These massive space stations act as service structures for routine Starfleet operations, the maintenance of starships, and the test of new technologies.

Starbases serve a variety of purposes for continued space exploration, operation, and security, acting as transit points for members of Starfleet and non-Starfleet personnel. Many starbases consist of a single space station; others are based on planets. They are important centers for Starfleet crew reassignment and for transfer during crew rotations.

Everyday operations include the pickup and transfer of medical supplies, relief supplies, and scientific equipment, the staging of Starfleet Academy entrance exams, and the provision of conference rooms for a wide range of purposes. Rest and relaxation facilities, such as those found at Starbase Earhart's Bonestell Recreation Facility, are also an important feature of starbases. Many space stations, such Starbase Lya III, are equipped to serve as Starfleet Command Bases. They also have the capacity to supply a large number of people with temporary living areas in the event of an emergency evacuation from a starship or nearby planet, and to attend to any injuries with their extensive medical facilities.

On the fringes of Federation space, starbases are a valuable line of defense, often the first to detect impending danger. But their most important function is to serve as a link between outlying planets and Starfleet Headquarters. In distant areas of the galaxy, starbases can provide a vital touchstone to the planets Starfleet personnel have left behind, making a vast and lonely galaxy seem more like home.