Challenger Class Reconstruction
Ever since fans have begun to spread their ideas on Star Trek starships across the web, it seemed clear that the Challenger class should be some sort of Constitution refit kitbash, as suggested in a fan description from Okuda's famous slide show. This is wrong. The Challenger, according to Okuda's own statements from February 2000 is actually a ship of the Galaxy family with vertically staggered nacelles. It was built by Ed Miarecki, essentially a Galaxy-class kitbash of a rather simple kind. We have been able to spot this ship in the wreckage too.
So far the most important reference image is supposedly from Okuda's slide show and, if any of the Wolf 359 ships, depicts the Challenger as described by Michael Okuda. A submarine conning tower as in Okuda's description is clearly visible as the upper nacelle pylon - provided the ship is shown upside up. The Challenger has a certain similarity to the four-nacelled Excelsior. Both ships have an extremely long horizontal neck, which holds the nacelle pylons.
Much better images, now of the damaged model, became available many years later, on the occasion of a Propworx auction.
Looking for a ship with vertical nacelles as per Mike Okuda's revised description and our reference photos, the one directly below the Enterprise in the debris field scene may have such an unusual structure. If the ship is slightly tilted, the saucer wouldn't appear elliptical, but almost round, and the two nacelles would be both visible in this tilted top view. We previously categorized the ship as Excelsior study model II candidate. One argument for the Challenger is that the secondary hull of the Excelsior study model II would have to reach up to the center of the saucer, which it apparently doesn't. Moreover, if one looks very closely, something like a annular phaser strip can be recognized. The Excelsior study model isn't supposed to have one. Mark delivered what may be considered the ultimate proof when he arranged his Challenger model to match the DVD screen cap.
The DVD (and ultimate the Blu-ray) also allows to identify the same ship at the right edge of the viewscreen, before the camera angle is widened to show Riker.
Chris came up with a schematic based upon the existing picture and descriptions, and some information he got from a person who was on the famous convention in 1991 and might have a video of Okuda's slide show. We believe this is very close to what the Buran actually looks like. The secondary hull is probably a rather thin custom-built part, as opposed to the wide Galaxy engineering hull. According to newer information, not yet included in the images, the Challenger saucer unfortunately probably consists of two Galaxy saucer tops. This is apparently where the saucer top left over from the Cheyenne was used (instead of on the Springfield class).
Based on the side-view schematic, Masaki made a sketch of what was used to build the ship. The information that there are two saucer tops glued together is not yet included. Anyway, the ship has an AMT/Ertl 1/2500 Enterprise-D saucer and a bridge module and one warp nacelle from the AMT/Ertl 1/1400 Enterprise-D kit. The secondary hull is custom-made, and mounted directly behind the saucer. A single warp nacelle was mounted on the bottom of the secondary hull. The model was later modified by Mike Okuda for display. He added another AMT/Ertl 1/1400 Enterprise-D warp nacelle on top of the secondary hull. The pylon he used to mount the warp nacelle was the sail tower of a Typhoon class submarine from a Revell 1/400 model kit .
In 2015 and 2016, Rick Sternbach managed to dig up several more photos of the various ships built by Ed Miarecki and used for the Wolf 359 shoots, all taken before the models were damaged. They include the first good pictures of the undamaged Challenger class.
We have refuted once and for all the idea that the Challenger may be a Constitution refit variant and have identified the true Challenger on screen. It is actually a typical starship of the 24th century, but not really one we would like to see more often. Mike Okuda himself admits that it "looks like a lollipop". The exact shape of the secondary hull is still not clear, and we would need much better images anyway. Based on the reconstruction by Chris, we obtain a length of 390m for the ship, assuming that the saucer is the same size as on the New Orleans and the Springfield.
Challenger class model built by Stephen L.