Humans subsequently sold warp drive ships to many other cultures, and this technology has become common within the quadrant with over 2,000 species using it. The present day state of the art is not fundamentally different from Cochranes original system; ships today generally use matter / antimatter reactors rather than fusion ones, and dilithium has allowed more advanced power systems. The warp coils themselves have also become more numerous and complex in design.
For the future, many developments are possible.
Over a century since it was first envisaged, transwarp drive remains seemingly
just beyond the reach of Federation science. Other lines of research involve
co-axial warp cores, which allow instantaneous travel over sizeable distances,
and slipstream technology, which could theoretically allow travel at hundreds
of light years per second. If this latter technology ever came to pass,
it would make travel on an intergalactic scale easily feasible. On the
other hand, the idea of generating stable artificial wormholes for interstellar
travel is also being researched and if successful this may render warp
drive totally obsolete.
The antimatter is contained within much smaller
pods; the standard starship antimatter pod is capable of holding 100 m3
of fuel for a total of 3,000 m3 in a Galaxy class Starship.
Starfleet is somewhat reticent about revealing exactly how much antimatter
is kept on board its starships, as this would allow threat forces to make
detailed estimates of the total output of a ships power systems.
is known that the antimatter used in the Galaxy class is antihydrogen,
and that it is kept stored within magnetic fields. In
the event of a systems failure which threatens antimatter containment,
the pods can be thrown clear of the ship by emergency systems of considerable
Within Starfleet vessels, the MRI contains redundant sets of crossfed injectors. Each injector would consists of a twin deuterium manifold, fuel conditioner, fusion pre-burner, magnetic quench block, transfer duct/gas combiner, nozzle head, and related control hardware. Other designs are in use by civilian craft and other species. Although operation varies from class to class, in general slush deuterium enters the inlet manifolds and is passed to the conditioners where heat is removed. This brings the deuterium to just above solid transition point; micropellets are formed and then pre-burned by a magnetic pinch fusion system. The fuel is them sent on to a gas combiner where it reaches a temperature in the region of 106 K. Nozzle heads then focus the gas streams and send them down into the constriction segments.
Starfleet safety protocols require that should any nozzle fail, the combiner can continue to supply the remaining nozzles which would dialate to accommodate the increased fuel flow. The present generation of nozzles are constructed of frumium-copper-yttrium 2343.
The antimatter injector lies at the lower end
of the warp core. Its internal design is distinctly different from that
of the matter injector owing to the dangerous nature of antimatter fuel;
every step in manipulating the antihydrogen must use magnetic to keep the
material from physically touching any part of the structure. In some ways
the ARI is a simpler device requiring fewer moving components. It uses
the same basic structural housing and shock attenuation as the matter system,
with adaptations for magnetic suspension fuel tunnels. The structure contains
three pulsed antimatter gas flow separators; these serve to break up the
incoming antihydrogen into small manageable packets and send them up into
the constriction segments. Each flow separator leads to an injector nozzle
and each nozzle cycles open in response to computer control signals. Nozzle
firing can follow highly complicated sequences resulting from the varying
demands of reaction pressures and temperatures and desired power output,
amongst other factors.
The matter constrictor is typically longer than the antimatter constrictor, as antimatter is easier to focus and so requires a shorter distance for the same accuracy. Typically, the magnetic constrictors are divided into segments; each segment will contain several sets of tension frame members, a toroidal pressure vessel wall, several sets of magnetic constrictor coils and related power and control hardware. Constrictor coils will have dozens of active elements, and on more advanced designs these will be configures to contain the magnetic field almost wholly within the constrictor, with minimum spillage into the exterior environment. Starfleet warp cores usually have the outermost layers of the constrictors constructed of a semi-transparent layer which allows harmless secondary photons to escape from the inner layers, creating a glow effect. This gives an immediate visual cue to the current activity rates within the warp core.
As the fuel is released from the injector nozzles,
the constrictors compress it and increase the velocity considerably. This
ensures the proper collision energy and alignment within the reaction chamber.
Federation starships are equipped with a separate PTC line for each nacelle, a measure which increases resistance to battle damage or other failures. Since most Starships have twin nacelles, two PTC's will typically be arranged to be symmetrical about the ships centreline. These will proceed through the bulk of the engineering hull and along the connecting struts, if any, to the nacelles themselves.
Smaller versions of these heavy duty systems are
also used to carry power to components such as the phasers, shields, and
high energy scientific laboratories.
Because of the relatively low accuracy with which
the plasma flow is usually controlled by a PTC, the plasma injector system
must often be designed to re-condition the fuel flow in order to dampen
down turbulence and so ensure a smooth flow through the warp coils. In
many Starfleet designs, most especially those systems with the highest
raw power output, the plasma flow from the PTC is split into two parts
and sent through swirl dampers before being recombined during the injection
process. Long experience has found that this method reduces the size of
the required hardware to a reasonable minimum.
The warp coils generate a multi-layered set of fields around the craft, creating the propulsive forces that enable a Starship to travel beyond light speed. Manipulation of the shape and size of the field determines the velocity, acceleration and direction of the vessel.
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