Simple enough question, but I really have only seen the newer Star Trek series and I have not seen a ship go to warp from inside an atmosphere of a planet.

This answer got me thinking

The Warp Drive does not produce momentum - it literally warps space around the ship, dragging the ship and its adjacent bubble of normal space, through the time-space medium.

Being that I am not up to date on the whole in-universe physics of what happens when a ship goes to warp, I was interested to know what happens if the ship tries to jump to warp from inside an atmosphere.

So can a ship jump to warp from inside an atmosphere?

  • 1
    If you want to explode into a million pieces, then sure, go ahead :-)
    – Valorum
    Nov 5, 2017 at 5:08
  • In AbramsVerse, they jumped into the atmosphere of Titan in Star Trek (2009) without problems (stopping manually - I mean WHAT?!?). Can hardly see a reason why Rule of Cool shouldn't just as well allow for the other direction there... Nov 5, 2017 at 8:40
  • I know the novels are not canon, but in...Prime Directive maybe? They go to warp inside a limit (I think atmospheric) and end up banjaxing the Enterprise. I remember a scene where they were debating the effect of detaching the nacelles being a risky proposition. It might be a different novel, though, I've read most of them.
    – JohnP
    Nov 5, 2017 at 17:40
  • The Klingon ship in The Voyage Home does this: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/20626/…
    – Gaultheria
    Nov 6, 2017 at 2:14
  • @BrianOrtiz I hit that close button so fast!
    – Möoz
    Nov 6, 2017 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


I can't think of any specific thing preventing this in general. An atmosphere is basically just space with some density (Earth's atmosphere extends far into areas often depicted as stable orbits in Star Trek).

It's basically the same compared to jumping from within a nebula or similar phenomenon, which is something depicted rather often in later series due to advanced CGI capabilities.

However, there could be specific influences, like gravity or density making it highly unattractive, e.g. due to additional stress for the deflectors. As such it might not be standard practice.

But why do ships regularly leave it orbit first? It's most likely for easier alignment. Remember that even smaller planets will apply gravitational pull to anything nearby. Even when traveling to the Moon only, half a degree can make a massive discrepancy. The lower outside influences (gravity, aerial drag) the easier it is to jump into the right direction.

Last but not least there's something often ignored in Star Trek but depicted in the remake of Battlestar Galactica: The ship's warp bubble will most likely "pull" everything with it that's inside it - not just the ship. As such you'd basically cause a giant implosion the moment the ship disappears, even if you assume only the ship itself is moved (you can ignore the different drive technologies; the issue is the same):

  • 2
    Is there a source somewhere that establishes that BSG FTL works the same way as Star Trek FTL? I'm not sure why we're comparing apples to oranges otherwise.
    – Steve-O
    Nov 5, 2017 at 14:13
  • @Steve-O If you have an object at position 1 and move it suddenly to position 2 you're creating a vacuum at position 1 (and increased pressure at position 2), since you're moving volumes (the ship and possibly its surroundings).
    – Mario
    Nov 5, 2017 at 23:33
  • @Steve-O Source: Multiple Star Trek episodes depict that ships can drag other ships and objects with them simply by extending their warp bubble. The same principle applies to any matter surrounding the ship and everything within the warp bubble.
    – Mario
    Nov 5, 2017 at 23:34
  • Yes, I know Star Trek has warp bubbles, and I'm aware of how the conservation of momentum works. But as far as I recall, BSG never really got into explaining how their FTL worked. They certainly never used the words "warp bubble" in BSG. So why does anything shown in BSG have ramifications for Star Trek? Two different fictional universes, both have the ability to travel faster than light, but nothing I'm aware of says that they do so in the same way. There are lots of fictional theories about how to break the lightspeed barrier in various sci-fi.
    – Steve-O
    Nov 6, 2017 at 0:41
  • @Steve-O You got me wrong there. The technology doesn't matter. Removing the ship alone causes a vacuum instantly, which is depicted in BSG. The same effect would apply in Star Trek. Whether surrounding air disappears doesn't matter, it just changes the scale of the effect. This is not specific to BSG's FTL drives.
    – Mario
    Nov 6, 2017 at 6:40

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