StarBase 118 Drydock
The drydock is a massive internal docking area for ships and shuttles inside StarBase 118. Due to the high amounts of traffic, most of the ship bays are usually occupied by visiting StarFleet and commercial ships.
Though some spacedock installations also maintain starship refurbishing units (usually up to three refits occurring at one time), StarBase 118's important tactical location, and high volume of traffic, keep this duty to a minimum. The Downwater Fleet Yards, 30 light years away, does most of the starship construction for the surrounding sectors, freeing up StarBase 118 to act as a commercial and tactical vantage point.
Docking a StarFleet vessel at a StarBase such as 118 is a well-established, by-the-book procedure. This manuever is overseen by the StarBase's Flight Control (FLY-CON) and can be automated once the captain of the incoming vessel hands control over to the docking commander.
Two areas control the docking procedure. In the main Command Center, the head Flight Control officer oversees all docking operations, and ensures that there is no danger to the StarBase as a whole. Another location, called the Approach Control Center (ACC), devoted specifically to the actual docking procedure, is located in the docking bay itself. The ACC is staffed by both StarFleet and civilian personnel who are highly trained docking crews that work on a round-the-clock schedule. This location is filled with visual display monitors, which give the most up-to-date status on spacedock activity. Large windows look out onto the docking bays, making certain that visual contact is maintained at all times; this is especially helpful during the docking procedure.
There are often more than a dozen vessels docked in the bay at any one time, and it is therefore extremely important for the docking crew to make sure that an incoming starship has a wide and clear berth at which to dock. Approach Control must also make sure that the numerous shuttle-pods and workpods in the general vicinity remain at a safe distance; clear channels of communication in the command center have to be maintained during these delicate manuevers.
Flight Control in the main Command Center is responsible for giving all clearances to the space-doors. In case a starship doesn't follow the correct procedure, either Approach Control or Flight Control can issue a yellow alert to the entire spacedock. Usually, only Flight Control has command over the opening and closing of the space doors, but it has been possible to over-ride this command from aboard a starship.
The docking procedure has been designed to allow for maximum safety, and to ensure that vessels do not cross paths in their approach or departure from the spacedock. While traffic in and out of the main spacedock can at times be light, and at other times be quite heavy, vessels are always required to queue properly to avoid disaster.
Starships must drop out of warp at least 100,000 kilometers from StarBase 118. Once dropping out of warp, vessels continue in a pre-determined path towards StarBase 118, under the guidance and jurisdiction of the StarBase 118 Flight Control Department. While they may immediately begin moving at 1/4 impulse, this speed must decrease continually until the vessel has entered a guideway of lighted beacons, which begins 900 kilometers from the spacedock doors. At this point, the vessel must slow to the standard orbiting speed of 10,000 kilometers/hour. At this speed, a vessel will take approximately five minutes to traverse the guideway, assuming they are not required to pause due to traffic or spacedock door malfunction. Vessels are required to maintain a distance of at least 20 kilometers from the vessel ahead of them, if a queue exists.
Once the proper acknowledgments have been made, the space doors will open (if closed during approach) and the starship commences the final automated docking procedure, traveling over a directional array of evenly spaced lights toward its assigned bay. The starship slowly enters the docking bay using its aft thrusters only. Each starship is assigned a docking port which is set back from the docking bay in what could be compared to a "parking space." Each docking port is numbered, e.g.- Port 4. (Alternatively, they are sometimes called "Airlocks".) Assuming that there are no other starships waiting to enter the bay, the space doors will be closed immediately.
As the starship enters its assigned bay, the captain will call for standby umbilical and gravitational support systems. There may be other systems required, depending upon the class of the starship. For instance, Galaxy class ships engage mooring beams and lock them off during docking procedures. All of these systems are critical to the safety of the starship while it is in the bay, and the vessel must be secured properly at all times. The captain's call for these systems is again acknowledged by the starship's helm officer. At this point, the helm officer can complete the rest of the docking procedure with or without the captain's interaction.
The only formality that remains is for the incoming starship's commanding officer to request permission to come aboard. (Although considered a formality in the vast majority of situations, this actually serves the purpose of ensuring that both parties - ship and base crew alike - have confirmed that the opposite party does not pose a danger, via dangerous crew, infectious diseases, and so-forth.) This usually happens at the airlock doors which connect the starship and spacedock through a long enclosed gangway (also called "Airlock"). Once the captain receives permission, the docking procedure is complete, and all necessary repairs and other orders of the day can be carried out. Much pedestrian activity will take place as crew members exit the vessel via gangways. StarFleet protocol requires at least one officer to be posted on the spacedock-end of the gangways at all times, to monitor and log all activity on and off the starship.
The departure of the starship from spacedock is effectively the same procedure in reverse. Depending upon the confining space within the docking bay, a starship can either back out the space doors, or go forward. The starship cannot initiate warp drive or impulse engines until safely outside the immediate vicinity of the base.