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Warp Velocities FAQ

Star Trek , Star Trek: The Next Generation , Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager are trademarks of
Paramount Pictures registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

This FAQ does not discuss subspace or the mechanics of warp

travel. See the Warp and Subspace FAQ for
discussions of
the how warp drive works, and what subspace actually is.


TOS-era: The Original Series

TNG-era: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager
AGT-era: "All Good Things..." (TNG final episode)
VOY-era: Transwarp Frogs In Spaaaaaaace!
Speed Limits

In all of the formulas in this FAQ, the following hold:


speed of light in vacuum
Warp factor
exponential operator ("to the power of")
log base 10
log base e

"Who the heck is Mike?"

Mike is Michael Okuda, a member of the Star Trek television production crew
as a scenic artist and technical advisor. He designs the
computer displays and
alien writing seen in TNG, DS9 and VOY. He is also co-author of the TNG
Technical Manual, which mentions
that the the TNG Warp formula exists in a
Excel spreadsheet on his Macintosh. Thus, when it comes to warp calculations,
Mike is god.
At the very least, a patron deity. He is also co-author of the
Encyclopedia and Chronology.
"So who's Rick?"
Rick is Rick Sternbach, the "other" author of the TNG Technical Manual, and
the main writer of the DS9 Technical Manual. He is also
a member of the Star
Trek television production crew, designing most of the ships and props seen in
TNG and VOY.

1. TOS-era: The Original Series

The original series warp equation is generally accepted to be:
v = (W ^ 3) * c
But this has never appeared in any episode. However, it has such wide
acceptance that it has pretty much stuck. It's even in the
Boris S. writes:
The equation is almost certainly the work of TOS producers. Stephen
Whitfield extensively researched the show in the
period of 1967-68 and
published the information in his book The Making of Star Trek
(1968). He states that Warp 1 is
the speed of light, Warp 3, 24 times the
speed of light, Warp 6, 216c and Warp 8, 512c. With the exception of the
for Warp 3 (which should be 27c), the W^3*c formula holds. Whitfield
almost certainly obtained the numbers from the
TOS writer's guide which
contained a small technical manual.
This chart compares TOS-era Warp speeds with the speed of light:
Warp Factor



















Speed of Light

Maximum stable speed of NCC-1701

Emergency speed of NCC-1701

"That Which Survives" [TOS]

It is also generally accepted that the TOS scale was also used for the first
few movies. Since speeds are rarely quoted in the movies,
however, that's only
Joe Chiasson, describing Star Trek Maps, a map and manual
combination by Bantam Books from 1980, offers:
The booklet contains quite a lot of written information on the development
of warp drive systems and how warp travel is
affected by matter density in a
given area of space. The above formula was written as v = Wf^3 * c.
This was further
modified to include the Greek letter chi (X), which
was a variable denoting the local density of matter, which changed
on where you happened to be. So the proper formula for TOS level warp drive
v = c * Wf^3 * X
where Wf was the warp factor, and c was the speed of light.
Included was a table of corrected warp speed for a given
average value of X.


X * Wf^3

Time per parsec

hrs min sec


22 05 29


02 45 41



00 49 05



00 20 43




00 10 36



00 06 08



00 03 52



00 02 35



00 01 49




00 01 19

This correction factor does make a lot of sense, given that v = W ^ 3

by itself is almost ludicrously slow given the speeds quoted by
TOS. Joe also
suggests that by the time of TNG warp fields have been refined to the point
that the chi factor is dropped from the
formula. I think that the numbers are
a little too high, however, when compared to TNG speeds.
As a side note, wf(n) = n * c appears in James Blish's TOS
script adaptations, which have been widely read, so you may see that
cropping up from time to time as well. Those speeds would be ridiculously
slow, so that formula isn't really worth considering.
(Thanks to Taki Kogoma
for pointing that out.)
John "Eljay" Love-Jensen points out that in "By Any Other
Name" [TOS] the Kelvans were using there technology to propel the
Enterprise "to Andromeda, 300 years of travel". Andromeda is 2.3 million
light-years away. For 300 years of travel, that translates into
Warp 19.7!
They probably intended to accelerate to that speed once they made it outside
the galaxy, and the Enterprise didn't end up
going that fast during the
episode, but it means they thought it was possible for the ship to make it.

2. TNG-era: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager

By the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the warp scale has changed.
Warp 1-9 are roughly the same, but Warp 10 is infinite
speed. Going Warp 10 or
faster is hogwash on the TNG scale. It isn't a speed barrier that can be or
needs to be broken, but an energy
At least, that's what the Tech Manual says. Many fans disagree, saying that
this has been contradicted on air, most clearly by the
episode "Where No One
Has Gone Before" [TNG] where someone says "We are passing Warp 10." See the
Warp and Subspace
FAQ for more discussion of this.

Here's the graph of warp vs. speed and warp vs. power consumption from the
Technical Manual:

This chart was compiled with data from episodes, the Encyclopedia, and the
TNG Technical Manual:
Warp Factor



Speed of Light
















Federation speed limit (2370)*












NCC-1701-D maximum speed


Voyager "cruise velocity"***








Defiant maximum speed**


(derived) Subspace radio speed


Maximum boosted subspace radio speed

* "Force of Nature" [TNG]

** "The Sound of Her Voice" [DS9]
*** "Caretaker" [VOY]

The Tech Manual (on page 111) says that a subspace radio signal travels at
Warp 9.9997, and takes 45 minutes to reach 17 light

years, which works out to

As an interesting anomaly, Pete Carr also points out the following tidbit
from the Tech Manual:
... the TM goes on to say that TNG Warp 9.7 is about 14.1 on the TOS scale.
So [TNG Warp] 9.7 ~= 14.1^3 [c] and
14.1^3 [c] = 2803 [c]. I went and
graphed the new value with our current values. Unfortunately the new value
doesn't fit
into the exponential curve ... it should be lower.
I suspect Mike made a rounding error; TOS Warp 14.1 is much closer to TNG
Warp 9.8 by all of the accurate formulas that have been
found or sheer
reckoning off the graph.

Unlike TOS (where we have a formula but no scale), for TNG we have a scale
but no formula! The reason for this is that the graph
was drawn by
Mike Okuda rather than calculated, as is related in the following:
On June 22, 1995, Jeff Reinecke
forwarded the following letter from Michael Okuda to
Date: Fri, Jan 27, 1995 02:09 AM EST
From: MOkuda
Subj: Re: Star Trek Warp
To: Yar of Spit
The warp factors we've used in ST:TNG were computed in an arbitrary way to
fit some specific characteristics we
First, the speed for any given warp factor had to be greater than it was in
the original Star Trek series. This was primarily
to satisfy fan
Second, the new warp speeds couldn't be TOO much faster, or it would be
possible for the ship to cross the galaxy in a
fairly brief time. (In a way,
maintaining this restriction made Voyager's story situation possible. If we
hadn't done this,
Voyager could have gotten home too quickly.)
We used an exponent of (I think) 3.33 or 3.33333... for warp factors less
than 9.
Between 9 and 10, I gradually increased the exponent so that it approached
infinity as the warp factor approached 10.
Lacking knowledge of calculus, I
just drew what looked to me to be a credible curve on graph paper, then
pulled the
points from there. I think I re-created the curve fairly
accurately in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual.
Hope this helps.
So it looks like there isn't a grand formula to end all formulas
after all!
On May 29th, 1996, Dominic Berry
Since Mike calculated the speeds for the various warp factors up to 9
simply using the exponent 10/3, it is more sensible
to use a piecewise
function for the speeds that gives an exponent of 10/3 for W<9 and gives
higher exponents for higher
warp factors. My suggestion is
( 10/3 + u(W-9) * A * (-ln(10-W)) )
where u is the step function, i.e. u(x)=0 for x<0 and u(x)=1 for x>0.
Note that the term multiplying the step function is
zero at W=9, so the step
function introduces no discontinuity in the formula. If the value of n used
is greater than 1, then
both the function and its derivative are continuous
at W=9. (In order to have continuous higher order derivatives a
like c(w) could be used.)

[Martin Shields amends

that with:
There is a better alternative to the step function as follows:
/ 0 ; x <= 0
u(x) = <
\ e ^ ( -1 / (bx^2)) ; x > 0
Where b is a constant whose value remains to be determined. This
function is "infinitely smooth" (that is,
no matter how many times you
differentiate it, the value of the differential is 0 at x=0). As b approaches
infinity, the function approaches the pure step function.
I take A and n as
A = 0.03684678
n = 1.791275
I then get the correct warp factors for W<9, and for the warp factors above
9 I get
Warp | Actual Formula Modified*
------------------------------------9.2000 | 1649
9.6000 | 1909
9.9000 | 3053
9.9900 | 7912
9.9997 | 198696 79352 79240
9.9999 | 199516 199415 199516
[* Martin Shields offers
A = 0.036528749373 and n =
1.79522947028 which are slightly better for some values.]
My formula agrees with the values for warp factors of 9.2, 9.9, 9.99 and
9.9999 to within 0.6%, though it is about 6% out
at 9.6 and it is way out at
9.9997. If you calculate the exponents for the data points at 9.9997 and
9.9999, however, you
get 5.29826 and 5.30000, suggesting that the exponent
5.3 was used to calculate the speed at both of these warp
factors. Since the
exponent should be increasing with the warp factor, one of these data points
should be ignored.
Ignoring the data point for W=9.9997, my formula is
perfect for W<9, and is slightly better than that of Tahk for W>9.
Now the exponent corresponding to the speed given for W=9.2 was about
3.33810. If we linearly extrapolate this to
W=9.6 then the exponent should
be about 3.34763. The exponent corresponding to the speed for W=9.6 is
which is slightly less! This means that a formula for the exponent
that gives values similar to the given values for warp
factors of 9, 9.2 and
9.6 must have a derivative that decreases. (This means that the function for
the exponent would
have to curve downwards between 9.2 and 9.6.) Since this
is not a desirable property if we want an exponent that
gradually increases,
I also left out the data point for W=9.6 in fitting the curve.
I mentioned before that the speeds for W=9.9997 and W=9.9999 seemed to have
both been calculated using an
exponent of 5.3. If you calculate the
exponents corresponding to the other warp factors above 9, you get:
Warp | Exponent
----------------9.2000 | 3.33810
9.6000 | 3.34002
9.9000 | 3.50000
9.9900 | 3.89998
The speeds for warp factors of 9.6, 9.9 and 9.99 were obviously calculated
using exponents of 3.34, 3.5 and 3.9
respectively, and the speed for a warp
factor of 9.2 was probably calculated using an exponent of 3.338. Therefore
it is
not reasonable to ascribe any greater accuracy to the warp factors
given than is implied by the number of significant
digits in the exponents
used to calculate them. By this criterion my formula gives speeds well
within the uncertainty for
warp factors of 9.9, 9.99 and 9.9999, although it
gives an exponent of about 3.336 for W=9.2, which is a little low. Since

points were originally taken off a hand drawn curve, this is still
reasonable accuracy.
I used to have a bunch of formulae in here from various posters who made some
pretty good attempts at finding the Holy Grail of an
accurate formula.
However, due to length considerations I'm only going to keep the current best.
Older formulae (basically an excised
chunk of this FAQ) can be found at, but that
page will probably never
look too pretty.

Do any of these values actually match up with what we've seen on the show?
There are often claims that these speeds are much to
slow to allow the kind of
adventuring that the Star Trek series portrays. But amazingly enough, when
they do quote numbers and we
can time things without cuts (wherein we may miss
hours of ship-time), the numbers do match up:
"The Most
Toys" [TNG]:
Ges Seger offers:
The numbers I remember were about how far a ship doing warp 3 for 23
hours would travel, and the answer they
came up with was 0.102
light-years. I worked the math just now and got 0.1022 light-years.
Riker calculated in his head the time required for the Enterprise to travel
300 billion kilometers at Warp 9, and gets 20 minutes:
Warp 9 = (300e12 m) / (20 min * 60s/min) ~= 2.5e11 m/s
From the chart: Warp 9 = 1516c ~= 4.548e11 m/s
Discrepancy? Riker did the calculations in his head in about 5 seconds
given arbitrary numbers. He's within a factor of two, so I
won't complain.
Bok's ship was "holding position", so it was a simple flight path.
The Enterprise jumped to Warp 7.3, and traveled 30 billion kilometers in a
couple of minutes.
All of the formulas we have for warp speeds predict Warp 7.3 to be
approximately 746c. Using c = 3e8 m/s, we get v = 2.24e11
m/s. 30 billion km
= 3e13m. So t = 134s, or just over two minutes.
c/o Boris S.:
Wesley gives the ETA of the Enterprise to Lonka Pulsar as 34 minutes at
Warp 7. When Picard orders Warp 2
instead, he comments that at that speed
it would take 31 hours to get there. Using the first two data points, 34
minutes at Warp 7, I calculated a distance of 4.012e14 m. At Warp 2, it
would take the Enterprise 37 hours to
travel that distance. This clearly
shows that the TNG production staff used the established warp scale when
calculated the travel time, and the 6-hour discrepancy can be
explained by the use of a less accurate value for
the speed of light.
"Clues" [TNG]
c/o Boris S.:
the Enterprise is transported 0.54 parsecs by the Paxans. Riker says
something like "nearly a day's travel in 30
seconds" (I cannot give you
the exact quote since I am watching TNG on German TV). At Warp 6
cruising speed), the Enterprise would need 1.6 days to travel
that distance. Given that Riker calculated the travel
time without a
computer in a couple of seconds, you can allow for the deviation. On the
other hand, if you
calculate the travel time at Warp 7, you get 23.5
hours, which fits the quote.
"Caretaker" [VOY]
The basic numbers involved in Voyager's journey home support the TNG
formula. Voyager is transported 70,000 LY from
home, and expects to take 70
years to make the journey. This speed of 1000c corresponds closely to Warp
8, a high but

conceivable average speed for a long journey for an Intrepid-class ship.

"The 37s" [VOY]
Paris states that Warp 9.9 is equal to 4 billion miles per second.
Unfortunately, that turns out to be over 20,000c, which doesn't
fit in at
all. Bummer. But then, Paris is an idiot.
"Maneuvers" [VOY]
Kim states the ships speed as 2 billion km/s, which is 2*10^12 m/s, which
is roughly 6667c. This is in the same ballpark as what
Warp 9.975 (Voyager's
top cruise speed), it turns out.
Boris S. speculates that if Okuda picked an exponent of 3.83 (a nice
roundish number off the graph) for Warp 9.975, you get
6696c. Pretty close
to the value above.
"Threshold" [VOY]
Commentary aboard the ship confirms that Warp 10 is indeed infinite speed.
"Dreadnought" [VOY]
c/o Boris S.:
B'Elanna gives the distance to Rakosan system as more than 10
light-years. A day or so later Chakotay states
that the vessel has resumed
its journey at Warp 9 and will reach Rakosan V in 51 hours, which works
out to a
distance of 8.8 light-years.

Counter Evidence
There have been several times where the warp velocities proposed don't match
what we see on-screen. The most blatant example of
this kind is a call by the
captain to head somewhere at Warp 1, or some other ridiculously slow speed.
This happened several times in
TOS, but does crop up from time to time. Here
are some examples:
Silence Has Lease" [TNG]:
Roger M. Wilcox offers:
The Enterprise-D gets sucked into a black nebulous void. Before Nagilum
announces his/her/its presence to our
intrepid crew, they find an opening
in the void "1.3 parsecs away". (1.3 parsecs would be 4.243 light-years.)
Picard orders the crew to head for the opening at Warp 2.
It may be best to just pretend that these didn't happen, or rationalize them
on a case by case basis (going Warp 1 until outside of the
solar system, then
switching to a higher speed "off camera").
A bigger problem which crops up on is the
size of the Federation. Sizes of up to 10,000 LY across have
been quoted as
diameters, and this corresponds to the occasional graphic displayed on screen
showing the Federation's size and
position within the galaxy. Other evidence
points to a somewhat smaller size, but such questions as the distance from
Earth to Bajor
appear to present a paradox: some routes between Federation
locations which are known to be far apart are traveled much more
quickly than
the TNG formula appears to allow.
The leading speculation on the newsgroup is a concept called "Warp Highways".
Distinct from wormholes, these "highways" represent
either natural
(pre-existing) or artificial (thanks to heavy traffic) pathways where warp
travel is much faster than the TNG formula,
which represents a baseline.
The highways do not require additional technology beyond warp drive. Highways
are not easily detectable in unknown space. This
means that an exploration
ship, such as the Enterprise, or a ship in unknown territory, such as Voyager,
will travel between two
arbitrary points at the nominal velocities presented
in the TNG formula. A well-known region of space - such as the route from
Bajor to
Earth - would probably contain several well-known warp highways and
allow less powerful ships to make the route in weeks rather
than years, and
top-of-the-line Starfleet ships to make the trip in mere days. Contact with
local civilizations would allow Voyager to
take shortcuts through the Delta
Quadrant - which they frequently seem to.
Perhaps the Hekaras Corridor in
"Force of Nature"
[TNG] is one such route, explaining the frequent travel in that area. The

notion of starship travel affecting local subspace properties in a

permanent way supports the notion that at least some warp highways
are created
by frequent warp travel - that is, as a route is used it becomes more
efficient. Other speculation includes the notion that
gaseous anomalies are
indicators of the presence of warp travel. Why else would Excelsior - one of
Starfleet's latest ships - be
engaged in charting such anomalies in Star
Trek IV?
This is strongly reminiscent of the X (chi) factor first presented in
Star Trek Maps, where the warp equation varies with local spatial
(Other speculation or comments?)

Why did it change?

In terms of a real-world "Star Trek is just a TV show" reason, Gene
Roddenberry himself put Warp 10 at infinite speed,
according to the TNG Tech
Manual. To keep the scale fluid, Mike and Rick made it asymptotic at Warp 10,
while starting off
similar to the TOS scale.
From the characters' perspective, the best explanation is that the TOS
scale was established before warp was fully understood.
Looking at the graph, you can see that the energy costs for cruising at
integral Warp values are much lower than for nonintegral Warp factors. The
first explorers to travel past Warp 1 must have realized this. Since for
Warp values in the 1-3 range
follow the v = (W ^ 3) * c formula, it makes
sense that a scale based on the formula would come into use.
When ships started cruising at Warp values larger than 5, the difference
between what v = (W ^ 3) * c predicted to be the most
energy efficient
speeds and what actually were must have become noticeable. It may have taken
a long time for a new,
accurate scale based on new observations came into
use. (Look at the USA and SI, for an example of a large sociopolitical
taking a long time to adopt a more useful, universally used scale.)
Sulu's readings of Warp velocity in Star Trek IV seem to hint that the
Klingons had moved to an accurate scale by the 2280s,
but the Federation
didn't catch up until much later, even though it must have been painfully
obvious that the old scale was next
to useless. Fortunately, some time
before TNG, the new accurate scale was adopted by Starfleet.

3. AGT-era: "All Good

Things..." (TNG final episode)
Quoted in the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in a possible
or imaginary future, is the speed Warp 13. Both Admiral
Riker and Captain
Beverly Picard call for this speed, and at another point in the episode,
Admiral Riker calls for "maximum warp",
which is either Warp 13 or greater.
While we haven't a clue how fast this is, they're presumably faster than Warp
9 on the TNG scale, and necessarily slower than Warp
10 on the TNG scale
(since TNG Warp 10 is infinite speed). A few possibilities present themselves:
Just another technical muck-up. (But that won't stop this intrepid FAQ
Warp 10-13+ are shorthand for Warp 9.x. One possibility is that 9.90 is
called Warp 10, 9.91 is called Warp 11, etc.
New warp technologies provide at least 13 power usage minima between c and
infinite speed, instead of the 9 possible with old
warp technologies.
Further research revealed that there were more than 9 minima accessible
with traditional drives, and that they simply required
more power to attain
than had been previously attempted, but less power to maintain than 9.x
The Federation switched back to the TOS scale.
The last one is demonstrably incorrect (see below). Among the others, there's
no way to tell which is correct. Sharp-eyed Boris S.
found the following
explanation by Andre Bormanis, Star Trek's science advisor:
I raised that question in a TECH note. Basically, the idea there was that
they recalibrated the warp scale. I don't think
that ended up in the final
draft teleplay, but the idea there was that if you've got ships that can
routinely travel at speeds
in excess of Warp 9, then maybe it makes sense to
recalibrate your speed scale so that Warp 10 is no longer infinite
Maybe Warp 15 will be the ultimate speed limit, and Warp 13 in that scale
will be the equivalent of warp 9.95 or
something like that.
OMNI, October 1995.


Tom Bagwell writes:

I timed the interval in AGT between when Data reported the second Klingon
ship to be disengaging and when Riker's
helmsman reported it to be a "half a
light year away" at about 22 seconds, so I calculated the speed assuming 20
seconds to reach 1/2 a light year and assuming 30 seconds to reach 1/2 a
light year.
At 30 seconds, the velocity would be approximately 525,960c which equates
to roughly Warp 9.97244 on the TNG scale
and approx. Warp 81 on the TOS
At 20 seconds, the velocity would be approximately 788,940c which equates
to roughly Warp 9.97535 on the TNG scale
and approx. Warp 92.4 on the TOS
Martin Shields updates that with:
Assuming 30 seconds to travel 1/2 a light year, v = 525,960c which he
estimates is Warp 9.97244 on the TNG scale.
However, the Tech Manual and
Encyclopedia tell us that Warp 9.9999 (a higher warp factor) is set at
199,516c (less
than half the speed calculated). This figure comes from the M
= -11/3 equation. My equation gives the TNG warp factor
of 9.999974
(approx.) which better fits the known data.
If a damaged AGT-era Klingon ship can limp home at TOS Warp 81, while a
Federation ship trying to be sneaky can only manage
TOS Warp 13, the Klingons
have nothing to worry about. I consider this adequate evidence that the TOS
scale was not returned to
use in the AGT future.

4. VOY-era: Transwarp Frogs In Spaaaaaace!

As you may have guessed, the .tech community was less than impressed
with "Threshold" [VOY] in which Voyager - a ship running
on supplies, with half its crew dead, stranded away from repair or research
facilities, on the other side of the Galaxy from the
Federation - manages to
upgrade one of its never-ending supply of shuttles to make a
Transwarp flight, something that has defied the
best minds in the Federation
for a century. Things go higglety-pigglety after that, and many people
(including some of the production
crew) just pretend it didn't happen.
Forgiving that, however, the episode's technobabble isn't too bad. The
Voyager crew mention how Warp 10 = Infinite Speed = being
everywhere at once.
An interesting tidbit is that once Transwarp drive is active, the shuttle's
speed registers at Warp 10.

5. Speed limits
"What's this about a Warp 10 barrier?"
In the TNG scale, Warp 10 is infinite speed. As you approach a position on
the graph corresponding to Warp 10, your power
requirements increase
astronomically compared to your increase in speed. But you can keep speeding
up forever, unlike the light
barrier, which keeps you from getting to the
speed of light.
In other words, keep piling on the 9s. Warp 9.99 is a lot faster than Warp
9.9, while Warp 3.99 is only marginally faster than Warp 3.9.
The barrier is
only one of energy, not velocity.
Once again, in case you missed it, TNG Warp 10 is not a speed
barrier; it cannot be broken like the sound barrier. Any warp factor
than 10 must be on a different scale than the TNG scale (either TOS
or AGT or something else), since a speed faster than
infinite speed is
"But in "Is There in Truth no Beauty?" [TOS] and "That Which
Survives" [TOS], the old Enterprise went over Warp 14!"
Yes, but that's on the old scale. By the new scale, that translates to about
Warp 9.7 (TM), which the Enterprise-D can do for brief
periods. The original
Enterprise was being shaken apart. Voyager can cruise at that speed without
"But in
"Where No One Has
Gone Before" [TNG] they went past Warp 10!"

Chalk this one up to instrument failure. While Geordi did say they'd passed
Warp 10, later in the episode they were booting along at
some outrageously
huge speed, while the instruments only read Warp 1.5. So there's canonical
evidence that the Traveler's tweaking
of the warp drive and the Enterprise's
speedometer don't get along well.
Daryle Walker points out
that the real-world explanation for this is probably that the Warp 10 rule
hadn't been established yet - this
was an early first-season episode.
"This new Warp 5 speed limit - what's up with that?"
In "Force of
Nature" [TNG] it is discovered that in the Hekaras Corridor, a region of
space where warp travel is hindered except for a
narrow path the intense use
of warp drives in an already sensitive area can (over time) cause subspace
rifts to form, where subspace
manifests itself in real space on a macroscopic
scale. This is not a good thing.
"Does this take effect everywhere?"
Yes. In "The
Pegasus" [TNG] an Admiral Pressman gives Picard permission to travel
faster than Warp 5 for the duration of the
mission. Ditto in
"Eye of the
Beholder" [TNG], when Picard is given permission to exceed the speed limit
to delivery needed medical
supplies. The Encyclopedia concurs as well, naming
Warp 5 as the new cruising speed for starships. Overkill? Probably. Typical
bureaucratic overcompensation? Yep.
"So what about in
"All Good
Things..." [TNG] and post-TNG shows?"
It's safe to say that the U.S.S. Pasteur and U.S.S. Enterprise, cruising at
Warp 13, were able to ignore the Warp 5 limitation enforced
by Starfleet.
While the limitation was mentioned in a few later TNG episodes, it was ignored
in DS9 and VOY episodes set only a few
years later. There are a few possible
explanations. The first is that Starfleet simply repealed the ruling, and is
allowing ships to muck
up subspace. That isn't what we'd expect in the
eco-friendly Star Trek Universe, however.
Another is that changes to warp technology allow warp travel without the
nasty side effects. Rumors abound that Voyager's folding
nacelles and/or warp
core design mitigate the effect, although Rick Sternbach (the designer of
Voyager) isn't so sure. The most
probable explanation is that internal
technological changes allow warp drive without damaging subspace.
Franz Joseph's "Field Restoration" nacelle end-cap, anyone? (Star Fleet
Technical Manual)

6. Q & A
"What causes fractional warp speeds?"
As you can see from the above chart, travelling at integral Warp factors is
much more energy efficient. But there are times when a
fractional value must
be used - for example, staying a certain distance from another ship, or
keeping pace with some phenomenon.
Also, beyond Warp 9, only fractional speeds
are possible. (Modulo
"All Good
Things..." [TNG], of course.)
"Why not use impulse drive within the warp field to create a
higher velocity?"
There's no reason to think that a Newtonian drive (Impulse) would augment a
non-Newtonian drive (warp). Also, consider that the
maximum velocity
attainable with a Newtonian drive is c. At Warp 2, which is ~= 10c, this gives
you a whole 11c at maximum
(overloading, fuel wasting) impulse. Warp 2.1 is
about 12c anyway, so overloading the impulse drive doesn't get you much.
"What about "The Corbomite Maneuver" [TOS] or The
Voyage Home?"
Kirk and Sulu use a combination of warp drive and Impulse to break free of
the First Federation pilot craft. The combination of a tractor
beam, impulse
drive, and warp drive would be very strange, and many explanations come to
mind, such as the warp field causing the
tractor effect to "slip" away, while
the impulse provides propulsion, or the impulse fighting the tractor beam
inertially while the warp
drive provides propulsion, etc.
In The Voyage Home, for the trip back to the future, thrusters
are used by Spock to get the last burst of speed just before entering time

warp. Also, during both trips, the ship is brought out of time warp by braking
thrusters. The H.M.S. Bounty is visibly moving slower
than the speed
of light toward the sun and certainly slower than the Warp 8 quoted by Sulu,
so the time warp slingshot (in an intense
gravity well) may be one case where
Impulse drives are useful to augment warp drives.
"Whoah! Hold on! They must be moving faster - look at the
stars that shoot past while they're in warp!"
Joseph Haller offers:
The most extreme ship induced speed discussed ... is W(ST:TNG) = 9.97535,
or 788,940c.
This would give a characteristic angular speed for nearby stars of 1578
arc-seconds per second or 1 degree every 2.3
seconds. This is indeed
verified in the simulations. Travel at high warp speeds, on the ST:TNG warp
scale, does not
match very well the appearance of the bridge view screen on
a typical episode. Indeed, most visible stars are not nearby
but are further
away with correspondingly lower angular speeds. I offer no solutions to this
discrepancy other than the
dramatic necessity that stars go whooshing by at
high warp speed.
Or should we give up so easily?
There's a lot of support on for the notion
that those things aren't really stars. For one, as the Enterprise
drops out of
warp (with the camera tagging along for the ride) some of the "stars" do some
pretty strange things, such as suddenly
angling off in various directions,
disappearing, etc.
Also, in Star Trek: First Contact, the Phoenix barely
breaks Warp 1 and stays relatively close to Earth, but we still see the
Definitely not stars.
The predominant theory is that what we're seeing are free particles in space
interacting with the expanding boundaries of the warp
field. As they cross the
warp field, they are repeatedly accelerated to FTL velocities and then slowed
to STL speeds, and start spewing
out something like Cerenkov radiation, a
(real!) bluish light emitted when particles moving faster than the local speed
of light (in a
dense medium) are forced to slow down. If not exactly Cerenkov
radiation, then something similar.
Jon Mitchell tells me that in the TNG video game for the Sega Genesis console
platform states the streaks are part of the visual
manifestation of
Einsteinian space in subspace. So people other than us .techers have noticed
this problem too.
As a side note, in "The Cage" [TOS], the moving particles seen through the
forward view-screen are explicitly identified as meteoroids.

7. Contributors:
John "Eljay" Love-Jensen

Daryle Walker

Roger M. Wilcox

Jon Mitchell

Jonah Rapp

Boris S.

Dominic Berry

Alex Tahk

Jeff Reinecke

Martin Shields

Joe Chiasson

Jason Hinson

Greg Berigan

A.J. Madison


Sharon Collicutt

Ges Seger

Michael M. Welch

Tom Bagwell

Joseph Haller

Chris Franklin

Pete Carr

Taki Kogoma

8. Glossary:

Speed of Light ( ~= 3 x 10^8 m/s )

Faster Than Light (usually communication or travel)
One method of FTL travel used in Star Trek, in which nested subspace
fields create a propulsive effect.
"Unit" for warp factor, as opposed to the technology.

9. References:
See the Reading List FAQ for more details on
the reference volumes mentioned above and below.
The question of "what is canon" has been argued for years in the Star Trek
newsgroup hierarchy. In the realm of technical
discussions, this can be
refined to the question of "what evidence is factual, and what is apocryphal".
These FAQs follow the currently
dominant notion that "canon" is aired
live-action material and nothing more, with the caveat that materials produced
off-camera by the
production crew are often (but not always) reliable
predictors of the direction future canonical material will follow, and are
granted a special "quasi-canonical" status. Any other material falls
into the realm of speculation - it may be perfectly well grounded
useful for building up technical arguments, or wild flights of fancy that have
no rational basis.
In addition, more recently presented information is considered to supercede
old information, unless the weight of the evidence
supports the original data.
While this may seem highly biased and may be eyed with some skepticism as a
form of Orwellian
"newthink", it is a more useful predictor of what those
directly responsible for the creation of the series are likely to include as
canonical material in the future.
For example, the excellent and groundbreaking Star Fleet Technical Manual,
by Franz Joseph created in the 1970's was a very well
thought out look at the
technical world of Starfleet just slightly beyond what was seen in the
original series. Unfortunately, and perhaps
for purely arbitrary reasons, the
future development of "canon" Star Trek diverged from this speculation. This
in no way implies that
there was anything wrong with that volume or any
others, merely that due to later "evidence", it can no longer be regarded as
authoritative overview of Trek technology. On the other hand, the author
performed a lot of research to create it, and therefore its
speculation should
not be dismissed out of hand.
That said, we are dealing with a universe in the process of being created by
scores of (usually) non-technical people, aiming to
provide weekly
entertainment for a mass audience. There are many inconsistencies even amid
the canonical material, and often times
the wildest speculation on the
newsgroup makes more sense than what we see in the episodes.
Canonical material:
Star Trek: Voyager [VOY]
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine [DS9]
Star Trek: The Next Generation [TNG]
Star Trek feature films
Classic Star Trek [TOS]
Quasi-canonical material:
The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future
Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future
Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual
The Making of Star Trek
Other "behind the scenes" information from the production crew, including:
Newsgroup postings
Convention presentations
Email conversations
Highly regarded, but non-canonical material:
Star Trek: The Animated Series [TAS]
Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise

Star Fleet Technical Manual

Starlog's Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Journal
Other "reference" guides
Novels, incl. novelizations of films and episodes
Blueprints, drawings, photographs, models, etc.
Joshua Bell,[6/23/2016 04:22:42]