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Canon Facts  Backstage Info  Speculation

Basic warp propulsion systems have been in use with the major alpha quadrant powers now for over three centuries. Warp technology has been tremendously successful, and there remains much potential for development in warp drive systems. Nevertheless, as early as 2275 scientists working at the Daystrom Institute proposed that standard warp physics was in fact only a small part of a much larger puzzle. This technology, dubbed "transwarp", quickly attracted the attention of Starfleet. A huge engineering project was begun with the aim of developing a starship capable of transwarp speeds. This new 'Excelsior' class was also to incorporate the very latest computers, sensors, and weapons systems - it would, quite simply, be by far the most sophisticated vessel in known space.

Unfortunately, while the Excelsior's non propulsion systems where a success, the transwarp project itself proved to be over-ambitious. Launched in 2285, it was only a deliberate act of sabotage by the Chief Engineer which prevented a catastrophic nacelle implosion on the first flight. Despite years of further work on the engines, the Excelsior was branded a failure - never made a successful test flight, and never having broke the transwarp barrier. Starfleet abandoned the Excelsior transwarp project altogether in 2287 and refitted the ship with a standard warp drive.

This was not the end for Federation transwarp technology, however. In 2372 the crew of the USS Voyager succeeded in conducting two brief shuttlecraft flights at warp 10 - actually straddling the warp barrier itself, and achieving infinite speed! However, several significant problems remain with this approach; Voyager crew members who conducted the flight experienced severe health problems, including genetic abnormalities. Voyager relayed some details of this flight back to Starfleet in 2373 via an alien subspace communications array; experts analysing the technology have indicated that the difficulties experienced by Voyager are in fact only the tip of the iceberg. As well as the guaranteed genetic damage, the subspace fields associated with this form of transwarp drive results in an 85% chance of fatality per flight. Significant problems also remain with navigating a vessel using this form of drive system, and as a result even unmanned probes have proved to be unusable.

Although many regarded transwarp drive as an impossibility, recent experience has shown that transwarp is indeed possible. In 2364 the USS Enterprise made several short transwarp flights with the assistance of an alien being known as "The Traveller". In 2369 the Borg invaded Federation space for the third time, under the command of the android Lore. This time the Borg used a transwarp vessel capable of generating conduits within which an object could travel at incredible speeds - the USS Enterprise accessed one of these conduits and made a short trip at an average of some 236,000,000 times light speed. This vessel, which is thought to have been an advanced prototype, was later destroyed by the Enterprise.

The crew of the USS Voyager, who had tested their own transwarp drive in 2372, encountered a transwarp-capable species known as the Voth while journeying in the Delta Quadrant. A typical Voth ship was capable of some 200,000 times light speed using their transwarp drives. Voyager has subsequently encountered the Borg, and has confirmed that standard Borg cubes are capable of using a form of the transwarp conduit used by the experimental vessel under Lore's control. This drive is apparently much slower than Lore's vessel, a technology which the Borg seem to have abandoned after the loss of the prototype.

When Professor Terrance and Doctor Neltorr proposed their "TNG scale", they had shown that a graph of the power required to propel any object at warp speeds would show certain minima which matched integer warp factors. On the TNG scale the velocity of an object - under ideal conditions - would be given by raising the warp factor it was travelling at to the power of 10/3, up to warp factor nine. Beyond warp nine the exponent increased gradually, then sharply as warp 10 was neared. At warp 10 itself the exponent became infinite - an object reaching warp 10 would thus achieve infinite speed, passing through every point in the universe simultaneously. Standard warp drives required infinite power to achieve warp 10 - naturally this seemed an impossible task. Scientists of the day where quite confident in proclaiming Warp 10 as the ultimate impassable barrier.

In 2269, scientists working for the Daystrom Institute took the theoretical models of subspace created by Terrance and Neltorr one step further. It was realized that the mathematics allowed for a second subspace region stretching from the warp 10 barrier up to another, similar barrier at warp 20 - a region which a public relations officer in the Daystrom Institute press office dubbed the "transwarp domain", a name which has stuck despite its inaccuracy.

In 2270 it was realized that even this theoretical transwarp domain was only part of the whole structure. The theory allowed for an infinite number of such domains, each separated by a warp barrier. Throughout the early 2270's there was a huge effort to discover whether these transwarp domains where just theoretical constructs, or where actually real. In 2273 the Starfleet science vessel USS Wanderer conducted a subspace particle dissipation experiment which proved conclusively that not only did transwarp domains actually exist, but that under certain circumstances it was possible for matter to circumvent the warp barrier and pass into the transwarp domain.

Theoretical and practical studies quickly established that at a point infinitesimally past Warp 10, the warp factor exponent fell from infinity to zero and then began to gradually rise again. By Warp 11 the exponent reached 13/3, after which it mirrors the behaviour of the normal warp curve. A Warp 19 the exponent begins to climb, again reaching infinity at warp 20 to form the next warp barrier. The whole process is repeated again in the second transwarp domain, and again in the third, and so on. In each domain the 'steady' central value of the exponent increases linearly - from 10/3 in the warp domain to 13/3 in the first transwarp domain, 16/3 in the second, then 19/3, 22/3, and so on.

The speeds of warp factors within the warp domain and the first two transwarp domains can be seen on following chart.

To nearby star
(5 ly)
Across Sector
(20 ly)
Across Federation
(8,000 ly)
To Andromeda
(2 million ly)
11 32,561 1.3 hours 5.4 hours 89.7 days 136.6 years 
12 47,474 55.4 mins 3.7 hours 61.6 days 42.1 years 
13 67,156 39.2 mins 2.6 hours 43.5 days 29.8 years 
14 92,588 28.4 mins 1.9 hours 31.6 days 21.6 years 
15 124,852 21.1 mins 1.4 hours 23.4 days 16.0 years 
16 165,140 15.9 mins 1.1 hours 17.7 days 12.1 years 
17 214,756 12.2 mins 49.0 mins 13.6 days 9.3 years 
18 275,115 9.6 mins 38.2 mins 10.6 days 7.3 years 
19 347,749 7.6 mins 30.2 mins 8.4 days 5.8 years 
20 Infinite An object at warp 20 travels at infinite speed, occupying all points in the universe simultaneously
21 11,267,725 14.0 secs 56.0 secs 6.2 hours 64.8 days
22 14,440,680 10.9 secs 43.7 secs 4.9 hours 50.6 days
23 18,304,103 8.6 secs 34.5 secs 3.8 hours 39.9 days
24 22,968,182 6.9 secs 27.5 secs 3.1 hours 31.8 days
25 28,554,861 5.5 secs 22.1 secs 2.5 hours 25.6 days
26 35,198,530 4.5 secs 17.9 secs 2.0 hours 20.8 days
27 43,046,721 3.7 secs 14.7 secs 1.6 hours 17.0 days
28 52,260,814 3.0 secs 12.1 secs 1.3 hours 14.0 days
29 63,016,748 2.5 secs 10.0 secs 1.1 hours 11.6 days
30 Infinite An object at warp 30 travels at infinite speed, occupying all points in the universe simultaneously
31 2.79 x 109 56.6 msec 226.4 msec 1.5 mins 6.3 hours
32 3.41 x 109 46.3 msec 185.1 msec 1.2 mins 5.1 hours
33 4.14 x 109 38.1 msec 152.4 msec 1.0 mins 4.2 hours
34 5.00 x 109 31.5 msec 126.1 msec 50.4 secs 3.5 hours
35 6.01 x 109 26.2 msec 105.0 msec 42.0 secs 2.9 hours
36 7.19 x 109 22.0 msec 87.8 msec 35.1 secs 2.4 hours
37 8.55 x 109 18.5 msec 73.8 msec 29.5 secs 2.1 hours
38 1.01 x 1010 15.6 msec 62.4 msec 24.9 secs 1.7 hours
39 1.19 x 1010 13.2 msec 52.9 msec 21.2 secs 1.5 hours
40 Infinite An object at warp 40 travels at infinite speed, occupying all points in the universe simultaneously

The power required to hold a given warp factor is generally given in Megajoules per Cochrane per second. Within the warp domain the power requirements follow a saw-toothed curve, rising towards infinity at warp 10. Once into the first transwarp domain the basic shape of this curve repeats itself, although it is shifted upwards relative to the first by the higher energy requirements involved in transwarp drive. In general, transwarp factors require much higher engine power to maintain than the equivalent warp factor - for example holding Warp 13 requires 50,000 times as much power as holding Warp 3 does. But in terms of the power required to hold a specific speed, transwarp is far more efficient. The power needed to hold Warp 13 with a transwarp drive could maintain Warp 9.82 with standard warp drive, but while Warp 9.82 equates to 2,530 times light speed, Warp 13 is 67,156 times light speed - an increase in speed of almost 2654%. The following chart shows the total power which would be needed for a galaxy class starship to maintain a given warp or transwarp factor.

Today a workable, practical transwarp drive remains beyond the reach of Federation science and although some efforts to develop this technology are still being made, no progress has yet been achieved.

Last updated : 25th February 2000.
This page is Copyright Graham Kennedy 1998.

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