Starliners were designed as manned interstellar probes, and were one of Earth's earliest attempts at interstellar travel (ST reference: Star Trek Maps). They were a prototype design was based on Vulcan ships of that era, such as the Suurok-class (TOS novel: Ex Machina).
A number were launched during the mid-to-late 21st century towards target stars that lay within 15 light-years of Sol. However, only the seventh, the UESP Enterprise, reached its destination of Alpha Centauri before the rest of the Starliners were overtaken by recently developed faster-than-light spaceships (ST reference: Star Trek Maps).
- The Star Trek Maps timeline is difficult to align to the standard timeline. According to the source, Zefram Cochrane developed warp drive in 2050 (instead of 2063, and these ships were launched in the 2050s, implying that these ships are only capable of warp factor 1, i.e., light speed. It is unclear how the Enterprise reached its destination (in 2039) 10–20 years before it was launched, however.
- Taken with Star Trek Maps, this may be in in error or due to the ships being largely obsolete before they reached their destinations.
They remained in use however. The Starliner UESP Lafayette later colonized the planet of New Paris in the Omega Aurigae system circa 2105 (ST reference: Star Trek Maps), while the Enterprise survived to receive ""SS" and "USS" prefixes (ST references: The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek Encyclopedia). Portraits of these ships were displayed in the 602 Club in 2143 and Admiral Maxwell Forrest's office in 2154 (ENT episodes: "First Flight", "Home").
This class of ships in Star Trek Maps was based on a ship originally designed by Matt Jefferies during the early pre-production stage of Star Trek. After the show was cancelled, the design was considered for use in a planned, but never produced, sci-fi television series by Gene Roddenberry. A portrait of the ship later appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Star Trek: Enterprise artist Doug Drexler based the Vulcan Suurok-class on this image. Following this, the TOS novel: Ex Machina later said this ship was only an unused prototype based on Vulcan designs and that the portrait had been mistakenly installed. It was removed and replaced with one of the Enterprise (NX-01).