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In Star Trek, there are a lot of different starship classes (The Constitution, Daedalus, Galaxy, Intrepid, New Orleans, etc to name but a few).

My question: Is there any reference to who/what process is involved in assigning the names to these Starship classes (note: NOT the name of the starship itself, but the class)?

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    The first ship of that design usually becomes the "class" name. The first Constitution-class ship is the "Constitution", the first Galaxy-class ship is the "Galaxy", etc. That's how it happens with naval ships, at least. Naming in the real world is often political, though you might both expect that less in Star Trek and also the fact that the names aren't human (or alien) surnames. – John O Apr 9 '14 at 15:23
  • @JohnO - The wiki article I've referenced seems to bear that out nicely. We almost always see the namesake vessel. – Valorum Apr 11 '14 at 22:22
  • Paramount Studio? Rick Berman? Brannon Braga? If Paramount Studio wanted to rename the USS Enterprise as Fred, there's nothing to stop them. – RichS May 11 at 6:23
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It's pretty clear that, as in the real world, Starfleet vessel classes are named after an eponymous first vessel.

This Wiki article gives a solid list of classes as well as their namesake vessel (and usually the episode in which that vessel appears). Certain ships such as the NX-01 Enterprise seem to break this convention but where this happens, it's usually because of an in-universe refit.

In-universe (at least within the trek books) the 'naming privilege' seems to go to the dockyard and the designer, presumably with plenty of input (e.g. meddling) from politicians and the usual me-too dignitaries. In the book "Final Frontier" it's the ship's shakedown captain who is given the honour of naming the vessel in return for past favours. He eventually chooses the name 'Enterprise' (phew!)

Out-of-universe, many of the ships were named after famous vessels, cast and crew hometowns and various in-jokes. There's quite a long list of speculation here about the names chosen.

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  • In the real world, vessels may also be named according to a theme class, such as the "Tribal-class" frigates: the Ashanti, the Nubian, the Eskimo, etc. – bishop Jun 17 '16 at 1:07
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Unofficially the Starship class is due to certain specifications and qualities of a particular starship.

According to The Star Trek Wikia.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Category:Starship_classes

A class of starship is a term referring to the design of a group of vessels built to the specifications, capabilities, modification or type arrangement and outfitting. Many cultures name separate series or classes based on these qualities. A starship classification is usually used to refer to the general abilities of a vessel, but a specific class designation refers to its shape or layout in differing degrees, according to how specific species and cultures use the term.

Here is an example of what the Intrepid-class Starship was.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Intrepid_class

The Intrepid-class starship was a Federation design that entered service in the later half of the 24th century. The Intrepid-class was designed for long-term exploration missions. At less than half the size of a Galaxy-class starship, it was considered "quick and smart."

Another example would be the Galaxy-class Starship.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Galaxy_class

The Galaxy Class Starship Development Project began in the 2350s at Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards. (TNG: "Booby Trap", "Eye of the Beholder") Numerous technologies implemented on Galaxy-class starships were tested aboard earlier prototype vessels, including the Oberth-class USS Pegasus in the 2350s. (TNG: "The Pegasus")

The warp core was designed at Outpost Seran-T-one on stardate 40052 by some of the most brilliant engineering minds in the Federation, including Leah Brahms of the Theoretical Propulsion Group. (TNG: "Booby Trap")

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Starship_classification

Unofficially, many starships are classified by their design type. Although Starfleet tries not to classify their vessels in any such categorization, there have been numerous occasions where a Starfleet officer referred to Starfleet or enemy vessels by type during a fleet engagement, such as in Operation Return when Captain Sisko calls upon Galaxy wings to engage Galor-class destroyers. (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels")

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    Ok, but still... who names the classes? – Envite Apr 9 '14 at 14:02
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    Isn't the class name just the name of the first ship built with the new specifications? IOW, the USS Intrepid, the USS Galaxy, the USS Constitution, etc were just the first of their lines? – Roger Apr 9 '14 at 14:30
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    @Roger: That's what I always belived. But even if: Who get's the honor to decide what name to give the new ship and (following that logic) the new class? My absolutly uselessly vague answer would be: Starfleet. – Einer Apr 9 '14 at 16:50
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    Funny enough the Galaxy Class starship was named after the USS Galaxy which was the first prototype.... So perhaps the new class ships are named after the prototype Starships themselves. – DoctorWho22 Apr 9 '14 at 16:56
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    @Einer Totally unsubstantiated shot-in-the-dark answer would be that the design team that put it together gets the honor of naming it. I know that certain classes are named along a theme, like the Luna-class from the Titan books are all named for moons in Earth's solar system, with Luna being the prototype. – Roger Apr 9 '14 at 18:38
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It's never established if ships have specific naming conventions. Only one, the Danube class; which is named after Rivers on Earth. This was brought up in the DS9 Episode "Family Business" where a new runabout is named the Rubicon Kira remarking that "at the rate we go through runabout its a good thing the Earth has so many rivers" As to who names them in Universe, it is presumably Starfleet's design bureau that builds/designs the ships in the first place.

Ship names in the Star Trek franchise were byproducts of producers and writers. Gene Roddenberry's Naval career inspired many of the real famous naval vessels (Enterprise, Yorktown, Intrepid) Also many writers in TNG and after used subtle in-jokes and homages or references to other media.

  • Akira class: Named after the anime Akira. USS Thunderchild- Named after the battlecruiser HMS Thunderchild in HG Wells nvel War of the Worlds (where it fought the martians alien walkers)
  • Oberth class: named after German rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth, thus many are named after scientists or early space related pioneers. The USS Bonestell; named after concept artists Chesley Bonestell who painted pictures conceptual art for NASA. USS Grissom: US Astronaut; SS Tsiolkovsky, a Russian Rocket engineer
  • Constitution class: Named after the USS Constitution, the oldest "Active" US Navy ship USS Enterprise: One of the most famous names in ship history USS Lexington: Named after numerous US Navy ships (8 in total)
  • Defiant class: named after the fictitious ship in the 1962 movie H.M.S. Defiant (based on the Frank Tilsey novel Mutiny)
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