Quantum Slipstream Drive
The quantum slipstream drive is an advanced form of interstellar propulsion that achieved and exceeded what failed Federation attempts using transwarp were meant to do: exceed the warp speed barrier. Originally developed by an advanced species native to the Delta Quadrant, the technology was obtained by the USS Voyager in 2374 and used for an aborted test in early 2375 that nearly destroyed the ship.
The slipstream is a narrowly-focused, directed warp field that is initiated by manipulating the fabric of the space-time continuum at the quantum level. It works by focusing a quantum field generated in a Benamite crystal through a ship's deflector dish to generate massive changes in local space curvature; this creates a subspace tunnel, which is projected in front of the vessel. Once a ship has entered this tunnel, the forces inside propel it at incredible speed. In order to maintain the slipstream a ship has to constantly modify the quantum field with its deflector dish; however, the calculations involved were too complicated for 24th century Star Fleet technology, and the time available was too short before the vessel out-paces the tunnel, collapsing the slipstream.
By 2395, thanks to decades of increased military spending, Star Fleet believed they had cracked the mystery of Slipstream Drive: generating the slipstream corridors required more processing power than forming warp fields; the computational power required is directly related to the frontal geometry of a vessel and lesser to the ship geometry. Therefore, slipstream propelled ships are generally narrow and compact with aerodynamic lines. However, they are also more energy-efficient than warp drive. The first tests had not taken geometry into account and failed, sometimes spectacularly, but the first Slip Vessel to successfully maintain a slipstream corridor, the USS Spirit, was launched in 2396.
The first production ships to receive Slipstream Drive were the Vesta Class Explorers, but Star Fleet has plans to gradually phase out older designs and replace them with newer Slipstream-capable vessels.
Crucially, Quantum Slipstream Drive does not break the Warp 10 barrier, as that would theoretically cause the ship involved to exist at every point in the universe simultaneously. The standard Slipstream Velocity achievable by Star Fleet vessels is reportedly Warp 9.99998477, or 300 Light Years per Hour.
|VELOCITY||x LIGHT-SPEED||TO NEAR STAR||ACROSS SECTOR|
|Warp 9.99998477||2.63×106||1 Minute||4 Minutes|
At its current technological advancement, Star Fleet Slipstream Drives can only be operated for a maximum of approximately 12 hours before initiating auto-shutdown procedures. This allows a ship to travel 3,600 light years from where they started. The Benamite crystals that serve as a power source are also partially consumed by use, and will have to be replaced periodically. Continuous use, even within the guidelines below, will accelerate the rate of consumption.
Star Fleet Slipstream Drives require a warm-up cycle before they can be engaged. This warm-up cycle requires 40 minutes of preparation by a trained Star Fleet Engineer.
Once the drive is deactivated, it cannot be reactivated for at least 36 hours. Any attempt to warm-up the drive before the cool-down cycle has completed could result in an unstable slipstream.
As the technology rolls out to the fleet, it will be necessary for ships to return to Spacedock, on average, every two years for a minor refit and hull inspection to ensure that the slipstream drives are not compromising the long-term integrity of the fleet.