Warp Speed Defined

by M. Bret Godfrey


As legend has it, back in the pre-production days of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, the creator of the STAR TREK franchise, Gene Rodenberry decided that a speed limit should be in place for warp travel. If the Enterprise-D traveled too fast, the Galaxy would become a very very small place, and have limited plot potential for the writing staff. To fulfill this request, Michael Okuda, the series special affects and art director created a warp speed chart that could easily be used by the writers in the course of their episodic endeavors. Warp-10 had become the unattainable maximum speed limit for the galaxy (unless you have alien technology), and was thus dubbed "TRANS WARP" because it's assumed that at Warp-10, you were at all places in the universe simultaneously.

Unfortunately this new system for calculating warp speeds confused fans of the original STAR TREK series. According to Gene Rodenberry, the "NEW" maximum speed limit for warp travel was set at Warp-10. Yet.....in many of the TOS episodes, the Enterprise was often noted at traveling at speeds well over Warp-14, usually caused by alien intervention.

For many years, ardent fans of TOS had often used various non-canonical methods of calculating just how fast warp speed was. The most popular method was the warp-cubed (X^3) calculation. Using this system of calculation, Warp-2 would be 8 times the speed of light (2 x 2 x 2 = 8), Warp-3 would be 27 times the speed of light, and so on. This concept fit so well into what had been described during the production of TOS, that the production staff at Paramount saw fit to make this calculation canon by printing it in page 555 in the Star Trek Encyclopedia.

Thus, it is assumed by Paramount Studios and Star Trek fans alike that sometime in the era between the last TOS Movie and the first episode of TNG Federation physicists had made vital discoveries in quantum mechanics that necessitated a recalculation to the current warp factors scene in every series from TNG to DS-9, and Voyager.

Warp Speed Comparison Chart
Warp Factor Number Of Times The Speed Of Light (c)
1 1 1
2 8 10
3 27 39
4 64 102
5 125 215
6 216 392
7 343 656
8 512 1,024
9 729 1,516
9.2 779 1,649
9.6 885 1,909
9.9 970 3,053
9.99 997 7,912
10 1,000 <INFINITE>
11 1,331
12 1,728
13 2,197
14 2,744
15 3,375
16 4,096
17 4,913
18 5,832
19 6,859
20 8,000

Note: The values for TOS speeds were calculated using the Warp Factor-Cubed equation found on page 555 of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. The values for the more modern warp speeds were directly copied from page 556 of the Star Trek Encyclopedia.