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The study and practice of navigation between stallar or planetary bodies. Those working within this field must have an excellent grasp of steller cartography as well as strong science and mathematics skills.

Stellar Navigation is the science of locating the position and plotting the course of ships, aircraft, and spacecraft; in the latter case, the proper term is sometimes referred to as astrogation.

By the mid-23rd century, the Medusans had developed interstellar navigation to a fine art. (TOS: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?") During this time, Hikaru Sulu was considered a specialist in navigation and weapons. (TOS: "The Way to Eden")

It was also at this time that the Federation maintained an automatic communications and astrogation station on the uninhabited planetoid of Gamma II. (TOS: "The Gamesters of Triskelion")

Lieutenant Commander T. Grodnick was an Instructor of Astrogation at Starfleet Academy in 2285. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)


Historically, the navigator was responsible for the navigation aboard sea going vessels, and later aboard air craft. (VOY: "The 37's")

During ancient times mariners navigated by the stars. Later maps and globes would be utilized, and with the advent of advanced technologies, came the compass and the sextant, followed much later by radar and sonar. (VOY: "Year of Hell"; ENT: "Borderland"; DS9: "Explorers")

Once beings began to travel the stars, the navigator, or "astrogation plotter", continued the role in space, while new technologies were developed to aid in that advancement.

An early form of navigation technology, referred to by Chakotay as "the old-fashioned way", was by use of optical scanners. (VOY: "Unity") LIDAR was another form of early navigational technology. (VOY: "One Small Step")

By the 22nd century, auto-navigation systems were utilized aboard starships. (ENT: "Doctor's Orders", et al.)

The astrogator was used in plotting courses aboard Constitution-class starships and Class F shuttlecrafts during the mid-23rd century. (TOS: "And the Children Shall Lead", "Metamorphosis")

Alternative navigation

On occasion, when navigational sensors became inaccurate, inoperative or obsolete, alternative means could be used to assist in navigation.

In 2268, the Federation considered the possibility of employing Medusan navigators aboard starships as a means of solving many navigational problems. (TOS: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?") Prior to this, the ship's computer banks were utilized to "solve our problems of navigation." (TOS: "The Way to Eden") During a ruse performed by Captain James T. Kirk in 2268, where the USS Enterprise crossed into the Romulan Neutral Zone, Kirk explained to the Romulan Commander that the inadvertent excursion across the zone was due to an "instrument failure caused navigational error." When the Romulan Commander questioned how an instrument failure as radical as Kirk suggested went unnoticed until you were well past the neutral zone, Kirk explained that "Accidents happen. Backup systems malfunction. We were due for overhaul two months ago." When again questioned by the Romulan Commander regarding the Enterprise's ability to navigate with said malfunction, Kirk explained that "the error was corrected." (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident")

During the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor, Kira Nerys learned "a little trick" that was used to evade the Cardassian ships while hiding in the Badlands. In effort to compensate for the limited sensor range in the Badland, the Bajoran pilots used an active scan system to navigate, a system which worked by echo location. According to Kira, this was accomplished by sending out "a modulated tetryon pulse and if it reflects off the hull of a ship we can approximate its location." To prevent the pulses from giving away the ship's position, they would alter course and speed following every scan. (DS9: "Starship Down")

In 2374, Seven of Nine and Harry Kim merged Starfleet and Borg ingenuity to create this new technology that incorporated "returning to that tried-and-true method" of navigating by the stars. The technology worked by using the astrometric sensors to measure the radiative flux of up to three billion stars at one time. The ship's computer would then calculate the ship's position relative to the center of the galaxy. The new mapping technology was considered to be ten times more accurate than current technology, and was able to eliminate five years from the ship's journey to Earth through the Delta Quadrant. (VOY: "Year of Hell")

The following year, when the USS Voyager became trapped in chaotic space, it was suggested that the ship "drop a series of beacons" to assist in their navigation out of that region of space. (VOY: "The Fight")

Subspace sensors would later become a key external component in assisting starship navigation. (VOY: "Year of Hell", "The Fight") When the USS Enterprise was taken beyond the galactic barrier, they were unable to return due to the unfortunate lack of reference points on which to plot a return course, which came as a result of the extreme sensory distortion, originally caused by crossing the barrier. (TOS: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?") Photic sonar was also used during this period. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Related Terms

  • Azimuth- Azimuth is a mathematical concept defined as the angle, usually measured in degrees (°), between a reference plane and a point. This concept is used in many practical applications including navigation, astronomy, mapping, mining and artillery. The word azimuth is derived from the Arabic السمت ('as-sumūt'), derved from the Persian سمت ('samt') which means direction, referring to the ways or directions a person faces.

The more technical definition of Azimuth is:

An arc of the horizon intercepted between the meridian of the place and a vertical circle passing through the center of any object; as, the azimuth of a star; the azimuth or bearing of a line surveying.


The quadrant of an azimuth circle.

  • Bearing - Bearing is a description of the direction of a space vessel in relation to another object, such as a planet, star, starbase or other object in relation to the forward direction of travel and is usually accompanied by a distance measurement. An object on a bearing of 090 mark 270 is to the starboard and below the vessel; an object bearing 300 mark 10 is located to the port side of the vessel and above the current plane of travel.
  • Course - In navigation, a course is the intended path of a vehicle. For space travel, it is the intended flight path of starship or the direction of a line drawn on a chart representing the intended path, expressed as the angle measured from a specific reference datum clockwise from 0° through 360° to the line.
  • Heading - Heading is an expression of the direction a space vessel is traveling in relation to the center of the Galaxy. It is composed of two numbers: an azimuth (horizontal) value and an elevation (vertical) value, separated by the designator "mark". For example, a heading of 180 mark 0 would be a course heading to the outer rim of the galaxy, but on the same elevation as the center of the galaxy.
  • Coordinates -Coordinates, also called galactic coordinates or spatial coordinates, are a set of numbers used to indicate a specific location on a planet's surface or point in space.
The galactic coordinates for the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy is 036 point 231. After the magnetic organism overtook the USS Enterprise, it demanded that the crew set the ship on course to those specific coordinates. (TAS: "Beyond the Farthest Star")

The Galactic Plane

The galactic plane is the plane where the disk of the Milky Way Galaxy lies.

  • Any object located perpendicularily above this plane is descibed as being X° (degrees) North, and likewise, any object located perpendicularily below this plane is described as being X° South.
  • The star Beta Lyrae is located 142°NE of the galactic plane. (TAS: "The Slaver Weapon")
  • The antimatter universe counterpart to the star Minara was a dead star located 12°S of galactic plane. (TAS: "The Counter-Clock Incident")
  • While approaching the Questar M-17 in 2269, the Enterprise experienced severe hypergravitional effects from the dead star's negative star mass, pulling it "two minutes right ascension" off course. As they entered orbit of the star Uhura detected a mysterious radio signal coming from an insectoid pod ship located at "nine seconds right ascension from galactic plane, dead ahead" of the Enterprise position in orbit of the star. (TAS: "Beyond the Farthest Star")

Star Charts

A star chart is any mapping of three-dimensional space, usually undertaken by the stellar cartography department of a starship, retrieved and edited there or in astrometrics laboratories for navigation purposes.

  • During the early voyages of the Enterprise, the crew often consulted the Vulcan star charts. (Star Trek: Enterprise)
  • When Doctor Beverly Crusher was caught in a static warp bubble and her universe began to shrink, the computer informed her that Tau Alpha C was not listed on any current star map. (TNG: "Remember Me")
  • When Captain Jean-Luc Picard was living the life of Kamin on Kataan, he created several star charts of the stellar region surrounding Kataan with the help of a telescope he constructed. (TNG: "The Inner Light")
  • In 2369, Major Kira Nerys asked Deep Space 9's Cardassian computer for the star charts of the Argosian sector. The computer instead showed her the star charts of the Glessene sector. (DS9: "Babel")
  • In early 2374, Captain Benjamin Sisko asked Elim Garak to study several star charts. (DS9: "A Time to Stand")
A Map of the Known Galaxy