Star Trek Tech Breakdown: The Warp Drive

The Warp drive is the most commonly known and used FTL propulsion system in Star Trek. How does it work and what other additional technologies exist let’s find out.

It worked by generating warp fields in order to form a subspace bubble. It distorted the space-time continuum and moved space around the ship creating the effect that it moved faster than light. Warp factors indicated the velocity on which the ship was travelling. Throughout the 24th century, the warp was the most common form of interstellar transport but various species were looking for different propulsion systems.

Zefram Cochrane the inventor of Warp drive on Earth used the term already in 2063. However the in the late 2150s constructed warp five engines was officially known as gravimetric field displacement manifold.

(Paramount) The Phoenix – Earths First Warp Vessel

Most species used the term warp drive in the late 23rd century and in the 2250s Starfleet referred to the warp drive as hyperdrive. It´s very good they did not stick around with this name. The Ferengi occasionally used the term lightspeed drive and the Federation called it star drive in the 2260s.

Let us take a look at the technology behind it.

In the 24th century Federation, warp engines were fueled by the reaction of matter and antimatter to be more precise by deuterium and antideuterium. They were mediated through dilithium crystals which were non-reactive with antimatter if subjected to high-frequency electromagnetic fields. The product of this reaction was a highly energetic plasma often referred to as electro plasma or simply warp plasma. The plasma was channelled through plasma conduits located within the electro-plasma system shot EPS. This system also provided energy for other electronic systems. But let´s keep our focus on the warp drive. Warp plasma was funnelled by plasma injectors into the so-called warp field coils or just warp coils. These were located in the so-called warp nacelles that were most commonly on pylons at the aft section of the ship. The coils were composed of verterium cortenide and generated the warp field. Not all species used antimatter matter reactors. For instance, the Romulans utilized an artificial quantum singularity core. Some vessels such as the Intrepid classed required their nacelles to be mounted on variable geometry pylons.

Each culture in the Galaxy discovered warp drive at their own pace, for example, the Vulcans became a warp civilization in the 9th century BC and reached the level of warp 7 by 2151. Hmm, that’s a bit slow. Klingons gained their warp capability in the 9th century and could fly at speeds of warp 6 by 2151. The Vissians developed warp drive around the 12th century and the Borg began establishing their collective in the 15th century however it is unclear when exactly they gained their warp drive. After Humanities rapid progress a wide-scale exploration of the galaxy was launched and the UFP was formed. Alternate information states that if Quark had delivered war technology to Ferenginar in 1947 the Ferengi would have had warp tech before Humans, Klingons and even Vulcans which contradicts some statements in Star Trek Enterprise and would be another example of a continuity error.

By the Federation, the development of warp drive was recognized as the marker of an advanced society. This would seem those societies as ready to embrace the universe at large. And would give the Federation the reason to start opening talks about joining the Federation with the given species like we see on some occasions in the Star Trek shows and in the movie Star Trek Insurrection.

Let us take a look at the Warp factors:

(Click Image to Enlarge)

Warp 1: This speed is basically lightspeed.

Warp 2: Also known as eight times the speed of light

Warp 3 was 27 or 39 or 487 times the speed of light seems to change in some episodes

Warp 4 was a hundred times the speed of light given the fact it was 487 times the speed of light in Enterprise it makes no sense and I believe it was actually a hundred times sol.

Warp 5 in one episode of Enterprise it was 200 times the speed of light and in another one 91.

Warp 6.9 was 2,117 times the speed of light and warp 7 varied between 4.000.000 and 10.000.000 times the speed of light

Then it gets chaotic again because all speeds, later on, are below what we have at warp 7 for instance warp 8 is 765,000 times the speed of light and warp 9 834 again.

Warp 10 would be known as infinite velocity you would be everywhere in the universe at the same time and would later morph into lizards.

Other propulsion technologies will be covered in dedicated videos that will come out soon.

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Watch the tech breakdown video below: