Explorer class starship
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|First appearance||A Distant Star|
|Armaments||4 52mm Pulse Plasma Cannons
4 Twin Particle Cannons
|Propulsion||Beigle-Bryant 9000A Particle Thrust Engine|
In the episode "A Distant Star" Captain Sheridan tells the crew in C&C, "Take a good look people... if you're supremely lucky, you'll see two like her in your lifetime." Sheridan's comment conveys the rare nature of Explorer-class vessels. Indeed, "A Distant Star" is the only regular episode* in which an Explorer-class vessel appears.
An identical ship to the Cortez is seen for a few seconds in the background in the 4th season episode 'Rising Star'.
* The episode "A Late Delivery From Avalon" contains a flashback to the Earth Alliance's first encounter with the Minbari, which allegedly comprised an Earth "Explorer Division" encountering a Minbari fleet. An Explorer ship may be visible in these brief scenes, but this has not been confirmed.
The primary mission of all Explorer ships is research and exploration, thus they only possess moderate defenses consisting of four turreted 52mm Pulse Cannons, four twin particle beam arrays, and two squadrons of Starfuries. This makes Explorer ships large, ill-defended targets. Their massive Jump engines and powerful fusion reactors, however, enable Explorer class vessels to escape dangerous situations quickly.
Explorer ships spend a great deal of their time exploring The Rim, the uncharted and unexplored areas of space that have not been claimed by any known race. As this is the case, Explorer ships are often the first class of Earth Alliance vessel an alien race might come into contact with. This privilege and burden of first contact is not taken lightly and, as the slightest misinterpreted action can result in tragedy, the crews and commanding officers of Explorer ships are extremely well versed in first-contact procedures.
Due to Explorer-class ships dominating the exploration field, they are equipped with the latest in sensor and communications technology, allowing greater ease in contacting and communicating with different alien species. Also, several large planetary drop ships allow Explorer ships to chart and explore entire planets within a few short weeks, laying the foundation for a more detailed expedition.
Though Explorer class ships have more than enough power to jump into Hyperspace and go where they will, the bulk of an Explorer class ship's mass consists of spare parts with which to build Jump Gates. The continual construction and distribution of Jump Gates makes it easier for other Earth Alliance vessels and commercial ships to jump into new areas of space. Some fans have speculated that this provides the Earth Alliance with a quick and effective way to quickly expand humanity's sphere of influence, as well as to gain valuable resources and revenue, as Earth Alliance can charge vessels transit fees for the use of Jump Gates, but there is no evidence from any broadcast episodes of the show to support this claim.