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Warp factor

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AR Enterprise viewscreen

In the alternate reality, the main viewscreen of USS Enterprise depicted the sublight and faster-than-light speed of the ship in warp factors at a three decimal place accuracy

Warp field dynamics monitor

A warp field dynamics monitor displayed the warp factors of the Warp 5 engine and their relative faster-than-light speed equivalents

"They say gossip travels faster than warp speed."

- The Doctor in 2375

Warp factor (or time warp factor) was the primary means of measuring warp speed. The term was often shortened to warp when followed by its value so that saying "warp six" is the same as saying "warp factor six." Faster-than-light travel began after warp one, whereas lower fractional values were sometimes used to measure sublight speeds. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Star Trek; ENT: "First Flight" display graphic) Spacecraft ordinarily traveled at a higher integer warp factor. By the mid-24th century, infinite velocity was designated as warp factor ten. It was considered to be unattainable by conventional means. (VOY: "Threshold") Because of this, extremely high warp factors were indicated with fractional values between nine and ten, such as warp 9.975. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint"; VOY: "Caretaker")

According to Star Trek Maps, the alternative term "time warp factor" used in TOS: "The Cage" is so called due to the time dilation effects that occur during warp travel.
Subspace communication speeds have also been given high warp factors in several reference materials.

Warp factor vs. average speed

The following is a list of warp factor values that have been given a relativistic speed equivalent on screen. Average speeds are typically calculated from given values for travel time and distance. Some figures were depicted in charts and others given as statements in dialogue.
Warp factor Average speed (*c) Distance traveled Travel time Reference
.5 0.304 - 0.496 ~3.95 - 6.45 AU (Earth-Jupiter) 1.8 hours Star Trek: The Motion Picture
1 1 exact velocity depicted in warp factor chart ENT: "First Flight"
2 8 exact velocity depicted in warp factor chart ENT: "First Flight"
3 27 exact velocity depicted in warp factor chart ENT: "First Flight"
3 39 0.102 light years 23 hours TNG: "The Most Toys"
3 487 4 light years 3 days ENT: "Damage"
4 64 exact velocity depicted in warp factor chart ENT: "First Flight"
4.4 100 30,000,000 km 1 second ENT: "Broken Bow"
4.5 79.7 - 87.2 ~57.5 - 62.92AU (Earth-Neptune and back) 6 minutes ENT: "Broken Bow"
5 125 exact velocity depicted in warp factor chart ENT: "First Flight"
5 200 50 light years (Earth-An area inside the Delphic Expanse) ~3 months ENT: "The Expanse", "The Xindi"
8.4 765,000 ~990 light years 11.337 hours TOS: "That Which Survives"
9 834 approximately 300 billion kilometers (0.032 light years) ~20 minutes TNG: "Bloodlines"
9.9 21,473 about 4 billion miles (0.0007 light years) 1 second VOY: "The 37's"
9.975 1,554 - 1,721 132 light years 1 month VOY: "Relativity", "Friendship One"
10 0 VOY: "Threshold"
n/a [1] 8,300 2.5 million light years (to Andromeda Galaxy) 300 years TOS: "By Any Other Name"
  1. The Kelvans modified the USS Enterprise to travel at warp eleven through the Galactic barrier. They did not clarify whether the same warp factor would have been used for intergalactic travel also.

Warp ten and above

Multiwarp speeds

Orion scout ship, remastered

An Orion scout ship at warp 10

In the 23rd century, warp factors of 10 and higher were known as generally unsafe velocities. (TOS: "Journey to Babel") They were called multiwarp speeds. (TOS: "The Changeling")

  • Warp factor 11. In 2267, the Nomad probe improved efficiency in the antimatter input valve and energy release controls on the Enterprise, allowing the ship to achieve at least warp 11. When this happened, Montgomery Scott was in disbelief. Captain James T. Kirk ordered Nomad to reverse the modifications though, as the structure of the Enterprise was not designed to handle the stress of that much power output. (TOS: "The Changeling") In 2268, the Kelvans who commandeered the ship made similar modification. At that time the ship could maintain warp 11 without danger. (TOS: "By Any Other Name")
According to the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology (page 180) and Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise (page 14), after the refit of the Template:ShipClass USS Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the maximum speed of the ship was warp factor 12.
  • Warp factor 15. In 2267, the Nomad probe was armed with a weapon system capable of firing energy bolts that traveled at the speed of warp 15. (TOS: "The Changeling")
Karla fives vessel-pos

Karla Five's vessel capable of warp 36

In the comic book A Warp in Space set in the late-2260s, Starfleet tested the prototype Warp 15 engine on several test ships. Zefram Cochrane also devised modifications to the USS Enterprise that allowed the ship to achieve the speed, though the ship was almost torn apart at that velocity.
  • Warp factor 36. In 2270, the Enterprise encountered Karla Five's vessel, that was about to enter the Beta Niobe nova. At maximum speed, the ship was traveling at approximately warp 36. (TAS: "The Counter-Clock Incident")

Infinite velocity

USS Enterprise going to warp in full profile

USS Enterprise-D accelerated to incredible warp speeds by the Traveler

Cochrane, transwarp

Shuttlecraft Cochrane accelerating to warp 10

In 24th century warp theory, warp factor 10 had been redesignated to correspond with infinite velocity. A vessel traveling at warp 10 occupied all points in the universe simultaneously. Warp 10 was also known as the transwarp threshold. (VOY: "Threshold") Warp 10 had also become a slang term referring to anything extremely fast. Kathryn Janeway made the observation in 2376 that on USS Voyager rumors traveled fast. Chakotay agreed with Janeway, quipping at "warp 10." (VOY: "The Voyager Conspiracy")

The slang term was also used in the script for DS9: "Sons and Daughters", where Alexander Rozhenko's adrenaline was described as "pumping at warp 10." [1]
According to Star Trek: Starship Spotter, the redesignation of warp 10 as infinite speed occurred in 2312. The warp factor specifications prior to 2312 were rated by Starfleet using the Original Cochrane Unit warp scale, abbreviated as the OCU. Warp factors after 2312 use the Modified Cochrane Unit warp scale, abbreviated as the MCU.
According to Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual (page 55), the ship didn't actually achieve warp 10 or go beyond it, but it did travel at the extreme speed of about Warp 9.9999999996. This would be confirmed in "Threshold" where Tom Paris becomes the first Human to travel at warp 10.
  • Warp factor 10. Although considered a theoretical impossibility at the time, Tom Paris of the USS Voyager reached the warp 10 threshold in 2372, using shuttlecraft Cochrane which was equipped with a transwarp drive and an extraordinarily rare form of dilithium discovered earlier that year. After it was discovered that such travel induced hyper-evolution, this technology was discontinued after the initial test. (VOY: "Threshold")

Alternate timelines

USS Enterprise-D, anti-time future

An alternative future USS Enterprise-D refitted for warp 13

In an alternative future, around the turning point of the 24th to 25th century, warp factor values beyond warp 10 were again used to describe extremely fast speeds. (TNG: "All Good Things...")

In the October 1995 issue of OMNI, science advisor Andre Bormanis stated the idea of warp factors beyond 10 in the alternative future was in a recalibration of the warp scale, as ships had gotten faster. Maybe warp 15 was set to be the transwarp threshold instead, according to Bormanis, and warp 13 in that scale would have been the equivalent of warp 9.95 of the previous scale.


Related topics

Background information

Although formulas to calculate speeds from warp factors existed in the writer's guides, these were not always used consistently in the episodes and films. To explain the apparent discontinuity of the canonical warp factor speeds, background sources have given several explanations. Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual states the actual speed values of a warp factor are dependent upon interstellar conditions, for example gas density, electric and magnetic fields in different regions of the galaxy, and fluctuations of the subspace domain. Also quantum drag forces and motive power oscillation cause energy penalties to a ship using warp drive. (pg.55)

Star Trek Maps introduced a similar concept as the Cochrane's factor, that influences the actual speed by multiplying it. It can be as high as a multiplication of 1500 to the relative speed within the curvature of space caused by the interstellar dust and gas of a galaxy, and as little as 1 in the empty intergalactic void. In the vicinity of massive objects it is so high that disproportionately high speeds are created, and they tend to result in the slingshot effect. Between the galaxies there is only the empty void, so the speed follows only the basic cubic formula. (see below) Within the interstellar medium of Federation space the average value for the Cochrane's factor has been calculated to be 1292.7238. (pg.6)

Many examples of these variations exist. For example, in "By Any Other Name", the Kelvans modified the USS Enterprise to accelerate to a speed of warp 11 in order to safely cross the galactic barrier. If this was also meant to represent the velocity of travel to the Andromeda Galaxy, a travel time of 300 years would indicate a far greater speed than can be derived from the cubic scale. Warp 8.4 was stated to be much faster in "That Which Survives" than warp 9.9 in "The 37's". In TNG: "Allegiance", warp 7 was stated to be about 55 times faster than warp factor 2, again confirming that some fluctuation in the relative speeds exist that is not covered by the basic formula.

In the shooting script of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, USS Enterprise was slated to be traveling past Saturn as Kirk is making his log entry, stating 2.7 hours have passed since their launch from Earth. A distance of 8 AUs traveled in that time would have made warp .5 equal to approximately a speed of 0.411 c.

Star Trek: The Original Series

During TOS, the warp factor scale wasn't clearly defined. In his initial draft proposal, Star Trek is..., Gene Roddenberry established the maximum velocity of the starship as ".73 of one light year per hour". This would translate to a top speed of approximately 6,400 c (equivalent to TOS warp 18.57, and approximately TNG warp 9.98).

The original warp scale was described in the writer's guide, The Star Trek Guide, third revision, dated April 17. 1967 (pg. 8) [2] and first appeared in widespread print in 1968 in The Making of Star Trek (pg. 191). The book also states a shift in relative time occurs while traveling at warp, an hour might equal to three hours experienced outside the ship. (pg. 198) In 1975, the warp scale given a more technical gloss in Franz Joseph's Star Fleet Technical Manual, now extended to include warp factors below 1. In 1977 Roddenberry again adopted the scale for the abortive Star Trek: Phase II series, but abandoned it for The Next Generation series. It was not until the the 2003 episode "First Flight" of Star Trek: Enterprise, that the warp factor scale made an official on screen debut. Warp factors from 1 to 5 were depicted with their corresponding relative speed values on a large computer graphic.

The scale used by Starfleet in the 22nd and 23rd century is based on a geometric progression, where the speed of a vessel (measured in multiples of c, the speed of light) is equal to the cube of the given warp factor. The warp factor was calculated as follows:

  • v being the speed of the signal or starship
  • c being the speed of light (3.0 × 108 m/s) and
  • wf being the resulting warp factor

Or, to calculate speed (v) in terms of c, the formula would be:


At warp 1, a starship would reach c; at warp 6, it would reach 216 c. This is a much slower speed as initially proposed by Roddenberry.

Using this scale:

Warp factor Calculated speed (*c) Distance traveled in 24 hours (*light years) Travel time from Earth to Alpha Centauri
0.5 0.125 0.0003 34.64 years
1 1 0.003 4.33 years
2 8 0.022 197.69 days
3 27 0.074 58.57 days
4 64 0.175 24.71 days
5 125 0.342 12.65 days
6 216 0.591 7.32 days
7 343 0.939 4.61 days
8 512 1.402 3.09 days
9 729 1.996 52.07 hours
10 1000 2.738 37.96 hours
11 1331 3.644 28.52 hours

Star Trek: The Next Generation

According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, the warp factor scale used by Starfleet in the 24th century was based on a recalibration of the scale used in the Original Series. Rather than a simple geometric progression based on relative speed, warp factors were established to be based upon the amount of power required to transition from one warp plateau to another. For example, the power to initially get to warp factor 1 was much more than the power required to maintain it; likewise warp 2, 3, 4, and so on. Those transitional power points rather than observed speed were then assigned the integer warp factors. These transitional points were established to apply to the original warp scale as well in the canonical warp chart presented in "First Flight".

According to a Star Trek: The Magazine article by André Bormanis, this scale change occurred in 2312. A term was added to the above equation that caused the speed to rise slightly at lower warp factor, but to become infinite at warp 10. The ratio v/c at a given warp factor is equal to the corresponding cochrane value that describes the subspace distortion.

The 24th century scale was created at the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Gene Roddenberry stated that he wanted to avoid the ever-increasing warp factors used in the original series to force added tension to the story, and so imposed the limit of warp 10 as infinite speed.

For warp factors up to 9, the revised formula became:

  • v being the speed of the signal or starship
  • c being the speed of light (3.0 × 108 m/s) and
  • wf being the resulting warp factor

Or, to calculate speed in terms of c (up to warp 9), the formula would be:


In this case, warp 1 is equivalent to c (as it was in the 23rd century scale), but above warp 9 the exponent was increased exponentially, approaching infinity as the warp factor approaches 10.

Using this scale:

Warp factor Calculated speed (*c) Distance traveled in 24 hours (*light years) Travel time from Earth to Alpha Centauri
0.5 0.099 0.0003 43.64 years
1 1 0.003 4.33 years
2 10.079 0.028 156.91 days
3 38.941 0.107 40.61 days
4 101.594 0.278 15.57 days
5 213.747 0.585 7.4 days
6 392.498 1.075 4.03 days
7 656.135 1.796 2.41 days
8 1024 2.804 37.07 hours
9 1516.381 4.152 25.03 hours
10 0

Star Trek: Voyager

In the pilot episode of the series, VOY: "Caretaker", it is established that "at maximum speeds" it would take 75 years for Voyager to reach Earth, that was at that time approximated to be 70,000 light years away. In Star Trek: Voyager Technical Manual it is stated that this calculation is based on a non-stop direct journey at the speed of warp 9.6. This indicates warp 9.6 equals to approximately 933 times the speed of light.

In the episode VOY: "Flashback", Captain Kathryn Janeway states that the current Starfleet starships are twice as fast to what the USS Enterprise-A and the USS Excelsior were in the 2290s. The maximum warps of the Enterprise-A and the Excelsior were established to be warp 9 in the script of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. [3] This would suggest that the maximum speed of the Voyager, warp 9.975, is twice as fast as warp 9. This would be consistent with how fast warp 9 was established to be in TNG: "Bloodlines" and how fast the Voyager was established to be in VOY: "Friendship One" at maximum warp.

Star Trek: Enterprise

Officially and according to the large warp chart featured in "First Flight", the warp drive of the Enterprise NX-01 uses the TOS-scale. Speeds mentioned in ENT: "Broken Bow" of traveling at 30,000,000 kilometers per second, and going to "Neptune and back in six minutes." fit well into the ballpark of warp factors between 4 and 5. In ENT: "Regeneration", Trip states that warp 4.8 (approximately 111 times the speed of light in the TOS-scale) is double the speed of warp 3.9 (approximately 59), which is a close enough margin of error considering it is an offhand comment made without navigational implications.

A location was given to Archer on where to go look for the Xindi inside the Delphic Expanse in the episode ENT: "The Expanse". The location was stated to be a three month trip away from Earth at warp 5. In the next episode, ENT: "The Xindi", when the Enterprise had arrived to look for the Xindi in that region, it was said they were 50 light years away from Earth. This indicates warp 5 equals to a speed of approximately 200 times the speed of light. This would fall closer to the TNG-scale figure for warp 5 instead of the TOS-scale figure of 125 times the speed of light presented in the canonical chart.

There are however instances in "Broken Bow" that are not compatible with any of the scales. A journey from Earth to Qo'noS in four days is one of them. Qo'noS is at least 107 light years away from Earth according to the Star Trek: Star Charts. This indicates that the relative speed of almost 9,800 times the speed of light is achieved by the ship. Zefram Cochrane also notes in his recorded speech that the warp five engine would allow a ship to travel a hundred times faster than what they could in 2119. Warp 5 however is only 16 or 21 times faster than warp 2 in the scales. Warp 2 is established to be the maximum warp of ships in the early-22nd century in ENT: "First Flight".

In ENT: "Fortunate Son", it is stated that a warp three engine would allow a ship to travel ten times faster that warp factor 1.8. This doesn't work out in either of the formulas, unless we interpret the statement to indicate that a warp three engine would allow a speed of warp factor 3.9 in the TOS-scale or 3.6 in the TNG-scale. Warp factor 3 would be only around five times faster in either scale.

Alternate reality

USS Enterprise (alternate reality) at warp

The alternate USS Enterprise at warp in Star Trek

In the alternate reality, seen in Star Trek, USS Enterprise traveled to Vulcan at maximum warp. According to background sources [4] this corresponds to warp factor 8. Directly after the ship had accelerated to and attained maximum warp, Captain Christopher Pike ordered Pavel Chekov to give an announcement of the mission to the crew. At the end of the broadcast, Chekov stated that the ship would arrive within 3 minutes. According to ENT: "Daedalus" Vulcan is located slightly over 16 light years away from Earth. However, there was an unknown amount of time the ship spent accelerating to maximum velocity, so there is no accurate way to ascertain the total voyage time of the Enterprise from Earth to Vulcan, beyond the obvious implication that it was not an especially lengthy trip.

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