|USS Biko • USS Cochrane • USS Copernicus • USS Grissom • USS Oberth • USS Pegasus • SS Tsiolkovsky • SS Vico • USS Yosemite • Unnamed|
The Copernicus was presumably named for Nicolaus Copernicus, who developed the heliocentric theory of the solar system.
The Copernicus was not identified by name on screen, but was identified by production sources. ILM's Model Shop Supervisor Jeff Mann has stated, "We had an incident in the beginning of the film, where we needed a Reliant-class [sic.], so we put a new paint job on the old Reliant model, changed a small shuttle called the Grissom to the Copernicus and we added a back half to the shuttlecraft that Scotty flew around in Star Trek: The Motion Picture." (The Making of the Trek Films, 3rd ed., p. 68)
According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 2, p. 328), which confirms the above information, the registry of the Copernicus was "NCC-623". However, a screen cap from the next use of the model as the SS Tsiolkovsky in TNG Remastered's "The Naked Now" clearly showed the registry to be "NCC-640", being illegible in the original airing, and still visible in a couple shots that were not corrected in the episode's remastering.
Michael Okuda remarked years later in this respect, "I seem to recall that Grissom may have been relabeled to serve as another ship (the Copernicus?) in Star Trek III or IV. I didn't try to relabel the model for 'The Naked Now,' partly because we realized that the existing registry would not be legible in standard-def video, but also because we were all so insanely busy at the time that no one could take on an additional project that wasn't likely to be seen on the screen."