Warp Factor

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Warp factor (symbolic abbreviation wf), alternatively known as time warp factor, is a unit of speed. Another common abbreviation is "warp". The value is given after the unit (Warp Factor 5, or Warp 5). The increase in warp factor speed values corresponds to a non-linear increase in actual velocity. The most common usage is to describe the speed of a spacecraft traveling at a faster than light speed, using a warp drive. Sublight speeds can also be measured in warp factor values, such as "warp .5". Since warp drive was first used by Zephram Cochrane in 2063, two methods of scaling warp speeds have been used.

Cochrane Scale

The original Cochrane Scale was devised by Zephram Cochrane himself for his first test flight aboard the Phoenix. It was a relatively straightforward scale which followed the formula velocity / velocity of light = warp factor cubed (V/c = WF3). This scale has the advantage of simplicity. It was a relatively straightforward scale in which the speed of the vessel was proportional to the warp factor cubed. Cochrane's first ship didn't exceed light speed by more than a few percent, but the scale was flexible enough to remain in force for over two centuries.

By 2300 many were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the Cochrane Scale. Although convenient for those using the warp formula, it was of limited use to Engineers and specialists since it took relatively little account of the interstellar conditions at the moment. Thus it took a great deal more engine power to achieve a speed of Warp 5 while within a gravimetric distortion than it did while in relatively "calm" interstellar space. Engineering departments lobbied for years to bring in a new scale, but the bridge crews resisted and Star Fleet Headquarters - primarily composed of ex-bridge officers - concurred.

The loss of the USS Wilmington with all hands during an Ion storm in 2309 changed this attitude. It emerged during the inquiry that Captain Lamarr had seriously over stressed the Wilmington's engines by ordering Warp 7 while within the storm; although the Wilmington was quite capable of maintaining this speed under normal conditions, during an Ion storm it was far too great a load. Although other factors contributed greatly, such as a serious breakdown in communications on the ship, Star Fleet was unwilling to chance such a situation again.

Terrance-Neltorr Graduated Scale

The Terrance-Neltorr Graduated Scale was first suggested in 2298 by two civilian warp field specialists of those names. On the TNG Scale the warp factor is indicative of the subspace stress levels which the vessel must both create and endure, rather than the actual velocity of the vessel itself. The actual speed denoted by any given warp factor would depend upon the precise conditions prevalent at the time. So a Captain using the TNG scale would be able to order Warp 7 while in space, a solar system, or an Ion storm and be assured that he would not be over stressing his engines. The new scale was also tweaked to accommodate a number of technical advances made over the last century and in development at the time. Star Fleet conducted a quick assessment of several possible new warp scales between 2310 and 2311 before formally adopting the TNG scale, with the changeover made in 2312.

Although the TNG Scale has proved highly successful in use, recent advances in warp drive have brought its practicality into some question. In 2312 it seemed unlikely that Starships would get beyond Warp 9.9 for a very long time, but modern vessels are capable of Warp 9.97+5 speeds and some predict that the next twenty years will see ships which can travel in the Warp 9.999+ region. While there remains no engineering difficulties with these numbers, it is becoming problematic for bridge crews to keep track of a tactical situation while having to use numbers to three significant figures. Although nothing definite has yet emerged, several proposals for new warp scales are currently under consideration by Star Fleet.

Note: Crucially, even Quantum Slipstream Drive does not break the mythical Warp 10 barrier; achieving a sustained velocity of Warp 9.99998477 for up to twelve hours per jump.

Warp Factor Table

Full Impulse 270 Million 0.25 20 Years 80 Years
Warp 1 1078 Million 1 5 Years 20 Years
Warp 2 11 Billion 10 6 Months 3 Years
Warp 3 42 Billion 39 2 Months 1 Year
Warp 4 109 Billion 102 18 Days 2 Months
Warp 5 230 Billion 214 9 Days 1 Month
Warp 6 423 Billion 392 5 Days 19 Days
Warp 7 700 Billion 656 3 Days 11 Days
Warp 8 1103 Billion 1,024 2 Days 7 Days
Warp 9 1.63 Trillion 1,516 1 Day 5 Days
Warp 9.2 1.78 Trillion 1,649 1 Day 4 Days
Warp 9.6 2.06 Trillion 1,909 23 Hours 4 Days
Warp 9.9 3.29 Trillion 3,053 14 Hours 2 Days
Warp 9.99 8.53 Trillion 7,912 6 Hours 22 Hours
Warp 10 Infinite Infinite 0 0