooms only has 141 crew members? I live in a house with three people, and it has six rooms. Even with one of those rooms shared with me and my wife, it still feels crowded, and this home does not double as a workplace, unlike a combat vessel. The crew of Voyager is fortunate that they don't share quarters and hot-bunk, as the crews of modern naval vessels do. Most of those 257 rooms are likely functional. Star Fleet vessels are shown to be quite spacious and comfortable, no doubt for morale purposes. Klingon vessels are crowded. Mar 25, 2014 at 12:02
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    @trejder - Why is that surprising? That's 116 rooms that aren't crew quarters, which includes things like sickbay, main engineering, the ready room, the briefing room, the bridge, the mess hall, 2 cargo bays, 3 transporter rooms, the armoury, the science lab, astrometrics, the shuttlebay, computer core, etc.
    – Compro01
    Mar 25, 2014 at 14:21
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    And I don't think I can understate the point that there IS a Federation starship with a greater ratio of crew-to-size. The Defiant-Class starship, made explicitly for combat, has a crew compliment of 50, but only 4 decks.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 26, 2014 at 13:15
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    @Zibbobz: Indeed. And we're all overlooking the fact that shuttlecraft are often tken on extended missions as well. The crew-to-size ratio seems to differ greatly in Federation vessels. Mar 27, 2014 at 0:54
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    Most of the technical installations would have their size and form requirements. You basically have to build a ship around them. Then you make the rest crew quarters. While you could make less but bigger ones, why not use a kind of standard size and have room for more? Why not, it doesn't cost anything and you might have guests.
    – PlasmaHH
    Aug 12, 2014 at 13:32

There are two non-exclusive reasons that come to mind for this.

  1. People like their space. Resources don't seem to be a large concern for the Federation (yay replicators), and money isn't either, at least internally. With those two limits removed it becomes possible to build large ships with lots of room for everyone. Although even on a large ship like the Enterprise D ensigns are still assigned two to one cabin.
  2. Larger, somewhat empty ships should allow for damage mitigation. Also, with more space you can include more redundant systems. Any damage that penetrates the shields is less likely to hit a critical system if it has to first get through three science labs and a holodeck. And when something critical is damaged, Federation systems are built with three redundant backups.

In a way, Federation vessels are like extremely primitive Borg vessels. Almost every time we see the interior of a Borg ship we see huge open areas. And Borg ships are extremely decentralized in nature, allowing undamaged sections to backup damaged ones.

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    +1 "damage mitigation" is an argument, that I would never come with myself and which I like very much. That really sounds as an interesting idea.
    – trejder
    Mar 26, 2014 at 9:26
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    +1 for people-space. Most officers of rank appear to have private quarters even down to Ensigns, with only crew-level officers in bunks and families sharing rooms (usually even gaining 'double-space' by removing bulkheads to form a larger room).
    – Robotnik
    Dec 12, 2014 at 4:07
  • Also take into account room for non ship personnel, such as diplomatic delegations, mission specialist transportation, and even troop transport. A Ship such as a Galaxy class is meant to take on many different roles, not only what we see in TNG. If every room was occupied, there's simply be no room for everyone else. Jan 23, 2016 at 6:43
  • There's also the aspect that probably no one wants their quarters near the warp nacelles or the anti-matter reactor. There's a lot of space that in there as duct work for ventilation, power conduits, force field generators blast doors, computers, etc.
    – RisingZan
    May 23, 2023 at 16:51

Simply put, most starships are not built for efficiency - they are built for interstellar research, and often act as longtime living quarters (for entire families, in the case of Galaxy-class starships), with holodecks, bars, and even barber shops all taking up space aboard the ship. The relatively small size of the 'crew' aboard the ship could be compared to an oceanic vacation cruise ship, only instead of a two-week vacation, people are living there for years on end.

And there's considerable variation - the Voyager ship with a ratio of 15 Decks to 141 crewmen, is far more efficent than the Galaxy-Class Flagship Enterprise.

Compare this to the Defiant-Class starship, explicity built for combat, with only 4 decks but a crew compliment of around 50, and you can see the glaring difference in design philosophy.

  • Most Federation ships had no families on board. To my knowledge only the Galaxy class was built with extended civilian occupation in mind. While most ships had holodecks (why not after all?), I'd be surprised if other vessels had a bar or barber shop.
    – Xantec
    Mar 25, 2014 at 18:00
  • @Xantec Noted and edited in. And though the barber shop is perhaps only on the Enterprise, it's one in a large number of things that take up space on Federation starships.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 25, 2014 at 18:05
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    Directly comparing the deck-to-personnel ratio of a Galaxy or Intrepid class starship with a ship design that includes a near vertical 'stem' (with lots of decks) connecting the saucer-shaped primary hull with the cylindrical secondary hull to a Defiant class vessel with no such intermediary design feature seems like apples and oranges to me.
    – user62584
    Feb 2, 2020 at 0:53

I refer you also to STTNG 4x05 "Remember Me"

Dr Crusher remarked that deck after deck were empty now. Although most of what takes place is not real, it's inside some alternate universe created by a warp bubble, Captain Picard's answer still stands: the space may be needed for temporary extra crew during certain types of mission, or for carrying ambassadors on diplomatic missions, or emergency evacuations, and any number of scenarios.


Your question hinges on the size of the decks. A lighthouse might have a dozen "decks" but a crew of two; a Nimitz aircraft carrier has a crew of about 6,000, and while I couldn't find an exact figure for number of decks, based on the draft it's probably about the same.

Voyager has about 1/3 the decks of Enterprise-D. So at first approximation, we'd expect it to have 1/27th the crew: if it's about 1/3 the width, volume, and height, it'll have 1/27th the volume. The Intrepid class is more compact than the Galaxy class, so it's probably more like 1/10th the volume. The Enterprise had a complement of roughly 1,000, so at 141 Voyager is actually more densely crewed - which makes sense since it's not a big flagship meant to handle diplomatic encounters and evacuations.

Memory Alpha lets us refine this back-of-the-envelope calculation: the Intrepid masses 700,000 tonnes, compared to 5,000,000 for Enterprise, so one crewman peer 5,000 tonnes of ship seems constant. Is this reasonable? For the modern Nimitz class, the same value is 17 - but presumably the Federation has somewhat better automaton, despite their lack of, say, e-mail.

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    Also recall Deanna's comment to Riker in These Are The Voyages that "they really packed them in on these old ships", which lends a lot of weight to the comfort factor if nothing else. Nov 24, 2014 at 17:29

This is rather attacking your premises, but too long for a comment:

But still, isn't that a huge waste of space and resources (energy, air etc.) to power up, warm and oxygenate such large areas, when there is such small number of people per deck?

This makes little to no sense to me:

  • Space itself costs nothing, only walls to surround space do. And they are arguably rather cheap in comparison to all the technology on board.

  • Space or rooms do not consume power, people and devices do. If you put the same amount of devices and people in a larger space, this does not cost intrisically more power.

  • The same goes for oxygen: Humans, plants, pets and some devices consume oxygen, space doesn’t.

  • The cost for maintaining the heat of a room (or spaceship) only depends on the surface and the dissipation of heat through that surface and not on the volume. Once you have heated up a perfectly insulated room to a certain temperature, it stays that way. The costs for the initial heating are negligible. Now, admittedly, increasing the volume of a room also increases its surface, but if reducing surfaces were important for Star Trek ships, they would not be designed the way they are (but rather be round or at least cuboid).

To come from the other way: Suppose you already decided that each crew member shall have a door, computer, bed, bathroom, replicator, etc. Now you have to choose between cramming all of these things in a 15 m³ cabin or a 50 m³ one. This does not change the resources (material, electricity, oxygen) consumed by these things or the crew member. The only difference is that you need more walls and it increases the total surface of your ship. But if either of these were a relevant factor, ships would have dramatically different geometries. 

I know, that with new economics, it isn't a matter of how much would that cost, to build such a large ship for such a small crew. So, what are the real reasons? What is the reason for not taking much more crew -- more scientists, support crew members, security officers, etc., etc.,

Well, one thing has to be the limiting factor: Personnel or resources for ships. And if you assume that the cost (and thus the resources) for building a ship do not matter, it has to be personnel. With other words: There are sufficient resources to build spacious ships for all available personnel. Or: Even spacious and comfortable ships do not suffice to attract more personnel.

  • Au contraire, space does cost something. Some other question/comment stated from the technical manual that a smaller size of the ship (and that is essentially surrounded space) would be beneficial to the warp drive. Fuel consumption and/or higher top or cruising speed would be a major concern for a ship on a multi-year mission.
    – Ghanima
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:30
  • @Ghanima: Do you refer to this comment?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:32
  • Actually it's not that comment but @richard 's answer of that question. But rereading it now it would seem that I just implied that thought. Maybe somebody with access to the tech man can verify the thought.
    – Ghanima
    Jan 6, 2015 at 23:38
  • Either I am missing something obvious or your whole answer is based on a completely wrong assumption. Of course that adding space without increasing crew costs a whole lot of money. Building costs and equipment costs, you mentioned yourself. It doesn't matter whether I have 30, 300 or 3000 thousand crew members. If I build 1000 bathrooms for them, I will have to: build it (materials), equip it (costs) and warm it, support it with water, electricity, computers, security systems, doors, everything. Space itself is horribly expensive.
    – trejder
    Feb 1, 2020 at 20:06
  • @trejder: I fail to follow your comment: First you say that you want to add space without increasing crew, but then you want to fill this space with additional bathrooms, computers, etc. All these things primarily depend on the number of crew members, not the volume of the ship. Crew members don’t suddenly need additional bathrooms just because they have more space. (I think I already addressed most of the things you mentioned, but still see my edit.)
    – Wrzlprmft
    Feb 1, 2020 at 20:53

This is already a trend in naval warships

Compare a WWII destroyer -- 1500 tons displacement, crew of 300 - to a modern Aegis destroyer like the JMSDF Kongo, 10,000 tons displacement, crew of 300. Both with the same core mission: ASW and light surface combat.

A World War II admiral would take one look at the Kongo and say "Cruiser". (If the admiral didn't say "outlandishly large Coast Guard cutter", since the leviathan has only a single gun.)

That's an example of why. The gun can fire 10 rounds off autoloader before it neeeds to be crewed. The ship's real punch is the hundred or so weapons in the fore and aft Vertical Launch System, which takes an inordinate amount of space on board, but has zero crew. The entire anti-aircraft function, from the SAMs to AA guns, is automated. This high level of automation means less crew.

So you saw this on Star Trek: TOS. They had at least one episode where they couldn't fire weapons becase the 2 people in the phaser bank or photon torpedo rooms were incapacitated, and Spock(?) had to brave toxic gas or fire to get the weapons firing. By the 24th century, those people are gone. 21 seasons of three series, and no repeat of that classic drama.

Mind you, Roddenberry and some of the TOS staff were WWII veterans, and were familiar with crewing levels of ships, and carried that sensibility into TOS. By TNG, naval thinking was to automate those tasks, and that reflected in the shows which followed.

  • It's even more extreme in reality than that. Theoretically, a modern warship could operate (badly, briefly, only in open water, and with nothing broken) with three people: one on the bridge, one in the CIC, and one in the engine room, and the one in the engine room really has nothing to so except watch gauges, to theoretically you're down to two: one navigates the ship, the other handles sensors and weapons. As I said, it wouldn't operate well but it could be done. Feb 2, 2020 at 6:20

Federation starships come with plethora of powerful sensors and internal circuitry for long term exploratory assignments.... not to mention defensive and offensive systems, life support, etc. That's probably the main reason why they are 'big' in the first place... or at least why most of their ships are as big (exploration and the need to house powerful technologies that would effectively make a starship self-sustaining for a given period)...

However, it is also accurate that as technology advances, you'll be able to create new and much more powerful technology with far less resources and physical space requirements.

I would imagine that in the 23rd century (at least during TOS) we could see internal corridors with some conduits, and would pack a larger crew compliment. In the 24th century, technology advanced (obviously), took up less space, and you could create much more spacious quarters as a result... improving living standards for people on long term missions.

Mission parameters might be dictating the size of the crew for a given ship. Or, a simple matter of crew assignments... so starships are built to a certain size, but crew compliments will vary depending on the mission they have... plus I doubt there's any particular need to fill starships to max capacity... especially if humanitarian aid is needed along with possible evacuation (which can also be handled if you keep some people in transporter stasis in addition to having some of them physically on the ship).

A Galaxy class can easily transport 10 000 people at any given time... but most of the time, it has a crew of just over 1000.

The Intrepid class for example might comfortably fit a crew of say 300, but only half as much were at first assigned for a simple mission to the Badlands as the mission parameters probably didn't require more (might also explain why Voyager launched with only 36 photon torpedoes).

So, its a combination of factors. Ships are big due to being exploratory and suited for multiple things at the same time... Federation ships are also built to be relatively modular... so they can be easily upgraded over time. Crew compliments would depend primarily on types of missions.

We saw the Defiant was a 'warship' and quite small. If you automated the heck out of it, it would likely be able to run with only 1 or 2 people... with computer taking care of maintenance, repairs, upgrades, etc. (using transporters and replicators, or anti-grav drones which would have mini replicators, transporters and even tractor beams for moving stuff around).

Obviously, SF doesn't use extreme levels of automation in its ships (even though its more than doable to do this). I suspect, one of the reasons is to keep everyone well versed in ship functions... but quite honestly, this can be accomplished in a different capacity without having a rigid structure that forces people to do monotonous work all the time just for the sake of it (the needed skills can be maintained via gamification for example while they are doing something else... something more productive).

  • That's like the U.S.S. Vengeance--it was largely automated, so it needed minimal crew. Apr 17, 2020 at 14:33
  • Pretty much. Automation is largely the answer for a smaller crew compliment. Remember that the Enterprise-A could be modified to be operated with just a handful of people. One of the reasons for packing larger compliments of crews even on highly automated ships is long term exploration, whereas say border patrol wouldn't (although ships do seem to come with a set crew compliment anyway, so a Galaxy class which typically carries 1000 people would probably gain another 1000 or more people if they are going on a deep space exploratory mission for several years).
    – Deks
    Apr 22, 2020 at 0:49

Automation and extensive machinery inside eliminates a vast majority for needed crew manning. But remember it's crew complement consist of shifts for running the vessel in space 24 hours a day. It has a command hierarchy. Engineers, repairmen, damage control, security guards, medical staff, scientific personnel. Living quarters are far larger than normal quarters in real world naval vessels. The shuttle bay, cargo bays, security complex, engineering, control room. Plus the ship stores thousands of tons of cryogenic deuterium. Several massive tanks of stored antimatter. Not to mention a magazine for the weapons on board enter image description here

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