WARP PROPULSION SYSTEM

As installed in the Galaxy class, the warp propulsion system consists of three major assemblies: the matter/antimatter reaction assembly, power transfer conduits, and warp engine nacelles. The total system provides energy for its primary application, propelling the USS Vanguard through space, as well as its secondary application, powering such essential high-capacity systems as the defensive shields, phaser arrays, tractor beam, main deflector, and computer cores.

The original propulsion system specifications, transmitted to the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards on 6 July 2343, called for hardware capable of sustaining a normal cruising speed of Warp 5 until fuel exhaustion, a maximum cruising speed of Warp 7, and a maximum top speed of Warp 9.3 for twelve hours. These theoretical milestones had been modeled in computer simulations, based on a total vehicle mass of 6.5 million metric tonnes. In the following six months, however, well before the spaceframe designs had been finalized, Starfleet reevaluated the overall  requirements of the Frontier class, based upon a combination of factors. The driving influences were: (1) changing political conditions among members of the Federation, (2) intelligence forecasts describing improved Threat hardware, and (3) increasing numbers of scientific programs that could benefit from a vessel with superior performance.

Further computer modeling efforts by members of the structural, systems, and propulsion working groups resulted in revised specifications being sent to the Utopia Planitia designers on 24 December 2344. These specifications required the Frontier class to sustain a normal cruising speed of Warp 5.4 until fuel exhaustion, a maximum cruising speed of Warp 8.7, and a maximum top speed of Warp 9.985 for 62.3 hours. The total estimated vehicle mass was reduced through materials improvements and internal rearrangements to 4.23 million metric tonnes.

Once the major designs were frozen, prototype engine components were fabricated, using elements of past vehicles as reference points. Computer models of each major assembly were merged into a total system model in order to test theoretical performance characteristics. The first all-up system model test finally took place at UP on 16 April 2356, and was demonstrated to Starfleet two days later. As performance studies progressed, prototype hardware was fabricated. Materials failures plagued the initial development of the core of the system, the warp reaction chamber, which must contain the furious matter/antimatter reactions. These difficulties were eliminated with the introduction of cobalt hexafluoride to the inner chamber lining, which proved effective in reinforcing the core magnetic fields.

Similarly, materials problems slowed the construction of the warp engine nacelles. The key internal elements of the warp engines, the verterium cortenide 947/952 coils, which convert the core energy into the propulsive warp fields, could not be manufactured to flight tolerances in density and shape for the first half of the prototype construction phase. These problems were corrected with adjustments to a lengthy furnace cooling period.

Remarkably, work on the power transfer conduits between the warp core and the nacelles proceeded without incident. Detailed analysis of the prototype conduits revealed early on that they would easily bear the required structural and electrodynamic loads, and their basic function was little changed from their predecessors of a century earlier.

Once the prototype spaceframe test article was sufficiently complete to allow for it, engine installation was performed. The power transfer conduits, which had been imbedded within the nacelles support pylons as the spaceframe was built, awaited the docking of the nacelles and core assemblies. On 5 May 2356 the prototype starship NX-70637, as yet unnamed as the USS Galaxy, for the first time existed as a flyable space vessel.

WARP PROPULSION / SUBSPACE FIELD GEOMETRY

The propulsive effect is achieved by a number of factors working in concert. First, the field formation is controllable in a fore-to-aft direction. As the plasma injectors fire sequentially, the warp field layers build according to the pulse frequency in the plasma, and press upon each other as previously discussed. The cumulative field layer forces reduce the apparent mass of the vehicle and impart the required velocities. The critical transition point occurs when the spacecraft appears to an outside observer to be traveling faster than c. As the warp field energy reaches 1000 millicochranes, the ship appears driven across the c boundary in less than Planck time, 1.3 x 10 sec, warp physics insuring that the ship will never be precisely at c. The three forward coils of each nacelle operate with a slight frequency offset to reinforce the field ahead of the Bussard ramscoop and envelop the Saucer Module. This helps create the field asymmetry required to drive the ship forward.

Second, a pair of nacelles is employed to create two balanced, interacting fields for vehicle maneuvers. In 2269, experimental work with single nacelles and more than two nacelles yielded quick confirmation that two was the optimum number for power generation and vehicle control.

Spacecraft maneuvers are performed by introducing controlled timing differences in each set of warp coils, thereby modifying the total warp field geometry and resultant ship heading. Yaw motions (XZ plane) are most easily controlled in this manner. Pitch changes are affected by a combination of timing differences and plasma concentrations.

Third, the shape of the starship hull facilitates slippage into warp and imparts a geometric correction vector. The Saucer Module, which retains its characteristic shape from the original concept of an emergency landing craft, helps shape the forward field component through the use of a 55° elliptical hull planform, found to produce superior peak transitional efficiency. The aft hull undercut allows for varying degrees of field flow attachment, effectively preventing pinwheeling, owing to the placement of the nacelles off the vehicle Y-axis center of mass. During Saucer Module separation and independent operation of the Battle Section, interactive warp field controller software adjusts the field geometry to fit the altered spacecraft shape. In the event of accidental loss of one or both nacelles, the starship would linearly dissociate, due to the fact that different parts of the structure would be traveling at different warp factors.  

WARP FIELD COILS

The energy field necessary to propel the USS Vanguard is created by the warp field coils and assisted by the specific configuration of the starship hull. The coils generate an intense, multilayered field that surrounds the starship, and it is the manipulation of the shape of this field that produces the propulsive effect through and beyond the speed of light, c.

The coils themselves are split toroids positioned within the nacelles. Each half-segment measures 9.5 x 43 meters and is constructed from a core of densified tungsten-cobalt-magnesium for structural stiffening, and imbedded within a casting of electrically densified verterium cortenide. A complete pair measures 21 x 43 meters, with a mass of 34,375 metric tonnes. Two complete sets of eighteen coils each masses 1.23 x 10§ metric tonnes, accounting for close to 25% of the total starship mass.

The casting process proved to be somewhat difficult to repeat reliably during the early phases of the Galaxy Class Project. Improvements in materials and procedures led to more exact copies for use in the spacecraft, though the installation of closely matched pairs of coils within a nacelle is still practiced. During coil refurbishment at a major starbase yard, the maximum time between the youngest and oldest coil should be no more than six months.

When energized, the verterium cortenide within a coil pair causes a shift of the energy frequencies carried by the plasma deep into the subspace domain. The quantum packets of subspace field energy form at approximately 1/3 the distance from the inner surface of the coil to the outer surface, as the verterium cortenide causes changes in the geometry of space at the Planck scale of 3.9 x 10∑ cm. The converted field energy exits the outer surface of the coil and radiates away from the nacelle. A certain amount of field energy recombination occurs at the coil centerline, and appears as a visible light emission.

PLASMA INJECTION SYSTEM

At the terminus of each PTC is the plasma injection system, a series of eighteen valved magnetic injectors linked to the warp engine controllers. There is one injector for each warp field coil, and the injectors may be fired in variable sequences, depending on the warp flight function being executed. The injectors are constructed of arkenium duranide and single-crystal ferrocarbonite, with magnetic constriction toroids of nalgetium serrite. Control inputs and feedback are handled by twelve redundant links to the optical data network (ODN). Small timing discrepancies between the computer and the injectors exist during any initial startup of the coils or change in warp factors, due to the physical distance from the computer to the engines. These are rapidly smoothed out by predictive phase-synchronization software routines, thereby achieving as close to realtime operation of the engines as possible.

The injector open-close cycle is variable, from 25 ns to 50 ns. Each firing of an injector exposes its corresponding coil to a burst of energy to be converted into the warp field. At Warp Factors 1–4, the injectors fire at low frequencies, between 30 Hz and 40 Hz, and remain open for short periods, between 25 ns and 30 ns. At Warp Factors 5–7, the firing frequencies rise from 40 Hz to 50 Hz, and the injectors remain open for longer periods, 30 ns to 40 ns.

At Warp Factors 8–9.9, the injector firing frequencies rise to 50 Hz, but there is a tailoff of the injector cycle time, owing to limitations of residual charges in the magnetic valves, potential conflict with the energy frequencies from the M/ARC, and input/feedback control reliability. The longest safe cycle time for high warp is generally accepted to be 53 ns. ∆

WARP FIELD NACELLES

The energetic plasma created by the M/ARC, and passed along the power transfer conduits, quickly arrives at the termination point, the warp engine nacelles. This is where the actual propulsion work is done. Each nacelle consists of a number of major assemblies, including the warp field coils (WFC), plasma injection system (PIS), emergency separation system (ESS), and maintenance docking port.

The basic structure of the nacelles is similar to that of the remainder of the starship. Tritanium and duranium framing members are combined with longitudinal stiffeners, and overlaid with 2.5 meters of gamma-welded tritanium hull skinning. The addition of three inner layers of directionally strengthened cobalt cortenide provides protection against high levels of warp-induced stress, particularly at the attachment hardpoints on the support pylons. All framing and skinning of the nacelles and the support pylons accommodates triply redundant conduits for SIF and IDF systems.

Attached to the inner framing members are shock attenuation cylinders for the warp field coils, as well as thermal isolation struts for the plasma injection system.

The emergency nacelle separation system would be used in the event that a catastrophic failure occurred in the PIS, or if a nacelle damaged in combat or other situation could not be safely retained on its support pylon. Ten explosive structural latches can be fired, driving the nacelle up and away at 30 m/sec.

During starbase layovers and low-sublight travel, with the M/ARC powered down, the maintenance docking port allows any work pod or shuttle equipped with a standard docking collar to attach, permitting engineering crews and hardware rapid access to the interior of the nacelle. Normal monitoring visits from within the starship are made by single-occupant turbolift through the support pylon.

MATTER/ANTIMATTER REACTION CHAMBER

The matter/antimatter reaction chamber (M/ARC) consists of two matched bell-shaped cavities which contain and redirect the primary reaction. The chamber measures 2.3 meters in height and 2.5 meters in diameter. It is constructed from twelve layers of hafnium 6 excelion-infused carbonitrium, phase-transition welded under a prsesure of 31,000 kilopascals. The three outer layers are armored with acros-senite arkenide for 10x overpressure protection, as are all interface joints to other pressure-bearing and energy-carrying parts of the system.

The equatorial band of the chamber contains the housing for the dilithium crystal articulation frame (DCAF). An armored hatch allows access to the DCAF for crystal replacement and adjustment. The DCAF consists of an EM-isolated cradle to hold approximately 1200 cmž of dilithium crystal, plus two redundant sets of three-axis crystal orientation linkages. The crystal must be manipulated with six degrees of freedom to achieve the proper angles and depths for reaction mediation.

Connecting the equatorial band to the upper and lower halves of the chamber are twenty-four structural pins. These pins are hafnium 8 molyferrenite and are reinforced in tension, compression, and torsion, and are continuous with the engine structural integrity field. Running along the center of the equatorial band are two layers of diffused transparent tritanium borocarbonate for reaction energy visual monitoring.  

REACTANT INJECTORS

The reactant injectors prepare and feed precisely controlled streams of matter and antimatter into the core. The matter reactant injector (MRI) accepts supercold deuterium from the primary deuterium tankage (PDT) in the upper bulge of the Engineering Hull and partially preburns it in a continuous gas-fusion process. It then drives the resulting gases through a series of throttleable nozzles into the upper magnetic constriction segment.

The MRI consists of a conical structural vessel 5.2 x 6.3 meters, constructed of dispersion-strengthened woznium carbmolybdenide. Twenty-five shock attenuation cylinders connect it to the PDT and the major spacecraft framing members on Deck 30, maintaining 98% thermal isolation from the remainder of the Battle Section. In effect, the entire WPS floats within the hull in order to withstand 3x theoretical operational stresses.

Within the MRI are six redundant cross-fed sets of injectors, each injector consisting of twin deuterium inlet manifolds, fuel conditioners, fusion preburner, magnetic quench block, transfer duct/gas combiner, nozzle head, and related control hardware. Slush deuterium enters the inlet manifolds at controlled flow rates and passes to the conditioners, where heat is removed to bring the slush to just above the solid transition point. Micropellets are formed, preburned by magnetic pinch fusion, and sent down into the gas combiner, where the ionized gas products are now at 10§K. The nozzle heads then focus, align, and propel the gas streams into the constriction segments. Should any of the nozzles fail, the combiner would continue to supply the remaining nozzles, which would dilate to accommodate the increased supply. Each nozzle measures 102 x 175 cm and is constructed of frumium-copper-yttrium 2343.

At the opposite end of the M/ARA lies the antimatter reactant injector (ARI). The internal design and operation of the ARI is distinctly different from that of the MRI, owing to the hazardous nature of the antimatter fuel. Every step in manipulating and injecting antihydrogen must be undertaken with magnetic fields to isolate the fuel from the spacecraft structure. In some respects the ARI is a simpler device, requiring fewer moving components. However, the dangers inherent in handling antimatter necessitate uncompromising reliability in the mechanism. The ARI employs the same basic structural housing and shock attenuation struts as the MRI, with adaptations for magnetic-suspension fuel tunnels. The housing contains three pulsed antimatter gas flow separators, which break up the incoming antihydrogen into small manageable packets to boost up into the lower constriction segments. Each flow separator leads into an injector nozzle, and each nozzle cycles open in response to computer control signals. Nozzle firing can follow complex sequences, resulting from equally complex equations governing reaction pressures, temperatures, and desired power output. 

MAGNETIC CONSTRICTION SEGMENTS

The upper and lower magnetic constriction segments (MCS) constitute the central mass of the core. These components work to structurally support the matter/antimatter reaction chamber, provide a pressure vessel to maintain the proper core operating environment, and align the incoming matter and antimatter streams for combining within the matter/antimatter reaction chamber (M/ARC). The upper MCS measures 18 meters in length, the lower unit 12 meters. Both are 2.5 meters in diameter. A typical segment comprises eight sets of tension frame members, a toroidal pressure vessel wall, twelve sets of magnetic constrictor coils, and related power feed and control hardware.

The constrictor coils are high-density, forced-matrix cobalt-lanthanide-boronite, with thirty-six active elements configured to provide maximum field strength only within the pressure vessel and permitting little or no field spillage into Engineering. The pressure vessel toroids are alternating layers of vapor-deposited carbonitic ferracite and transparent aluminum borosilicate. The vertical tension members are machined tritanium and cortenite reinforcing whiskers, and are phase transition-bonded in place as the vehicle frame is being assembled to produce a single unified structure. All engine frame members possess integral conduits for structural integrity field energy reinforcing under normal operation. The outermost transparent layer serves as one observable gauge of engine performance, as harmless secondary photons are emitted from the inner layers, providing a visible blue glow. The peristaltic action and energy level of the constrictor coils can be readily seen by the Chief Engineer and/or deputy personnel.

As the streams of matter and antimatter are released from their respective nozzles, the constrictor coils compress each stream in the Y axis and add between 200 and 300 m/sec velocity. This insures proper alignment and collision energy for them each to land on target within the M/ARC at the exact center of the chamber. It is at this spot that the M/A reaction is mediated by the dilithium crystal articulation frame.  

MATTER/ANTIMATTER REACTION ASSEMBLY

As the warp propulsion system is the heart of the USS Vanguard, the matter/antimatter reaction assembly (M/ARA) is the heart of the warp propulsion system. The M/ARA is variously called the warp reactor, warp engine core, or main engine core. Energy produced within the core is shared between its primary application, the propulsion of the starship, and the raw power requirements of other major ship systems. The M/ARA is the principal power-generating system because of the 10§ times greater energy output of the matter/antimatter reaction over that of standard fusion, as found in the impulse propulsion system.

The M/ARA consists of four subsystems: reactant injectors, magnetic constriction segments, matter/antimatter reaction chamber, and power transfer conduits.  

MATTER/ANTIMATTER REACTION SYSTEM

The matter/antimatter reaction assembly is variously referred to as the Warp reactor, Warp engine core, and main engine core. Energy produced within the core is shared between starship propulsion and other major ship systems.

WARP FIELD THEORY AND APPLICATION

Like those before him, Zefram Cochrane, the scientist generally credited with the development of modern warp physics, built his work upon the shoulders of giants. Beginning in the mid-twenty-first century, Cochrane, working with his legendary engineering team, labored to derive the basic mechanism of continuum distortion propulsion (CDP). Intellectually, he grasped the potential for higher energies and faster-than-light travel, which signified practical operations beyond the Sol system. The eventual promise of rapid interstellar travel saw his team take on the added task of an intensive review of the whole of the physical sciences. It was hoped that the effort would lead to better comprehension of known phenomena applicable to warp physics, as well as the possibility of 'left field' ideas influenced by related disciplines.

Their crusade finally led to a set of complex equations, materials formulae, and operating procedures that described the essentials of superluminal flight. In those original warp drive theories, single (or at most double) shaped fields, created at tremendous energy expenditure, could distort the space/time continuum enough to drive a starship. As early as 2061, Cochrane’s team succeeded in producing a prototype field device of massive proportions. Described as a fluctuation superimpeller, it finally allowed an unmanned flight test vehicle to straddle the speed of light (c) wall, alternating between two velocity states while remaining at neither for longer than Planck time, 1.3 x 10 second, the smallest possible unit of measurable time. This had the net effect of maintaining velocities at the previously unattainable speed of light, while avoiding the theoretically infinite energy expenditure which would otherwise have been required.

Early CDP engines—which were only informally dubbed 'warp' engines met with success, and were almost immediately incorporated into existing spacecraft designs with surprising ease. Although slow and inefficient by today's standards, these engines yielded a substantial reduction of undesired time dilation effects, paving the way for round-trip flights on the order of a few years, not decades. Cochrane and his team eventually relocated to the Alpha Centauri colonies (a move that took only four years because of CDP-powered space vehicles), and they continued to pioneer advances in warp physics that would eventually jump the wall altogether and explore the mysterious realm of subspace that lay on the other side.

The key to the creation of subsequent non-Newtonian methods, i.e., propulsion not dependent upon exhausting reaction products, lay in the concept of nesting many layers of warp field energy, each layer exerting a controlled amount of force against its next-outermost neighbor. The cumulative effect of the force applied drives the vehicle forward and is known as asymmetrical peristaltic field manipulation (APFM). Warp field coils in the engine nacelles are energized in sequential order, fore to aft. The firing frequency determines the number of field layers, a greater number of layers per unit time being required at higher warp factors. Each new field layer expands outward from the nacelles, experiences a rapid force coupling and decoupling at variable distances from the nacelles, simultaneously transferring energy and separating from the previous layer at velocities between 0.5c and 0.9c. This is well within the bounds of traditional physics, effectively circumventing the limits of General, Special, and Transformational Relativity. During force coupling the radiated energy makes the necessary transition into subspace, applying an apparent mass reduction effect to the spacecraft. This facilitates the slippage of the spacecraft through the sequencing layers of warp field energy.

WARP POWER MEASUREMENT

The cochrane is the unit used to measure subspace field stress. Cochranes are also used to measure field distortion generated by other spatial manipulation devices, including tractor beams, deflectors, and synthetic gravity fields. Fields below Warp 1 are measured in millicochranes.

A subspace field of one thousand millicochranes or greater becomes the familiar warp field. Field intensity for each warp factor increases geometrically and is a function of the total of the individual field layer values. Note that the cochrane value for a given warp factor corresponds to the apparent velocity of a spacecraft traveling at that warp factor. For example, a ship traveling at Warp Factor 3 is maintaining a warp field of at least 39 cochranes and is therefore traveling at 39 times c, the speed of light. 

Approximate values for integer warp factors are:

Warp Factor 1 = 1 cochrane
Warp Factor 2 = 10 cochranes
Warp Factor 3 = 39 cochranes
Warp Factor 4 = 102 cochranes
Warp Factor 5 = 214 cochranes
Warp Factor 6 = 392 cochranes
Warp Factor 7 = 656 cochranes
Warp Factor 8 = 1024 cochranes
Warp Factor 9 = 1516 cochranes

The actual values are dependent upon interstellar conditions, e.g., gas density, electric and magnetic fields within the different regions of the Milky Way galaxy, and fluctuations in the subspace domain. Starships routinely travel at multiples of c, but they suffer from energy penalties resulting from quantum drag forces and motive power oscillation inefficiencies.

The amount of power required to maintain a given warp factor is a function of the cochrane value of the warp field. However, the energy required to initially establish the field is much greater, and is called the peak transitional threshold. Once that threshold has been crossed, the amount of power required to maintain a given warp factor is lessened. While the current engine designs allow for control of unprecedented amounts of energy, the warp driver coil electrodynamic efficiency decreases as the warp factor increases. Ongoing studies indicate, however, that no new materials breakthroughs are anticipated to produce increased high warp factor endurance.

Warp fields exceeding a given warp factor, but lacking the energy to cross the threshold to the next higher level, are called fractional warp factors. Travel at a given fractional warp factor can be significantly faster than travel at the next lower integral warp, but for extended travel, it is often more energy-efficient to simply increase to the next higher integral warp factor.

THEORETICAL LIMITS

Eugene's Limit allows for warp stress to increase asymptotically, approaching but never reaching a value corresponding to Warp Factor 10. As field values approach ten, power requirements rise geometrically, while the aforementioned driver coil efficiency drops dramatically. The required force coupling and decoupling of the warp field layers rise to unattainable frequencies, exceeding not only the flight system's control capabilities, but more important the limit imposed by the aforementioned Planck time. Even if it were possible to expend the theoretically infinite amount of energy required, an object at Warp 10 would be traveling infinitely fast, occupying all points in the universe simultaneously.