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See also: Warp Factor

Warp technology is the primary means of traveling faster than the speed of light (FTL) in the Milky Way galaxy.

This technology is both a means to propagate interstellar relationships and governments of the galaxy, as well as serving as a sort of litmus test for determining civilizations that are ready to join the interstellar community.

Warp field dynamics

The warp field (also known as a warp bubble or subspace displacement field) is a deformation of subspace. This distortion changes the local metric of space-time around the ship, allowing it to travel faster than light relative to the Minkowski* metric of normal space-time. In simpler terms, the warp field distorts space such that the space in front of the ship gets smaller and then is re-expanded at the rear of the bubble. This allows the bubble to propel the ship through space while the ship within remains motionless relative to the bubble.

The warp field must be generated as a local phenomenon, and protects the ship and crew from extreme time-dilation effects. While the ship remains inside the bubble, their space-time will be nearly indistinguishable from a Minkowski metric while the bubble propagates along at FTL speeds.

While different warp field shapes have been experimented with, a bubble surrounding the ship has been found to be the most efficient shape. The efficiency of the 'skin-tight' warp field was found to be extremely poor and it’s use has fallen out of favor among the more experienced warp capable species.

Warp engineering

Generating a warp field is an incredibly energy-intensive undertaking. Only the most energetic power sources are able to generate the power required to create a warp field.

The general layout of a warp engine is similar across most species. A reaction chamber generates energy through the ships primary power generation mechanism which dumps the energy into warp plasma. The warp plasma is the fed through the primary warp conduits via plasma injectors to the warp nacelles. When the warp coils are exposed to high energy warp plasma they generate warp fields; the strength of the distortion is directly proportional to the energy of the plasma pumped through them.

Two different methods have seen use for power generation by the major powers of the Milky Way. The most common method in use is the matter-antimatter reaction. This method reacts matter (typically deuterium) with antimatter (anti-deuterium) within the warp core. These reactions are regulated by dilithium crystals which is a material that does not react with normal matter or antimatter. The energy of this reaction directly feeds into the warp plasma energizing it.

The other method is the use of an artificial quantum singularity. Artificial quantum singularities are generated and ships built around them. Matter is then allowed to fall into the singularity which accelerates the matter to extreme velocities, resulting in high energy X-rays to be produced. This power is focused and harnessed into a warp plasma.

Warp, weaponry, and transporters

The edge of the warp field marks the boundary between the superluminal and the normal space. This interface is very difficult to move between due to extreme subspace distortion and real space compression and shearing forces.

Beam weapons such as lasers, phasers, disruptors, and particle beams are virtually impossible to shoot outside the warp field due to these extreme distortions. Lasers and particle beams can be shot through the bubble; however the extreme compression and spatial shearing causes such beams to distort and lose their collimation and coherency, rendering them useless. Similarly phasers and disruptors are distorted by the subspace effects.

Photon torpedoes are the one weapon that can penetrate the warp field barrier. Torpedoes equipped with subspace field generators can use them to mitigate the stress caused when exiting the warp field; however torpedoes are unable to sustain warp after exiting the warp bubble and will drop to subluminal velocities.

Transporters similarly have difficulty working through the warp field due to the subspace distortions that disrupt the matter stream of objects as they are beamed through. While careful calibration of distortions have been known to be able to penetrate this, it is incredibly dangerous and only an exact inversion of the distortions will result in materialization.

History of warp technology


The warp drive was a theoretical consideration on Earth long before its development. It was known in physics communities as a “Space Warp Generator” or a “Gravametric Field Displacement Manifold,” describing the properties of the theoretical concept. The idea never moved far beyond theory due to extreme hurdles thought to be needed to achieve such a device including the development of negative energy in huge quantities. These problems were overcome through the usage of more easily manipulated subspace which then drives the space-time warping mechanisms.

The first warp drive on Earth was developed by Zefram Cochrane. His creation ushered in a new era for humanity when his first successful test flight, in the converted missile ship Phoenix reached superluminal speeds on 5 April 2063 and attracted the attention of the Vulcans.

The Vulcans continued helping earth with the development of their Warp Drive over the next eighty years. Henry Archer was a major force in the development of warp drive and his designs fueled the development of humanities warp program long after he died. In 2140, using designs from Henry Archer, the first engine capable of exceeding Warp 2 was successfully tested reaching a speed of Warp 2.5 during a test flight by A.G. Robinson and Jonathan Archer, the son of the designer.

Henry Archer’s designs would eventually be used in the construction of the first Warp 5 starships designed for long duration deep space missions of exploration and diplomacy. This program eventually lead to the formation of the Federation through the efforts of the crews of these ships to find a common ground and connect with the various species that occupied the space around us.

Warp technology has continued to progress, advancing from Warp 5 to Warp 7, to Warp 9 engines. Current Federation starships are typically capable of Warp 9.995; however advancements are always being sought and various prototypes and special modified engines have been known to exceed this limit for short periods of time, often without the ability to repeat the function.

  • The Minkowski Metric is the mathematical representation of normal, empty, flat four dimensional space time. The Minkowski metric is used for the determination of distances and times between locations an events from any inertial reference frame.