Docking a Starfleet vessel at a starbase such as Spacedock, is a well-established, by-the-book procedure. This maneuver is overseen by the starbase's approach control or command center, and can be automated once the Captain of the incoming vessel, hands control over to the docking commander.
Control Center Approach control is the main operation center for docking procedures, and is staffed by both Starfleet and civilian personnel. These highly trained docking crews, oversee the docking procedure on a round-the-clock schedule.
The bridge-like room is filled with visual display monitors, which give the most up-to-date status on the 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 usually a number of vessels docked in Spacedock 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 shuttlepods 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 maneuvers.
Approach control is responsible for giving all clearances to the space doors. In case a starship doesn't follow the correct procedure, approach control can issue a Yellow Alert to the entire Spacedock. Usually, only approach control has command over the opening and closing of the space doors, but it has been possible to override this command from aboard a starship.
Docking Procedure Starships begin their approach to Spacedock from beneath the level of the space doors. This procedure allows for clearance of any other vessels. Once the starship is in the correct position, facing the closed space doors, the final approach procedure is initiated by the communications officer on the incoming starship.
Upon the command of the Captain, the communications officer will tell approach control that the vessel is ready for docking. The starship then receives confirmation that it is cleared to dock, and the Captain will request a lock-on command; this will be confirmed by the starship's helm, who will say, "Systems locked".
Once the proper acknowledgements have been made, the space doors open, and the starship commences the final automated docking procedure, traveling over a directional array of evenly spaced lights toward it's assigned bay. The starship slowly enters Spacedock using it's aft thrusters only. Each starship is assigned a docking bay, which is numbered, e.g. bay 4. It takes 60 seconds for the vessel to pass from the outer door to the docking bays.
Even before the starship has docked, the space doors will be closed again, awaiting another command from approach control. As the starship enters it's 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, the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-G engaged it's mooring beams and locked them off during it's docking procedure. All of these systems are critical to the safety of the starship while it is in bay, and the vessel must be secured in it's berth.
The Captain's calls 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.
Final Connection The only formality that remains is for the incoming starship commander to request permission to come aboard. This usually happens at the airlock doors which connect the starship and Spacedock through a long enclosed gangway.
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.
The departure of the starship from Spacedock is effectively the same procedure in reverse. Depending upon the confining space within Spacedock, a starship can either back out the space doors, or go forward. The starship cannot initiate warp drive or impulse engines until safely outside of Spacedock.