ネビュラ級は2345年より火星のユートピア・プラニシア造船所で開発が開始され、2353年に就役した。（Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual） 一部の艦は2363年から2367年にかけて、地球軌道上のサンフランシスコ造船所やエリダヌス座40番星A宇宙艦隊造船所でヨーヨーダイン社によって建造が行われ就役している。（TNG:不実なる平和、TNG: クリンゴン帝国の危機・後編）
Aside from the dedication plaque reference in "Redemption II" and "Second Sight", the Nebula-class was referred to by name in "The Wounded", and "Non Sequitur". It was additionally referred to by name in the script notes for "Redemption II".
First appearing as prototype kit-bash model in the debris field of The Best of Both Worlds, Part II, the design was upgraded to a full worthy studio model, to represent a major class of starship. As Michael Okuda explains on Doug Drexler's blog, "The original concept for the Nebula-class ship was to develop a design that was in the style that Andy Probert had so brilliantly established for the Enterprise-D. (You may recall that every other Federation starship in early TNG episodes was made with recycled movie ships.) Our initial hope was that Greg could use the same molds from the 4' Enterprise-D, but that he could add a bigger bridge and give it bigger windows. The idea was to suggest that this ship was a contemporary of the E-D, but it was a smaller vessel." 
Ed Miarecki designed and built two proto Nebula-class vessels to appear in the debris field of the The Best of Both Worlds episode. Okuda remembers, "Nebula-class USS Melbourne. The original version of the Nebula. Ed made us two nearly-identical Melbourne models. I destroyed one of them to create a battle-damaged ship for BOBW2. (I recall being up in the art department one evening, Dremel tool in hand, cutting up the ship, while Patrick Stewart, in Borg costume, came upstairs to use the Xerox machine. He asked me what I was doing. I showed him the model and said something like, "See what you did!") Rick Sternbach helped with the battle damage, too. And Greg Jein contributed quite a bit of wreckage as well. The other Nebula model ended up on one of the side tables in Sisko's office in DS9. I think it was labeled "Melbourne," too."
The models, built from parts of Galaxy級 AMT Star Trek model kits, No's 6618 and 6619, differed from its later definitive appearance in that they sported two smaller warp nacelles where the sensor pod was to be positioned and that the secondary hull was more elongated. Sisko's desk top model (having made two early appearances as desktop model in TNG: Future Imperfect、The Wounded), representing the destroyed Melbourne was refitted with a sensor pod after its first few appearances in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
For Emissary, the producers decided to use the more detailed Excelsior級 studio model to represent the USSMelbourne, thus robbing the proto-nebula from its name and registry. Stock footage of the now nameless distressed model is present in the episode (seen in the window of Sisko's escape pod, just as it leaves the doomed USSSaratoga), making it the only model to appear in both depictions of the Battle of Wolf 359.
The design upgrades for the Nebula-class were done by Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach and the model was built by Greg Jein. In Drexler's blog, Okada elaborates further: "As so often happens with this kind of project, we didn't give Greg enough time to accomplish this, so we decided to retain the original scale of the Galaxy-class ship saucer. I suggested the original 'AWACS' pod in response to a producer's observation that the ship might otherwise appear unbalanced. Unfortunately, the AWACS pod didn't look as elegant as we had hoped in The Wounded. Rick Sternbach came to the rescue with the cool triangular pod that we used in later episodes." The time constraints could also explain why the USSPhoenix is not equipped with reaction control thruster assemblies. Fortunately, Jein was able to save time by using the molds of the recently constructed 4-foot Galaxy級 to cast the saucer section and the nacelles.
As to the apparent lack of impulse thruster on the model Sternbach commented in the same blog, "One of the rationalizations I imagined ages ago for having no obvious impulse grilles involved capturing and compressing the impulse fusion reaction exhaust and later releasing it from special non-propulsive ports. If the Nebula-class was employed in a stealthy surveillance mode, it would be smart to minimize all overboard emissions. Since most all 'modern' impulse engines involve little or no pure rocket thrust, but more of a sub-warp drive, one could say that the familiar orange Starfleet glowy exhausts could be modified or eliminated."
The model was used extensively, redressed (mostly done by Drexler and Okuda) several times to represent multiple vessels in later seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the first three seasons of Deep Space Nine. 
When the shape of the sensor pod was reconsidered, Doug Drexler was also asked to come up with an alternative, "At one point, Dan Curry called Mike indicating that we may need an AWAC pod variant. We obliged by kludging one together. We ultimately did not use it.", Drexler remembered, who used amongst others, parts of a Miranda class model kit and computer keyboards. Instead the producers followed Sternbach's re-design. Drexler's part, measuring 12"x11"x6", turned up on 8 August 2010 as Lot #76 in the Propworx' "Star Trek Prop and Costume Auction", estimated at US$600-$800, where it sold for US$350 (including buyer’s premium).
In 1994 the model underwent extensive refurbishment done at the Industrial Light & Magic workshop supervised by modeler John Goodson for スタートレック：ジェネレーションズ. The model was totally stripped from its original paint scheme (white with duck-egg blue highlights) and a new more detailed paint scheme, necessary to meet big screen requirements, was applied (blue-gray with metallic blue highlights) to represent the USSFarragut (Cinefex, No.61, 1994, page 69). In its new livery the model was used to represent the USSLeeds, for the upgraded opening title sequence of the last four seasons of DS9. Since no dorsal shots were made for this sequence, the Farragut decals on top of the saucer were not replaced. The last time the model was shot, was for a battle scene in スタートレック：ファーストコンタクト as an unnamed vessel (although the model was still wearing the Farragut/Leeds decals, the shot was composed in a way that name and registry were not discernible).
The physical studio model itself, worn and showing its age has escaped the 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection and It's A Wrap! sale and auctions, and is still in the possession of Paramount Pictures, having been on tour as late as 2011.
For appearances in the later seasons of Deep Space Nine and Voyager a CGI model was built at Foundation Imaging in 1997 by Robert Bonchune, making its debut in VOY: Message in a Bottle. In a ploy that was reminiscent of what Jein had done, constructing the physical model, Bonchune said, "I got to have as reference, sitting at the front of my desk, the actual filming miniature! It was a good 4 feet across. In the effort to be expedient, I did "kitbash" existing parts of the CG USSEnterprise-D, but it still needed completely new parts and major changes to existing maps to match the miniature,". (Sci-Fi & Fantasy Models, No.32, 1998, page 54) The utilization of the parts of the Galaxy model went a long way explaining why the CGI Nebula differed slightly in appearance from its physical counterpart in that both the center line section of the secondary hull and the saucer rim were slimmer, suggesting one deck less each. The most significant difference was the change of the shape of the deflector dish housing to an oval shape akin to the Galaxy-class. Also, the CGI Enterprise-D sported the original gray-blue/duck-egg blue paint scheme, mapped onto that model from high resolution pictures taken from her four-foot physical counterpart, which was also transferred onto the Nebula model instead of the new paint scheme applied at ILM. 
The following information of specifications and defenses comes exclusively from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual:
- Production Base: ASDB Integration Facility, Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, Mars
- Type: Explorer
- Accommodation: 750 officers and crew; 130 visiting personnel; 9,800 personal evacuation limit
- Power Plant: One 1,500 plus Cochrane warp core feeding two nacelles; one impulse system
- Dimensions: Length, 442.23 meters; beam, 318.11 meters; height: 130.43 meters
- Mass: 3,309,000 metric tonnes
- Performance: Warp 9.6 for 12 hours (STD); warp 9.9 for 12 hours (UPRTD)
- Armament: Eight type-10 phaser emitters; two photon torpedo launchers
- A cross section and overview of the ship is given in issue 154 of Star Trek: Communicator, particularly focusing on the "USS Nebula (NCC-60147)." The cross section shows that the ship is capable of saucer separation, has eight type-X phaser arrays and three photon torpedo launchers, and a mass of 3,309,000 metric tonnes. One inconsistency among the graphics has the registry number "NCC-60000" on the nacelle wing. All artwork used was provided by Tim Earls.
- In the video games Star Trek: Armada and Star Trek: Armada II, the Nebula-class is depicted as a "science ship"; that is, it has four special weapons where other ship classes have just one. The special weapons allow the Nebula-class to disrupt enemy shields, destroy incoming torpedoes, temporarily duplicate an allied ship, or send an engineering team to an allied ship or station to repair its systems.
- In the video game Star Trek: Bridge Commander, there are four Nebula-class vessels. Three of these, the USS Nightingale, USS Khitomer and USS Berkeley, appear to be made specifically for the game and do not appear anywhere in Star Trek canon. The fourth Nebula-class vessel featured in the game is actually a canon ship, the USS Prometheus (NCC-71201), though it is the only one that doesn't play an important role in the game.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation - Birth of the Federation the Nebula class is the Strike Cruiser of the Federation; a short range combat vessel mostly intended for planetary bombardment.
- In Star Trek Online, the Nebula-class is an "advanced research science vessel" that can create tachyon detection fields and grids which boost stealth detection and sensor abilities.