My take on the object is that it is a telescope of some description.
It's tempting to scale Starbase 173 to the same size as Regula, but "The Measure of a Man" indicates otherwise. The first shot on the images page shows the Enterprise-D in front of the station; the hangar bay behind the ship is clearly almost half the length of the Enterprise, even if we ignore the effects of perspective. This scales the whole station to almost three and a half kilometres tall, far larger than Regula. Happily, it makes the stations upper section virtually identical in size to Starbase 375 even though the two figures are arrived at from totally different effects sequences made over a decade apart (in real time as well as on the Trek timeline). As a result, I've made the upper sections of the two stations exactly the same size, so I can say one design is a direct development of the other.
So far as I know, we've never seen a 173-type Starbase in any other
episode. I've pitched the specs so that it's roughly in proportion to the
size difference between this station and Spacedock.
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