Considering the workings of warp drive, the 'light barrier' isn't actually broken, because its not passed through, it's sort of jumped over with warp drive. I understand the physics basically, but because warp drive warps space-time, the ship doesn't actually surpass the speed of light, it just warps space time to get the same result as surpassing the speed of light.

Is it possible for a warp-capable ship (and by capable, I'm looking of course for canonical sources verifying or refuting this possibility) to fly at the speed of light?

2 Answers 2


To sum up, yes, warp drive does allow for light speed.

According to the warp factor chart seen in Enterprise First Flight the speed of warp factor 1 is 1c (seen as the large green line below).

Indeed, according to Memory-Alpha, warp 1 is equivalent to 1 times the speed of light in both the Original Series and the Next Generation warp factor scales.

Edit based on comments:
If you're asking whether it is possible to go at the speed of light without warping space (i.e. on impulse without using the warp drive) then the answer is no. No races in Star Trek have shown the ability to produce the necessary unlimited energy that would be needed to move the unlimited mass of a ship traveling at light speed. The one exception might be the Q, but to do it they'd probably end up changing the laws of physics to begin with, rendering the question moot.

Warp Factor Chart

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    I think you missed the crux of the question. Nobody's debating that the effective travel time of a vehicle at Warp 1 is that of the speed of light in a vacuum (or that a vehicle travelling at higher Warp Factors may exceed that feat) - the question is about whether the vehicle actually locally achieves lightspeed, given that in the higher warp factor cases it doesn't — indeed, cannot — locally exceed it. I see nothing here to address that question. Feb 12, 2018 at 0:53
  • True, the question doesn't explicitly specify whether they mean subjectively or objectively. But since the OP states that they understand how warp drive functions, that pretty much defines the parameters. i.e. can they objectively go at the speed of light.
    – Xantec
    Feb 12, 2018 at 1:05
  • It seems to me that the question does specify that, that this is the entire purpose of the question. "Considering the workings of warp drive, the 'light barrier' isn't actually broken, because its not passed through, it's sort of jumped over with warp drive" The second paragraph asks whether this is still true at (not beyond) the speed of light. Feb 12, 2018 at 1:19
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    There you go, edited.
    – Xantec
    Feb 12, 2018 at 1:25
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    Better thanks :) Feb 12, 2018 at 9:28

You can't travel at the speed of light using the warp drive. You can compress space, like you said, so that ultimately you arrive at your destination in the same time it would have taken had you travelled faster than light in non-compressed space.

So the answer depends on how you to want to view it:

  1. Can the body (the spaceship in this case) travel at, or faster, than the speed of light relative to its immediate space (enclosing warp bubble) - no.
  2. Can the body arrive at a destination before, or at the same time, as light starting from the same point would take - yes.
  • This seems to be in direct contradiction with @DVK's answer. Where are you getting your sources from (not physics, but canonical sources) to arrive at this conclusion? If Memory Alpha says something, it's normally a pretty reliable source. I see what you mean though (in that a starship doesn't actually travel faster than light - it's just the way it bends spacetime), which is what I was alluding to in my question Jun 5, 2014 at 8:46
  • This is supported by scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/271
    – babou
    Jun 5, 2014 at 11:18
  • This seems like it could come down to semantics. While technically you wouldn't be travelling at c, you would also need to say that no warp factors technically exceed c either. That, in fact, there is no FTL in Star Trek, only a drive that delivers the same results. So yes, that's correct but... May 31, 2018 at 2:39

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