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The displacement-activated spore hub drive, commonly shortened to spore drive or s-drive, was an organic propulsion system the Federation experimented with during the 2240s and 2250s. The technology used mycelium spores harvested from Prototaxites stellaviatori to jump or leap across the mycelial network. During such jumps, the ships were not in normal space but in the mycelial plane. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings", "Choose Your Pain")
Origins and concept Edit
The spore drive was based on the ideas of two colleagues and friends, Paul Stamets and Straal, who had been working on the concept since 2244. They were eager to get to the "veins and muscles" that held the galaxy together.
Their research was based on the insight that at a quantum level, there was no difference between biology or physics, and specifically that spores were not only the progenitors of panspermia, but also the building blocks of energy across the universe. This allowed Stamets and Straal to approach physics as biology. As such, the equations involved were reminiscent of both quantum astrophysics and biochemistry. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")
As a Starfleet program Edit
Initially confined to a lab, following the outbreak of war with the Klingons, Starfleet co-opted the research for military applications, much to the displeasure of Stamets. The two scientists were split up and given two different teams on different vessels – the USS Discovery and the USS Glenn – so they could work twice as fast.
Six months after the start of the war both ships were conducting "black alert" maneuvers, in which they made jumps across the mycelial network. These jumps were associated with the ship's walls becoming damp. Containment of the spores was important to prevent accidents.
Key to the research was to increase the interval, which was expressed in Speirein, higher Speireins being associated with large displacement. Jumping was probabilistic, meaning that the longer the jump, the more possible outcomes there were. The two ships lacked the processing power to make the requisite number of calculations, and so long jumps resulted in navigational instability. Some six months after the start of the war, the Discovery had reached Speirein 12 and leaps measured in the hundreds of kilometers. This was considered a poor result by Discovery captain Gabriel Lorca. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")
However, its more advanced sister ship made a breakthrough and achieved Speirein 240. The fact that they did not grow their own spores somehow resulted in the acquisition of Ripper, an alien creature that lived in some kind of symbiosis with the spores, and was capable of communicating with them as well as function as a navigator. Emboldened by the breakthrough, Straal reported that he was going to attempt Speirein 900, even though Stamets was concerned about the feasibility and safety of such a massive displacement. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings", "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry")
The Glenn managed to travel back and forth into the Beta Quadrant, a ninety light year jump, in 1.3 seconds. However, soon after, the crew of the Glenn hit a Hawking radiation firewall while exiting the mycelial plane, causing the death of its crew. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings", "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry")
The Glenn was later scuttled, though Ripper was beamed to Discovery and secured within that ship's own spore drive assembly. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings", "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry")
A demonstration of what was possible with the technology at this point in the war included putting someone in a test chamber with spores, and allowing them to see where the spores had been and were going to. The subject quickly cycled through a number of planetary destinations. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")
After the Discovery's first successful jump using the tardigrade, Stamets transmitted the drive schematics to Starfleet. Production of the drive was begun at a classified Starfleet facility in Jefferson, Iowa on Earth. All Federation ships, starbases, and colonies were placed on alert to search for more tardigrades. (DIS: "Choose Your Pain")
While Discovery has not yet revealed the fate of the technology, neither spore drive nor the unique set of terminology associated with it appeared in series set later. Both the terms "jump" and "leap" were used in relation to the travel method.
Some of the drive's properties; namely, its high speed, dependence on a preexisting network and the need for an organic pilot, make it similar to the slipstream drive from Andromeda, a TV series based on Gene Roddenberry's ideas for Star Trek.