This question Why didn’t Voyager fly to the end of the Bajoran wormhole in the gamma quadrant? got me thinking about Starfleet and what their current warp travel tech etc is at.

Granted there have been no movies or TV series since Voyager and Nemesis (guessing Star Trek: Phoenix does not count) to provide canon seen on the screen, but has there been any literature (that is considered canon) that has mentioned Starfleet has made huge strides in interstellar travel?

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    Star Trek novels are NOT considered canon in general. Two are debatably canon, but they aren't set post-Voyager.
    – Jeff
    Nov 23, 2011 at 20:20
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    Unless I'm mistaken Star Trek Online is considered cannon. Aside from installing transwarp conduits throughout Federation space, allowing for fast travel within the network, no readily recognizable advances in open space travel were made between the end of Nemesis and Star Trek Online (how many years passed escapes me right now).
    – Xantec
    Nov 23, 2011 at 20:49
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    Most people have forgotten about STO
    – BBlake
    Nov 24, 2011 at 2:25
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    @Xantec - Do you have a reference showing that? I don't see how STO could possibly be canon. Nov 24, 2011 at 4:54
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    @Kevin - definitely the latter. Transwarps, warp 10, quantum slipstream, even worm holes!
    – Jared
    Nov 28, 2011 at 2:39

4 Answers 4


The Federation has improved on warp travel over the years within the canon. Initially, warp travel required acceleration through the various warp levels, and the original Enterprise was limited to something like Warp 4 or 5. Her initial refit probably improved on that a little. Excelsior was commissioned primarily as a prototype and testbed for "transwarp drive", which both allows a higher maximum warp speed and the ability to instantly attain that speed from a standstill. This trans-warp drive eventually became standard issue, and the "trans" was dropped. The new technology also resulted in the recalibration of the Warp scale as speeds beyond the old Warp 9 were now not only possible but frankly easy to attain. The new Warp 9 is the start of an asymptotic rise in energy costs of warp travel up to infinity at Warp 10. Enterprise's warp drive maxes out at about 9.6, while Voyager's top speed is stated to be about 9.975. However, there are plenty of other "trans-warp" technologies that, without the energy costs of the Alcubierre-type Warp drive, can produce speeds in excess of Warp factor 9.9999.

Beyond the events of Nemesis and Voyager, one would think that the technologies documented by Voyager would result in some pretty big strides made in Federation interstellar travel. Slipstream in particular; they were able to bring home a (burnt-out and no longer working) example of that technology that Federation scientists would be very eager to reproduce. But, as Voyager is the end of the official canon, we won't know until someone starts up "The Next Next Generation" with the Enterprise-F or -G.

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    That doesn't seem right. The use of the phrase "transwarp" in Star Trek is a bit rubbish, since it's used to refer to numerous completely unrelated concepts/technologies (other than being some improvement on conventional warp technology). But none of the Federation's transwarp technologies were ever successfully adopted. Both the Excelsior and the Cochrane were attempts to cross the transwarp barrier into infinite velocity, and both were failures. And the 24th century warp factor scale is a measurement of velocity not energy cost. So warp 10 = infinite velocity, not infinite energy. Dec 1, 2011 at 11:23
  • Star Trek III uses the term "transwarp drive" to refer to the Excelsior's drive system, and the term in general is used to refer to any technology that exceeds the capabilities of the conventional warp drive. Obviously the ability to immediately jump from a standstill to Warp 6 is beyond the capabilities of conventional warp drivce in the TOS era, but has become standard issue by TNG. And the limiting factor of a ship's warp drive is never how fast it can go, but how much energy it would take to go that fast.
    – KeithS
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:30
  • That's why it's a poorly used term. As you've pointed out, improvements have been made to Feddy warp technology, however, the franchise never calls any of them "transwarp". As I said, Federation "transwarp" research has been limited to breaking the transwarp barrier. The ability to immediately jump to warp 6 is an advance over original Federation warp drives, but it was never considered transwarp within the franchise. It's like how some sub-warp-10 speeds are considered transwarp because they're beyond current Federation tech, but Federation improvements on speed aren't considered transwarp. Dec 2, 2011 at 5:59
  • As for the warp factors being measures of energy cost, that would make warp factors a completely useless system for measuring velocity, since different ships/drives have different energy costs for achieving the same speed. A small ship traveling at warp 9 would be equivalent to a D'deridex moving at warp 1. And if warp 10 = infinite energy, then it would have been impossible for Tom Paris to reach warp 10. Dec 2, 2011 at 6:08
  • Warp 8 and 9 were possible in Star Trek. The later series changed the defintions so that the original warp 9 was slower than warp 9 in those later series.
    – JRE
    Dec 29, 2017 at 11:40

according to details on future Enterprise ship (Enterprise-J NCC-1701-J) it can fold space, making interstella travel much quicker!

They are beyond transwarp. They can fold space, and they are exploring other galaxies besides the Milky Way."

Although this is future technology and alternate timelines.


"the original Enterprise was limited to something like Warp 4 or 5."

The official canon on the TOS Enterprise is that it had a cruising velocity of WF6 (216c) and a maximum emergency capability of WF8 (512c). By TNG, the Enterprise was capable of cruising at WF8 (512c). There's been some fiddling with the meaning since that time, but it's an "immersive" retcon, which means it doesn't substantially revise any of the existing stuff, just extends it.

  • It wasn't retconned. The Writer's Guide for ST:TNG specifically states that they use a different scale for warp factor that was updated to go with new technology.
    – Tango
    Jan 8, 2012 at 17:29

The technical manuals aren't cannon... but we do have few pieces of info to give us a better understanding of Starfleet's Warp capabilities in the 24th century.

I take issue with the premise it would have taken Voyager over 70 years to get back. Mainly because according to canon data, Warp 9.9 = 4 billion miles per second, and that would result in 21 473 times speed of light. Even Harry Kim stated in the early seasons 'traveling at relative velocity of 2 billion miles per second' - or 10 736 times speed of light - when discussing a plan to beam Chakotay out of a Kazon ship. Even at that velocity, it would have taken Voyager 7 or 7.5 years to get back - the writers could have gone with that.

Voyagers maximum sustainable cruise velocity was stated several times to be Warp 9.975. Past Warp 9.9, each increment results in exponential increase in velocity, which would mean that Warp 9.975 would take Voyager about a week to traverse 75 000 lightyears.

And no, it's not far fetched. Most Federation ships were never seen achieving Warp 9.9 (or even 9.5) sustainably (and by that I mean as a cruising velocity) before Voyager in the first place, and the damage Voyager received in it's initial pull into the DQ was extensive (probably preventing them from achieving those speeds and forced them to use slower velocities like Nebula class ships of the time, while their 'maximum sustainable' speed was reduced to say 9.5 and that would have still trained the engines - as Tuvok mentioned in Threshold episode that Paris exceeded their maximum velocity, which was mentioned to be 9.9).

I know Threshold isn't canon, but it's giving us better insight that Voyager's writers never really showed or pushed the ship past 9.9 in the first place, plus, in that same episode, when Voyager was chasing mutated Tom who kidnapped Janeway and initiated modified Warp engines to reach/break the Warp threshold, Voyager was unable to sustain warp 9.9 as is evident from the dialogue: "KIM: They're approaching warp nine point nine. CHAKOTAY: Increase speed to match. COMPUTER: Warning. Nearing maximum warp velocity. Structural collapse is imminent. "

Given the damage sustained from the pull to the DQ, I would surmise that Voyager's engines and hull took a beating that would have resulted in drastic reduction in Warp speeds that the crew was unable to repair on the go without specialized access to a drydock - either that or access to an uninhabited star system that they could have used to harvest solar energy for the replicators to generate what they needed - or again, an uninhabited system with tons of asteroids that have simple raw matter that could have been converted into energy and back into something they could use to repair the hull - though Voyager hadn't made such pit stops... except in Season 7 to do a major overhaul, but nothing was mentioned about them harvesting the sun for power to generate energy for the replicators (even though its well within their capabilities). I suspect that this is how Voyager was able to replenish their shuttles and torpedoes eventually... by making small pit stops in uninhabitated star systems and using say solar power for replication. And of course trading with other species. IF the writers had more sense they would have showed us how Voyager was really self-sufficient and could have initiated trading for the sake of first contact with other races (and explain more torpedoes - which could easily be manufactured if you have enough antimatter - and I suspect that they can generate more via several methods on the go).

And it also ties into the premise that when receiving a message from Starfleet (Message in a bottle), Admiral Hayes mentioned that 2 deep space ships were redirected to Voyager and would hopefully meet with them in 5 to 6 years. Voyager was at that point 60 000 Lightyears away, and depending on where those ships were in the galaxy (possibly exploring the Beta Quadrant), they would still need to cross tens of thousands of LY's in that time frame... which would indicate a speed of at least 2 billion miles per second (or lower than Warp 9.9). Possibly Warp 9.5, or 9.6 (again the closer you get to Warp 9.9, speeds experience much higher increases, but past 9.9 each increment results in doubling of speeds).

Most SF ships we usually see on the shows are the Defiant and Enterprise... they tend to 'cruise' on low Warp speeds... and only use Warp 9 and above when in a hurry.

This indicates to me that SF has dedicated deep space ships capable of traveling at above Warp 9 for long periods of time and traversing about 10 000 ly's in 1 year (at least). That is until they developed the Intrepid class with 'sustainable cruise velocity of Warp 9.975... but, as we know, Voyager was thrown into the DQ and suffered massive damage in the process.

The writers never paid too much attention to that detail, but coincidentally it DOES add up... and is far more credible than the premise that Warp is ridiculously slow (which really doesn't make any sense for a space faring culture that's evolves at faster than exponential level - or is at least supposed to).

Also, there's the USS Prometheus from Voyager's Season 4. That ship was able to sustain Warp 9.9 as a cruising velocity it would seem, or at the very least, didn't have issues sustaining it... and other Starfleet Ships were able to catch up to it. I suspect the Nebula class ships got a nice upgrade to their engines during the Dominion War, allowing them to reach Warp 9.9 sustainably... and above for shorter periods.

I suspect that older designs might be having issues reaching past 9.9, but it wouldn't be a stretch to think that during and by the end of Dominion War, most Starfleet ships would have been capable of sustaining Warp 9.9 or slightly above as a cruising velocity. Any new designs like the Intrepid class would likely be able to have a sustainable cruise velocity of Warp 9.975... or 9.98... with 9.99 being 'temporarily sustained'.

A sustainable cruise velocity means an engine can sustain a said speed for indefinite periods of time without duress (or in other words, the speeds at which a ship is meant to run at most times).

That is if you want to reconcile in-universe explanations. Outside the universe...we know the writers didn't pay too much attention to these things, and unfortunately didn't understand 'faster than exponential development' when you factor in a space faring collection of civilizations like the Federation and the technologies they had to work with.

Voyager's warp issue is easy to reconcile with the premise that Warp is actually much faster than what we are led to think and that Voyager specifically just ended up with too great damage which they were unable to repair in the DQ... its just that most SF ships (sans deep exploratory ones) until Voyager didn't fare that well in sustaining a cruise velocity of 2 billion miles per second (and it would make sense if you wanted to go from one end of the Federation to another in a relatively brief amount of time without having to wait a decade... otherwise, prospective cadets attending SF academy from other Federation worlds for example would likely be unable to attend classes directly on Earth, but rather in space on route... which is doable from what we saw, but overall, most people just go to the Academy... and that doesn't track with the idea that Warp is slow).

  • Actually the technical manuals are considered canon. Largely written by the same people who wrote the technical aspects of the shows, licensed by the studio and with consultation from the show's producers.
    – Valorum
    Dec 30, 2017 at 2:52
  • That doesn't make them canon though. And the technical manuals do not coincide with what we see on the show all too frequently. For example, replicators do not need raw matter to work with, they were stated to directly convert energy into matter... you do need huge amounts of energy for that... and only something that we saw on-screen provides that kind of power, and coincides with massive firepower we saw SF ships having... not the ridiculously low yields provided by the technical manuals. The manuals aren't considered canon anyway... neither are the Trek pocketbooks.
    – Deks
    Dec 30, 2017 at 21:25

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