65

This question about the Honorverse brings up an interesting point. I’m not familiar with the Honorverse, but from the question, it looks like there is, essentially hyperdrive (involving gravity waves) and that wormholes are also used.

Most science fiction universes seem to have just one form of FTL (Faster Than Light) travel. Star Trek has warp drive. Star Wars has hyperdrive. Babylon 5 has jumpgate technology, etc but it seems like each universe has one type of FTL. I’ve noticed that wormholes might also be added as a natural occurrence, but usually aren't a primarily-used form of FTL in most fictional universes.

So, what I’m asking is…

Which SF universe uses the most different types of FTL travel?

  • 10
    I've taken the liberty of adding a head to each post so that new readers can see the number of different FTL types more easily. – Valorum Jul 25 '15 at 11:16
  • @PointlessSpike: No, communication doesn't count. (That'd make things a little too complex.) – Tango Aug 5 '15 at 22:09
  • 1
    While the Star Trek answer has more forms of FTL, the Perry Rodan answer is quite solid, too, so both answers will be receiving bounties. – Tango Aug 8 '15 at 7:03

18 Answers 18

83
+200

Star Trek - At least 34

Star Trek actually has a LOT of types of FTL travel. In fact, due to the tendency for some of the series' to have "tech du jour" I would argue it is a top contender for "most" forms of FTL travel. I have listed the ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I am sure there are more!

Although some of the technologies mentioned have similar names (for instance, a lot of them have "warp" in their names) they often have differences which are significant enough to count them as different technologies. Often, the word "warp" simply refers to speed (anything FTL), even though warp drive or bending of space may not be involved.

(0). I write this only to bring Star Trek on par with HGTTG, which claims the Improbability Drive, which takes you to every point in the universe simultaneously. In the infamous episode Threshold, (which I understand now the writers disavow writing, even though technically it's canon!) Tom Paris pilots a shuttlecraft which apparently uses some form of multispectral quantum subspace engine design to travel at infinite velocity, allowing him to be at every point in the universe simultaneously.

  1. Warp Drive, obviously, but there were several types of warp. In the original series, there was no visible warp effect, while by the movies there was a kind of rainbow trail when a ship went to warp. In TNG and beyond, vessels going to warp generated a kind of while flash. In general, anything that uses a warp coil to generate a subspace field geometry is warp drive.

  2. Trans-warp The word "warp" appears to be deceptive here, in that the term is a kind of catch-all for several technologies which are merely "faster than warp". The movies introduced transwarp developed by the federation, but this was later abandoned, and it bears little resemblance to other things of the same name. In TNG and beyond the Borg have trans-warp, and although it uses something called a "trans-warp coil", it appears to operate differently than regular warp drive, and even requires a network of trans-warp conduits to use. Sometimes these conduits are said to be created by the ship itself, but in others (for instance, Endgame) it is implied they exist separately, for instance to the existence of hubs, and when for example the ship has to choose which conduit to take to get to an aperture.

  3. Coaxial Warp Seems to still work by folding space, but appears to do it by changing the geometries of subspace particles.

  4. Wormhole A tunnel connecting two points in spacetime via subspace. There are actually several different way of creating wormholes which may distinguish them as separate kinds of travel:

    a. "Normal" wormholes which are naturally occurring

    b. The Bajoran wormhole was constructed by the Prophets using verterons

    c. In 2372 the Federation experimented with a technique involving generating a strong subspace tensor matrix, and then sending out a magneton pulse which would produce or interact with a tetryon field to generate the wormhole.

    d. Warp engine imbalances sometimes create temporary wormholes.

    e. An interspatial flexure was another type of wormhole.

    f. A Möbius inversion was a type of wormhole with level-six subspace distortions and gravimetric shear.

    g. The MIDAS array was able to create a short-lived micro-wormhole by firing a tachyon beam at a pulsar.

  5. Spatial flexure A spatial rift that could be generated by a standard deflector array.

  6. A Spatial Vortex Also similar in appearance to a wormhole, but different in manifesting as an actual physical passageway between two points in space.

  7. Quantum Slipstream Drive Said to be similar to transwarp, but apparently didn't need the network of conduits.

  8. The method of travel used in Where No One Has Gone Before to increase warp drive efficiency and travel to the realm of thought. This method appears to use the mind or thought to affect the travel.

  9. The Trajector in Voyager where a whole planet was used to send people across the galaxy via folding space.

  10. Dimension Shifts appear to make FTL speed possible as they can fold space.

  11. The Nexus allowed one to travel to any point in time and space instantly (making it FTL) although since being in the Nexus removed all motivation to do so, and the only recorded instance of it occuring is when Jean Luc Picard used it to travel back to stop the destruction of the Veridian system.

  12. As @NPSF3000 and @Dan pointed out, The Soliton Wave was a wave phenomena that travelled faster than light which a ship could "ride".

  13. @MartianInvader reminded me of Iconian gates. At least two types of Iconian technology provided FTL travel. The first, the Iconian Gateways, allowed for instantaneous travel for at least 70,000 light years. The second was a device hybridized by the Romulans from Iconian technology which allowed the Hobus supernova to travel at multi-warp speeds.

  14. As @Izkata mentioned, The Geodesic Fold worked by targeting the magnetic field of a red giant star with a verteron beam.

  15. @Iskata also pointed out the Subspace corridor, which was distinct from the Borg transwarp conduit.

  16. @apsillers point out the Graviton Catapult operated using a graviton surge that propelled the ship into null space.

  17. Also mentioned by @apsillers was the Displacement wave, which was used by the Caretaker to transport Voyager from the alpha quadrant to the delta quadrant in a short period of time. This method of FTL travel has similarities with the technology used by the Guardian of Forever.

  18. The Xindi subspace vortex created an energy vortex using a phase deflector pulse and could transport a vessel dozens of light years in a matter of hours.

  19. Also brought up by @Izkata, the Subspace distortion used by Reginald Barclay while under the influence of the Cytherian probe. This technology used an emanation of a highly-charged graviton field from the vessel's warp nacelles, and the resulting field transported the Enterprise to the center of the galaxy in only a few seconds.

  20. The Energy Vortex was temporal continuum anomaly similar in nature to a tractor beam but which also possessed intelligence. This method was used for FTL travel once, when Captain Jean Luc Picard travelled through it some distance and six hours into the past, reversing his internal chronometer in the process.

  21. The Subspace transporter used subspace instead of space to transport matter faster than light.

  22. Transwarp beaming combined the transporter with transwarp theory.

  23. The Nyrian Translocator combined transporter technology with a spatial distortion field.

  24. Temporal transporters achieved FTL travel by combining transporter technology with temporal mechanics by some kind of utilization of chroniton flux.

  25. As @Damon points out, Bajorans built Tachyon Light ships which used solar sails to catch tachyon eddies at least 800 years prior to Deep Space Nine's arrival.

  26. The Chrono deflector operated by generating a powerful tachyon pulse to form a temporal rift, which could then be directed to a specific time and place. Admiral Janeway used this device in 2404 to travel from the alpha quadrant to the delta quadrant in a matter of seconds.

  27. The Aldean Repulsor Beam was able to push the Enterprise D far enough in an instant that it took three days to get back at maximum warp.

  28. Temporal Displacement Drive was a 31st century technology that used temporal radiation to travel through time and space at faster than the speed of light.

  29. Ion propulsion was used for FTL travel.

  30. The Lang Cycle Fusion drive was also an FTL technology.

  31. The Crystalline Entity travelled FTL by chanelling collected electromagnetic energy and organic matter converted to energy through its crystalline structure.

  32. Tin Man aka Gomtuu used some kind of energy wave to travel (or repel other ships) FTL.

  33. Various other alien entities had FTL capability which was never explained but seemed to be either biological or achieved without any obvious technology:

    a. The method used by the Douwd to propel the fake Husnock ships at FTL speeds to either chase the Enterprise away or retreat.

    b. The changeling Laas transforms into a spaceship which moves with a "pulsating motion" like "swimming".

    c. Q's method of travel when chasing the Enterprise. This method seemed to be limited to about Warp 9.9

    d. Q's method of travel in which he popped in and out, which had a similar appearance going to Warp in TNG. However, this same effect also accompanied other actions such as creating things out of nothing or dispatching them, and it is unlikely it was the same form of travel.

    e. The method by which Q transported the Enterprise to the delta quadrant. This was distinctly different from (e) as it was much faster, and (f) which had a different manifestation.

  34. Along the same lines, any device in the Star Trek universe that allowed time travel could also be considered an FTL device. There are many instances of this, such as the Guardian of Forever (although see #16), the 29th Century timeships, and the time pod stolen by Berlinghoff Rasmussen.

  35. Arguably, the method used to pull parallel universe enterprises into the current universe was FTL, as those ships would all have to be outside the light cone of the main enterprise. This could also apply to other cases where travel to other universes (such as the mirror universe) occurred.

  • 4
    I had to finally draw a line and make a decision. Since this answer listed 2 more than Perry Rodan, I'm picking this one, but both answers will be getting bounty points. I think the system makes me give different amounts, but I think both are well researched and deserve some extra. – Tango Aug 8 '15 at 7:02
  • Note you also got a bounty. I awarded two other answers a bounty as well, for the completeness of their answers. – Tango Aug 13 '15 at 2:21
  • @Tango Thanks!! – user11521 Aug 13 '15 at 15:27
  • I just love reading this list. – Splitting Adam Aug 28 '15 at 19:26
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+50

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - 6

I think Hitchhikers may take the cake for most FTL drives for ship to ship transport. Also the fastest FTL drive in fiction (since the 'Improbability Drive' sends you everywhere in the universe simultaneously)

Bistromathic drive

Effectively, the ship takes advantage of the strange rules that only restaurants operate under by turning itself into a controlled, artificial restaurant. This allows a ship equipped with a bistromathic drive to accomplish feats quite outside the normal capabilities of spacecraft, such as travelling two thirds across the galactic disk in a matter of seconds. The drive is notably more controllable than the Infinite Improbability Drive. It is also said to "make the Heart of Gold seem like an electric pram."

Hyperspace

The Vogon ships use hyperspace travel to go faster than light. They also destroy Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Ford Prefect describes going into hyperspace as "rather unpleasantly like being drunk". When asked what's so unpleasant about being drunk, he replies, "You ask a glass of water."

Infinite Improbability Drive

the drive "passes through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe almost simultaneously," meaning that whoever uses it is "never sure where they'll end up or even what species they'll be when they get there" and "it's therefore important to dress accordingly"

Phargilor Kangaroo Relocation Drive

"the drive allows, in an emergency, a ship to be ejected suddenly through the fabric of space time and come to rest far from the starting point, with the pilot rarely having time to plot where the ship will end up".

Photon Drive

The Photon Drive or Conventional Photon Drive is the standard drive that the Heart of Gold utilizes when the Infinite Improbability Drive is not in use.

The Bad News Drive

The Hingefreel people of Arkintoofle Minor did try to build spaceships that were powered by bad news but they didn't work particularly well and were so extremely unwelcome whenever they arrived anywhere that there wasn't really any point in being there.

I think there are others used by other beings, but I can't remember them of the top of my head.

  • 5
    I think people are just upvoting this answer because they love Hitchhiker's guide, instead of because it has the most forms of FTL. – Mark Rogers Jul 27 '15 at 14:03
  • 1
    I've voted-to-order these answers appropriately. – Mazura Aug 8 '15 at 11:13
  • 1
    A conventional photon drive is not FTL, since it's just using the momentum of light for an otherwise normal rocket motor with a very high ISP. So it would seem this is off by one. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 16 '16 at 3:07
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Sword of the Stars - 5

The PC game Sword of the Stars has the most diverse collection of FTL technologies I have ever encountered.

Of the 6 playable races, 5 have completely unique FTL capabilities.

  • The human faction uses Subspace Nodes, a point to point system of subspace "highways" that go from star to star.
  • The insect faction has to travel between stars at sub-light speeds, but they carry Stargates with them, that allow for instantaneous travel between gates
  • The aquatic faction's ships teleport themselves forward a little at a time very rapidly. This gets more efficient the farther they are from gravity wells, allowing longer jumps at a time.
  • The reptile faction uses what we would consider "traditional" warp drive. Moving faster than light anywhere, with no caveats (beyond being functionally slower than everyone else
  • The avian faction uses a "Void Cutter" drive, by which a lead ship cuts a bow wave in space time that other ships ride.

Even the final faction uses a massively perverted version of human drives. They rip their own subspace pathways in the fabric of reality that randomly collapse behind them.

  • Note that the rippers cannot use the same (stable) nodes as the humans - so it might be considered a separate form of FTL travel, though it is similar to the natural nodes the humans use. – Luaan Jul 27 '15 at 7:23
  • 1
    There is also the new race, Loa, which has another new FTL system using acceleration gates that catapult ships forward when flown through. I believe this is technically different. – Djorge Jul 27 '15 at 14:33
  • Looks like this should be scored at 6.5 or something, not 5. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 16 '16 at 3:02
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+100

Perry Rhodan-verse - 33

The long-running German pulp Sci-Fi series “Perry Rhodan” has created an impressive roster of FTL drive technologies over the decades.

Disclaimer: The following list of drives (and their descriptions) are based on a quick survey of PerryPedia and is probably not very exhaustive. It’s been 20 years since I last read some PR dime novels, so feel free to correct me on the details :-) Translations of drive names are approximations (I don’t know if “official” English terms exist for some of them).

  • Transition Drive. First FTL drive tech adopted by humanity. Allows a ship to “jump” through Hyperspace, de- and rematerializing it upon entry and exit. Nearly instantaneous, but individual jumps need careful calculations and are limited to a few thousand light years a time. Those “transitions” are usually stressful for man and machine, and transition events can easily be detected across interstellar distances using basic sensor equipment. Like many drive types in the Perry Rhodan universe, it has a limited total range before “burning out” and needing replacement.

  • Hypertact Drive, Transmiterm-Rotator, and Intermitter Drive. Separate advanced transition drive variants, using short, soft hyperspace transition jumps in very rapid succession to reach FTL speeds.

  • Linear Drive. Wraps the vessel in a protective field bubble and pushes it into “linear space”, a semi-spatial zone that exists between the boundaries of normal space and hyperspace. Since objects moving through linear space are not bound by the speed of light limit, the ship can now use its conventional sublight drives to reach high FTL speeds before emerging back into normal space.

  • Libotron Drive. Advanced drive based on linear drive tech. No longer relying on sublight propulsion systems, it uses refined field manipulation to maintain and propel the ship through “linear space”.

  • Cenprokton Drive. Kind of a booster stage to a basic “Linear Drive”. It pushes the vessel out of a linear space flight “deep into a zone between the energy levels of the 5th and 6th dimensions”, where even greater speeds can be achieved.

  • Metagrav (aka Hyperkon Drive, Grigoroff Drive). In sublight mode, it uses hyperdimensional fields to project a virtual gravitational singularity in front of the vessel, tugging it along (kind of like a carrot on a stick). The FTL mode shifts the ship into a state of partial dematerilaization, allowing it to coast at speeds of up to several tens of million times the speed of light. Refined variants of the Metagrav are designed to allow more dynamic control over the geometries of the fields. They permit travel through Hyperspace at speeds of up to several hundreds of million times the speed of light.

  • Paradim-Nullsphere. Similar in principle to the Metagrav, but based on different technologies.

  • Supratron Generator. Exotic drive based on creating a “hyperspace bubble”.

  • Dimetrans Drive. Intergalactic jump drive based on osculating the dematerialised vessel between normal space and hyper space. Ships will need to rematerialize in the gravimetric centre of the target galaxy, limiting its usefulness.

  • Dimesexta and Transferdim Drives. Advanced technologies that allow a ship to continuesly move through a partial space between the 5th and 6th dimension. Allows intergalactic travel at up to several billion times the speed of light.

  • Septim Parallel Track Drive. Exotic drive that allows a ship to move through a partial space between the 6th and 7th dimension. Allows intergalactic travel at up to several trillion times the speed of light.

  • Trafitron Drive. Creates a pocket universe around the ship that can propel itself at up to several hundreds of million times the speed of light, utilising “Psi Matter”.

  • Gravity Line Drive. Exotic alien drive based on riding interstellar “hyperdimensional gravitational streams”.

  • Enerpsi Drive. Exotic alien drive based on taping into a galactic “psionic net”.

  • Oktabim Parallel Track Hyper Drive. Experimental drive possibly based on 8-dimensional tech.

  • Drive of the “Quell-Klipper” living ships. Exotic organic drive allowing travel at speeds of up to several thousand times the speed of light through normal space, possibly by warping spacetime.

Edit 1:

Thanks to flq's suggestions, here are some more means of FTL travel appearing in PR:

  • Black Star Ways. An interstellar and intergalactic transit network build from wormholes (aka "Einstein-Rosen-Bridges") inside black holes, spanning some 100 million LYs. Relay stations are anchored beyond each black hole’s event horizon and can be used to “dial” the receiving wormhole. A ship using such a “black gate” will have to pass through the event horizons on both sides, but will be shielded by the relay stations.

  • Polyport Network. An interstellar, intergalactic and “interuniversal” transport network originally build for trade and cultural exchange, consisting of various interconnected transport hubs. Transport is fast but non-instantaneous. During transit between two such stations, a person will manifest as higher dimensional “holographic” waveform, allowing the user to remain conscious and observe vast stretches of the universe even in their dematerialized state,

  • The Bridge To Infinity. A “mystic” transit way connecting numerous “bridge pillars” scattered across space. The bridge itself is leading through an unknown “medium” spanning between two such pillars. To the user it appears as a physical bridge constructed from wooden planks (floating above a galactic vista) and has to be crossed by foot, reducing a journey of many light years to a short stroll.

  • The Time Fountains. Yet another ancient transport network spanning intergalactic distances, built some 20 millions years ago. The Time Fountains appear as small and featureless “holes in space time” and allow instantaneous travel through space, but can also be used to travel through time.

  • Absolute Movement. Exotic means of transport. It is described as some sort of “hyper energetic tractor beam” that de- and rematerializes a target, effectively allowing instantaneous transport across thousands of light years.

  • Teleporters. Some rare human mutants (and a few alien species with naturally occurring gifts) in the Perry Rhodan-verse have the psychic ability to teleport themselves across varying distances. I don’t recall if those teleports are supposed to generally happen at FTL speeds, but the ability of some species to cross interstellar distances by means of collective teleportation seems to suggest that this is at least possible.

Edit 2:

  • Mental capabilities of the Motana. Through the focussing of a group of Matana with the aid of chants, Motana can move spaceships with sub-light and FTL velocities. Typically, such capabilities of biological lifeforms are related to the psionic network.

  • Biodim propulsor of the Kybb. Not much info on that one, only that it has been used in the Kybb-Titans and seem to contain biological components extracted form the Motana which presumably are related to their capabilities of propulsing a spaceship beyond light-speed.

Edit 3:

  • Pedotransfer. A unique psychic faster-than-light "travel" method mastered by the Cappins, a humanoid species. Instead of travelling physically, they can project their consciousness across light years, taking over the body of a host person (while leaving their own natural body behind).

  • Pedotransmitter. A technology developed by the Cappins, enabling their unique psychic ability to physically transport them across intergalactic distances by creating a network of 6-dimensional "beacons" the Cappins can tune into. Instead of just projecting their minds, they can now transfer their whole essence, including their bodies.

Which brings us to... transmitters. A general term for several different FTL technologies within the Perry Rhodan-verse that allow instantaneous or near-instantaneous transport between a sending and a receiving device (usually sized for personal transport, not unlike transporter pads in Star Trek). Some rare "di-polar" transmitter types only require a sending, some only a receiving mechanism.

  • Cage Transmitters. Earliest transmitter tech discovered by humans. Two booths can connect with each other across interplanetary distances, effectively sending the contents of one to the other.

  • Transmitter Gates. Advanced (but less robust) transmitter tech that creates a continous transport field, not unlike a door one can step trough to cross interstellar distances (although you still need two of those, one acting as a sender and one as a receiver). Some less powerfull devices limited to planetary distances can fold down to portable size.

  • Portals of Dommrath. Exotic transmitter tech. Don't know much about this one.

  • Xenthor-Materialisator. Exotic transmitter tech that seeks a random "victim", encases it in a mist-like energy field and transports it to a receiver station.

  • Solar transmitters. The big, bad versions of the basic transmitter. Big, as in "constructed out of suns". Literally. Mega engineering is used to bring stars close together, forming special geometric patterns and allowing a nearby planetary "tuning station" to induce gigantic transport fields between them, fit to send entire fleets of starships across galactic distances.

  • Fictive transmitter. Exotic and poorly understood transmitter devices that can (within their range) transport a person to an arbitrary location, not requiring a receiving station. Only two of those devices have been given to humanity.

  • Transform cannon. For centuries, various variants of the transform cannon have formed the primary heavy-duty ship-to-ship armaments of Terran starships. It's a form of FTL transport, albeit a very specific one: what is getting transported by the cannon is a special projectile, a so called "transform bomb". After being "launched" by the gun's transmitter mechanism the bomb never fully re-materializes, but instead detonates on the verge between normal space and hyperspace, greatly amplifying it's thermonuclear payload. Instantaneous and unhindered by physical barriers, transform cannons can engage targets across some 10 million miles, even if they are on the far side of a planetary body. There is at least one case of a person making a successful emergency transport by "riding" an inert transform bomb (which they only survived by being lucky and having a immortality-like healing factor).

  • 2
    I had to finally draw a line and make a decision. Since the Trek answer listed more, I have to go with that, but (and I bet you'll like this), I'm going to be giving you 50 bounty points for this answer for all the research involved and because it's a good answer. The system won't let me award it for 23 or more hours, so I'll be adding it Sunday or Monday (have a wedding to deal with this weekend, so it'll be after that). Thank you for a good answer. – Tango Aug 8 '15 at 7:01
  • I goofed - bounty still on the way. – Tango Aug 10 '15 at 14:58
  • Okay, bounty reward given! – Tango Aug 11 '15 at 16:32
26

Red Dwarf - 18(ish)

I'm going to put in a word for Red Dwarf with at least 18 distinct forms of FTL seen within the TV and book canons:

  • Conventional Ramscoop Drives (the kind used by the Red Dwarf) are capable of passing lightspeed, albeit you need millions of years of constant acceleration to get there. This was seen in RD: Future Echoes

  • The SS Mayflower used a Negative Gravity Drive to power its flight

  • The Teleporter paddle, seen in RD: Rimmerworld seems to be capable of FTL transport

  • Various ships encountered (including the Nova 5) are equipped with Duality Jump Drive. Circumstances invariably prevent the crew from using them to get back to Earth

  • The Quantum Drive (seen in RD: Trojan) which appears to use technology found in the Duality Drive

  • The Space Corp External Enforcement Vehicle is described as using some manner of spatial warping technology in order to travel FTL.

  • Holly invents the "Holly Hop Drive", capable of instantaneous travel to any point in the universe

  • In RD: Ouroboros, the ship encounters a rent in non-space. Evidently this non-dimension can be used to build "hyper-ways" between points in space

  • When captured by Legion, Starbug gets outfitted with a "Star Drive", capable of superior FTL travel

  • The crew discover a "Crystalline Turbine Drive", again, evidently capable of FTL travel

  • In the novel "The Last Human", the Cat invents a Hyper-Drive, capable of traversing the 10th Dimension

  • The Holo-ship Enlightenment was capable of converting itself Tachyons and using a Tachyon Drive to propel themselves faster than light

  • In RD: Lemons, the crew inadvertently build a Matter Transporting Time Machine which returns them to Earth

  • In RD: Tikka to Ride, the crew use a "Time Drive" to travel to Earth's history

  • In the novel Red Dwarf: Better Than Life, the crew traverse the Omnizone to emerge in an alternate reality. It's mentioned that this could be used as a method of FTL (albeit not used as such in the book)

  • It's also possible to traverse FTL using wormholes

  • On several occasions, the crew encounter Time Holes which invariably seem to lead to Earth

  • It's possibly to travel FTL by looping around black holes for a gravitational slingshot

  • Well, that's a lot. As of now, only 2 answers seem to provide a higher count. – Tango Aug 5 '15 at 22:33
24

Kefahuchi Tract - ∞

Behind all this bad behaviour was an insecurity magnificent in scope, metaphysical in nature. Space was big, and the boys from Earth were awed despite themselves by the things they found there: but worse, their science was a mess. Every race they met on their way through the Core had a star drive based on a different theory. All those theories worked, even when they ruled out one another's basic assumptions. You could travel between the stars, it began to seem, by assuming anything [. . .]

It was affronting to discover that. So when they fetched up on the edge of the Tract, looked it in the eye, and began to despatch their doomed entradas, the Earthlings were hoping to find, among other things, some answers. They wondered why the universe, which seemed so harsh on top, was underneath so pliable. Anything worked. Wherever you looked, you found. They were hoping to find out why.

The above quotation from M. John Harrison's amazing novel "Light" shows that, in Harrion's universe, there are, apparently, infinite FTL technologies. Some are hinted at in the book. These include "The Tate-Kearney Transformations", "Dynaflow" drives, "Foamy Space", "Einsteinium Surfaces". catching a "wave", "Folding/Pleating" of space, some sort of ill-defined "wings", and my personal favourite "steam-power".

  • 2
    There may be an infinite number hinted at, but it seems that only a half dozen or so are actually described. – Tango Aug 5 '15 at 22:17
20

Uplift Universe - At least 8

David Brin's Uplift Universe probably has the most different forms of FTL in any single universe that I know of. I can't find a list with a quick search, but I do have the GURPS rpg books which I think list the different drive types. That said the available FTL travel types include at LEAST Subspace, Hyperspace, Wormholes, Improbability Drive (fastest, but most dangerous). I recall there being over 5 different types of FTL travel though, including some fairly esoteric ones. I'll edit in more if I can get an exhaustive list together.

From the RPG there are 8 types of FTL travel:

  • Transfer Points: (basically wormholes) forms a web. Pretty much needs to be combined w/ hyperspace to be useful
  • Psionic Gateway: Some races have psionic powers allowing them to tear a rip in the fabric of reality (similar to Transfer Points).
  • Probability Drive: A shout out to Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Fastest, but most dangerous.
  • Hyperspace: There are 5 different levels that correspond less and less with realspace.
    • A: Fastest, but most expensive to use, and requires the highest tech.
    • B: Second fastest, but speeds are semi-variable and requires higher tech to use.
    • C: Third fastest.
    • D: Fourth Fastest, but again speeds are variable.
    • E: WEIRD! Could potentially be the fastest, or you might never get there.
  • 2
    I'm fairly sure (but I've lost my books) that, in an authors note at the end of the second trilogy (where he also explained how one book had turned into three), he specifically addressed this point and said that he had aimed to include every FTL tech possible. – Damien_The_Unbeliever Jul 24 '15 at 18:05
  • 1
    There was also E-space - navigated by ideas – Gerry Coll Jul 25 '15 at 3:26
  • I can't believe I forgot the Uplift series...I think the number of total FTL technologies for that universe is just "YES". – Liesmith Jul 25 '15 at 22:31
18

Doctor Who - 20+

I'm guessing Doctor Who is a strong contender, though it would probably take a month or more to watch/read all Doctor Who sources for every type, and figure out which are the same and which are different and which are FTL and... etc.

After a bit of research, I've found 21 candidates, of which I think at least 14 are distinctly different, and the others I don't know. I'm sure it's by no means a complete list.

13

Warhammer 40k - 7

  • The Imperium of Man uses Warp Travel, which essentially means jumping through hell to get somewhere. They require the services of a Navigator, a member of a mutated sub-species of Humanity who can use the eye on their foreheads (the Warp Eye) to see the tides of the Warp and navigate a ship through in relative safety, using the light of the Astronomicon located on Terra to find their way Warp Travel is far from reliable: Warp Storms can throw a ship off course, have them arrive months or even years behind schedule or even before they left, and they are under constant threat of the inhabitants of the Warp, the Daemons. The ships of the Imperium are equipped with Gellar Fields to prevent Daemons from breaching the hull and slaughtering everyone inside.
  • The forces of Chaos can travel through the Warp by entering and exiting at Warp Rifts, who can appear naturally (as far as you can use that word when it comes to the Warp) or are the result of the machinations of the forces of Chaos.
  • The Eldar use the Webway, an extradimensional space that allows them to enter and exit at fixed points. Entryways vary in size from Eldar-size to Craftworld (very large ships where billions of Eldar live).
  • Dolmen Gates, gates of living stone build by the Necrons, use a sealed off part of the Webway to travel between (soon to be) Necron-controlled territories.
  • On their ships Necrons use Inertia Drives, ill-defined drives that allow the Necrons to traverse real space at very high speeds.
  • Tau use a limited version of Warp Travel to briefly immerse their ships in the Warp and catapult them out. This means they are slower than Imperial Warp Travel by a factor of five, but the speed is consistent and there is no risk of attacks from Daemons.
  • Tyranids use bioships called Narvhal, highly-specialized vessels specifically grown to detect nearby gravimetric signals using extremely sensitive nerve clusters. The Narvhal can then use a target system's gravity to create a corridor of compressed space which the Tyranid fleet proceeds to more or less fall through until they get close to their target. The downside to this is that this is the slowest of all the ways to travel FTL, and in the final approach the Tyranids have to resort to conventional drives because the gravitational forces of an entire system are too great for the Narvhal to handle. A positive side effect (for the Tyranids, that is), is that this messes with the worlds of the system, creating solar flares, earthquakes, tidal waves and all kinds of other natural disasters, softening up the target world before they arrive to devour it.
  • Concerning the Warp Travel, there is a risk that the travel may take more time than a travel at the speed of light in the regular dimension, due to the changing nature of Warp. Due to the talent of Navigators, it is usually faster than light. – Taladris Jul 25 '15 at 13:13
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    That first paragraph sounds familiar. Sand-like even. It makes me dream of a desert. A Dune on a desert, even. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! – Maurycy Jul 25 '15 at 21:22
  • Warp travel can also actually cause you to arrive before you left... the warp is fickle indeed. – aslum Jul 26 '15 at 5:41
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    In the Ravenor trilogy there is a door which can bring you to any point in space and time. This would also qualify as FTL travel. But the book is from Dan Abnett and not directly from GW. So I don't know if this counts. Also, if you want to count the countless of novels as a valid source, there are possibly many more forms of FTL travel. – raznagul Aug 7 '15 at 14:13
12

The Big Night - 2

To get the ball rolling, here's an example of a fictional universe with two different modes of FTL travel.

In Henry Kuttner's novelette "The Big Night", originally published (as by "Hudson Hastings") in Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1947 (available at the Internet Archive), there are two competing forms of FTL travel. The "hyper ships", which ply the currents of hyperspace, are being put out of business by the newer matter transmission technology. (Of course they still need a good old hyper ship to install a Transmat station on a new planet.)

Christie said uncomfortably, "I can't help it. You can't meet competition like Transmat. You can't afford to pay their prices. You got running expenses on La Cucaracha. Jet fuel costs dough, and—well, Transmat sets up a transmitting station, pays for it, and the job's done, except for the power outlay. With atomic, what does that amount to?

Ts'ss, the Selenite pilot of La Cucaracha, is philosophical:

"This will pass, too," he said. "We're an old race, Mr. Hilton. Earthmen are babies compared to the Selenites. Hyper ships are fading out, and eventually Transmat will fade out too, when something else comes."

  • I love this story. So appropriate (in advance) for the end of Shuttle. I've never heard anyone else mention it before. – Organic Marble Jul 24 '15 at 11:57
10

The Stargate Franchise - 5

The stargate franchise has quite a few different FTL transportation methods. I can think of 5 of the top of my head for that franchise, and I'm sure there are a couple more.

  • Stargate
    • Ori Supergates
    • Pegas-Milky way bridge
    • Standard Stargates
  • Destiny's FTL Drive
    • Different from hyperdrive as stated in stargate universe
  • Hyperdrive
    • Atlantis's Star Drive
  • Wormhole drive
    • On Atlantis
  • Teleporters
    • Asgardian
    • Not completely sure if they are faster than light
  • Is it explained how Destiny's FTL differ from hyperdrive? Also, the Go'auld pyramid spaceships have FTL (in a Millenium Falcon fashion); is it hyperdrive? I am not sure what hyperdrive mean... – Taladris Jul 25 '15 at 13:17
  • @Taladris I only watched like 5 episodes of Destiny so I am not totally sure, but I know they said it was faster than hyperdrive – HSchmale Jul 25 '15 at 13:42
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    Yes, the Destiny's drive is different. When most ships activate their FTL drive, they enter a sort of blue hazy hyperspace. When Destiny goes FTL, they can still see the outside universe. – T.J.L. Jul 25 '15 at 20:02
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    I don't think Asgardian teleporters qualify as a method of FTL travel. They seem to be depicted as a relatively short-range mode of travel (distances of perhaps a few light seconds), which appears to coincide with the cycle time of the device. If Asgardian teleporters are FTL, then what about ring transporters? – Anthony X Jul 26 '15 at 2:59
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    Rememeber that it is described in Stargate Atlantis that every race, except Earth, also has their own version of the hyperdrive which causes variances and as such is a new form of ftl in it's own right, hence why the Eteral device could target only Waith warp – Sammaye Jul 28 '15 at 8:32
7

Hyperion Cantos - 4

The Hyperion Cantos series of novels by Dan Simmons feature multiple forms of FTL travel used by human society, the mechanism of which is central to the plot of the books.

Here's a spoiler-free summary of the relevant technologies:

  1. The Hawking Drive: This drive allows ships to move faster than the speed of light by slipping into a different type of space which allows FTL travel. However, the time it takes to get from point A to point B still effects the duration of the flight, and causes a "time debt" to the travelers due to time dilation. In Hawking Space, the time dilation is vastly reduced compared to what the travelers would experience in Real Space, but it can still add up to weeks, months, or even years for interstellar travel.

  2. Farcasters: These devices are powered by orbiting singularities and capable of opening gateways to farcasters anywhere else in the universe, providing instantaneous travel to those locations with no time debt. Larger, orbital farcasters are used to allow ships to traverse a web of interconnected worlds.

  3. The Gideon Drive: This drive appears in the second book of the series, and allows an equipped ship to instantaneously travel to distant locations without incurring a time debt, similar to farcaster technology, though no corresponding device is required at the destination.

  4. SPOILERs!

And now, the spoilers!

There's a fourth method introduced at the end of the series which allows for instantaneous travel without a ship, or any technology at all, by allowing people to zip directly to a place for which they feel a strong emotional attachment. At the end of the series, it's implied that all humans can be capable of this, with the right frame of mind.

And a bit more about #3:

The Gideon Drive is also invariably fatal to any organic life on an equipped ship. The jump to FTL speed instantly liquefies passengers, so only humans fitted with a specific resurrection technology can use a ship equipped with a Gideon Drive. This incurs a three-day downtime at the destination as the crew literally returns from the dead.

  • 3
    There is also a 4th method, with even more spoiler-heavy details, that appears only immediately prior to the conclusion of The Rise of Endymion. It is pivotal to resolving the fate of the narrator of that book and of Endymion (among other minor details, like traveling beyond the galaxy and locating lost planets). – Seth Battin Jul 24 '15 at 19:09
  • Good point @SethBattin, I'd forgotten about that. – Liesmith Jul 25 '15 at 22:26
  • Arguably, the Shrike uses a different type of FTL travel mentioned here. We never really get the specifics of how it works or why it works, but nevertheless "The Shrike ceased being there and came into existance here..." We're also lead to believe that the shrike can travel immense distances in this manner. So, indeed, this too is FTL. – Paddling Ghost Jul 27 '15 at 17:50
  • @PaddlingGhost IIRC (I've only read Hyperion, and that was a while ago), the Shrike also travels through time backward, which doesn't really have much to do with FTL, except to point out that it has it's own special rules when it comes to time. – AndyD273 Jul 27 '15 at 18:26
5

Ringworld - 2

Larry Niven's Ringworld series has multiple forms of FTL travel.

The Hyperspace Shunt:

The hyperspace shunt, an engine for faster-than-light travel, but slow enough (1 light-year per 3 days, ~122c) to keep the galaxy vast and unknown

The Quantum II Hyperspace Shunt

the new "quantum II hyperspace shunt", developed by the Puppeteers but not yet released to humans, can cross a light-year in just 1.25 minutes (~421,000c).

Though one could argue that if they are both "Hyperspace Shunts" that this isn't two different forms of FTL.

  • 1
    After some further research I found larryniven.wikia.com/wiki/Stepping_disk that states "transported at or near light speed" so I removed that whole section since they aren't FTL – DavidTheWin Jul 24 '15 at 14:35
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    Irrelevant trivia: although most people associate the idea of "stepping disks" with Larry Niven, the same system was used earlier (1949) by Henry Kuttner in "The Time Axis". – user14111 Jul 26 '15 at 3:40
4

The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn - 4

Several species' superluminal technologies are not mentioned but implied during the plot:

  • Humans, stardrive unknown, but presumably the FTL the Icarus uses during the plot
  • Kalixiri, FTL unknown
  • Patth, who have the fastest stardrive known to date in the galaxy, and a near economic monopoly on its' use, including requiring cybernetically-linked Patth pilots on every ship that has their drive
  • the aliens who originally built the Icarus, which turns out to have a point-to-point instantaneous stargate inside of it, rather than a "conventional" FTL drive
3

Embassytown by China Miéville - Several?

Each starfaring species (or exoterre) seems to have its own unique brand of FTL travel.

Immer - This is what humans use, a sort of weird alternate reality where things are much closer together than in the normal universe (manchmal.)

Whorl-drive - Shur'asi use this:

"You go on about the immer," Gusty would say. "Try travelling by whorl-drive..." (73)

I can't find the other passage where this is mentioned, but I know there's a reference to other species having other technology. Named species include Kedis, Shur’asi, and Pannegetch, but I would guess there are many more implied, each with its own FTL tech.

2

"Light" by M. John Harrison has essentially an unlimited amount of FTL methods. In this universe, all kind of crackpot theories and inconsistent methods work for FTL in the vicinity of the Kefahuchi tract. (Outstanding novel btw -- one of the best I've read in the last 10+ years)

PS: An interesting tributary is Charles Stross's examination of the "FTL Scam" in "Neptune's Brood"

1

The Halcyon Drift by Brian Stableford - 4

  • tachyonic transfer
  • probability shift
  • dimensional hopping
  • mass-relaxation drive
1

Babylon 5 - 2

As mentioned in the OP, Babylon 5 uses hyperspace to make FTL journeys. Hyperspace uses fixed beacons to navigate since traditional means of navigation are useless. Ships that go off-beacon can be lost forever. Ships could be divided into three classes of hyperspace users

  1. Jump gates. Built by an unknown race (although Vorlons appear to use the same technology), the jump gates are static entry and exit points from hyperspace. Most ships use these since they cannot jump in and out on their own.
  2. Independent jump gate technology. These emulate what the static jump gates do. Making your own jump point required a large amount of energy, which mostly restricted the technology to capital ships (later the smaller White Star class would prove capable of generating the necessary energy to make jump points)
  3. Elder races jump technology - Similar to the second group, but only seen in the older races (notably the Shadows), they still use hyperspace, but their entry and exit methods do not produce the same vortex-style entry. The Shadows had some other advanced jump gates as well.

The other type of FTL travel was dubbed Thirdspace. Built by the Vorlons over a million years ago, they attempted to travel vast distances (possibly outside the known universe) to a place they called the "Well of Souls". Instead, they found a malevolent race of super-telepathic beings who attempted to used their new gate to invade. The Vorlons had a civil war, with the enthralled Vorlons ultimately losing, but fleeing with the Thirdspace gate into hyperspace, where it was lost until the B5 era. As the gate was destroyed, little is known about the technology.

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