|WARP FACTORS & CALCULATIONS
During Cochrane’s initial proposal for earth’s newest warp engine, he postulated that the advancement of the
technology would hinge on passing what is known as “The Warp Five Barrier”. Like earlier terrestrial speed goals,
this velocity represented a break-through in the technical and physical advancement of the technology. But unlike
those previous historical barriers, which based goals on speeds known to ordinary physics, this achievement was
based on pure subspace mechanics and the power utilization curves inherent to maintaining a stable subspace
field envelope. This was unknown theoretical territory.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WARP FIVE
Warp Five is not just a number. It is a key energy utilization plateau in subspace propulsion technology. For an
engine to reach this speed, an enormous amount of energy must be generated and sustained. But once Warp Five
is achieved, the energy needed to generate higher velocities becomes less and less, until you begin to approach
speeds close to 10,000 times the speed of light and then the energy utilization begins to approach infinity. It was a
monumental achievement for humans to reach this warp factor “midpoint”, not only technologically, but also due to
the relative ease for which high warp speeds could now be achieved.
WARP FACTOR CALCULATIONS
Modern warp speeds, or common warp factors, are based on three things: power utilization, velocity in multiples of
light speed, and the application/interaction of a subspace field within the ship’s current location. While each plays a
significant role in the equations, velocity is the key component and most often remains unchanged. Power utilization
and natural forces are secondary variables due to their unpredictable nature. However, both play a significant part in
For example, some areas of space have a higher or lower rate of subspace energy decay over several frequency
domains. In order to traverse these areas, a vessel would need to compensate by producing or reducing the
subspace field the vessel generated to counter the effect. If the ship was traveling through an area with higher
levels, the vessel might be moving with a forward velocity of Warp 3.4 on a normal scale but the energy being
produced and utilized to maintain that warp speed may be closer to Warp 5. In this instance, the warp factor would
be recorded as Warp 4.2 due to the power consumption. If the ship were traversing a lower area, such as traveling
to the Klingon home world while using an established subspace corridor, the power used to maintain the vessel’s
speed would be reduced due to the natural phenomenon. The ship's velocity might actually be Warp 7 on a normal
scale but the power being utilized might be closer to Warp 2. In this instance, the warp factor would be recorded as
4.5 due to the power consumption. However, most areas of space are clear of intense interference so factors are
most often calculated according to the actual velocity of the vessel.
This is a common warp factor scale. The calculations were made with the assumption that the vessel’s course
through the interstellar vacuum is without gravimetric or subspace perturbations.
Warp Factor calculations are also driven by a precise set of algorithms that automatically adjust for additional
variables. Unlike previous forays into space, modern navigational software has also been designed to calculate
and maintain the safest optimum speed for the vessel according to the craft’s structural limitations, available fuel
and power production. With further mapping and scientific data being obtained through exploratory or diplomatic
missions, automatic navigational subspace utilization software will continue to improve, helping navigators
streamline the process of precision warp factor calculations. Precise accounting and reliability is crucial for vessels
with limited fuel storage capabilities, such as transports and freighters. These improvements will help to encourage
modern space travel.
(I have included the algorithms for
calculating the revised speed from the 24th
century as a basis of comparison. And a big
thanks goes to Stephen R. Schmitt for use
of his warp speed calculator.)
For more information about the ideas used
behind the scenes to create warp
technology, warp factors and subspace
mechanics, please visit the amazing Star
Trek Wikipedia Memory Alpha or the
ultimate reference site Ex Astris Scientia.
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