One of the last vessels designed and launched before the
debacle at Wolf 359, the Steamrunner Class of starships was the quintessential
utility vessel of Starfleet. The class was originally designed as
a replacement for the elder statesman of the fleet, the Miranda class,
in the role of cruiser and deep space fleet escort.
The Steamrunner class was launched and quickly slipped into the role of exploration and, working in tandem with the Saber class, in the expansion of the Federation. Equipped with modest scientific resources and diplomatic facilities, the Steamrunner proved to be a capable stand-alone deep space vessel.
The Steamrunner Class was born out of necessity. The Miranda Class
had long since passed its expected service life by more than 75 years.
In that time, Starfleet had yet to find an adequate replacement for
the multi-role Miranda-class, so the call went out to the fleet yards
of the United Federation of Planets for a new, small vessel, capable
of adapting to multiple roles, to supplement and ultimately replace
the Miranda class.
Over ten different designs were submitted to Starfleet. Several of these designs went into production under different contracts; the Norway and Saber Class vessels were among those used by Starfleet. The winning design for the Steamrunner Project was awarded to the Nesrun Shipyards in late 2337, and the prefix of NX-52000 was assigned to the project.
Soon after the basic concept for the Steamrunner was outlined, Starfleet did a 180-degree change in its direction for the "Master Plan for the Fleet" and concentrated on developing larger, multi-mission oriented vessels. It wasn't until the late 2340's that Starfleet again decided to expand its smaller, mission-specific fleet. Reviewing the design concept for the Steamrunner, Starfleet gave the go ahead and the project finally continued.
Construction of the first prototype hull, still bearing the designation NX-52000, began in 2353 in Arm 3 of the Nesrun Shipyards. The nacelle / primary hull assembly was completed within the year, and both the Primary and the Auxiliary Computer Cores were put in place by the end of 2354.
The question arose as to what type of power plant to use for both Impulse and Warp engines. Due to the unique profile of the Steamrunner Class, a standard Impulse and M/ARA configuration had to be abandoned. The debate raged as to just how powerful of a plant the vessel needed until 2355, when Consolidated Fusion Inc submitted its M/ARA and Impulse Engine design, originally intended for the Akira class vessel but having lost out to the RamJet propulsion system. Talks between CFI and Project Steamrunner went quickly, and within 2 standard months, the first test Impulse Engines and Warp Core arrived at Nesrun.
Owing to the unique design of the Hull, and that the impulse engines were originally designed for a much larger vessel, some severe modifications to the NX-52000 hull took place. The most visible modification was the extraction of the primary Warp deflector array from the primary hull. The Deflector was mounted 'outboard', in a pod strung by structural beams between the Warp Nacelles. This unique configuration was not the most efficient manner of reconfiguring the deflector network, but it was the most expedient.