Warp Driving to the Future or still a popped Bubble?
In Star Trek, the development of Warp Engines is what defines a species ready to engage with the larger universe and other species. We often hear a lot of “technobabble” to describe what is happening with these technological marvels but what IS the science behind warp and is it possible?
Earth’s first warp vehicle, the Phoenix, was built by Doctor Zefram Cochrane, out of an old nuclear missile, the Titan II type, with 2 warp nacelles on either side. Later they would switch to dilithium crystals from nuclear materials. Henry Archer, father of Jonathan Archer would create a working viable engine that could operate at warp 2.
In 2152, the Enterprise finally broke Warp 5. By 2161, as the NX ships were being decommissioned, the engines capable of warp 7 were being installed into the Federation’s newest ships.
By the 2240s, Starfleet ships of the Constitution-class had a standard cruising speed of warp 6 and emergency speeds of up to warp 9.
In 2370, Hekaran scientist Serova discovered that the use of warp drives damaged the fabric of spacetime. A speed limit was invoked because of this to go no faster than Warp 5 unless it was an emergency. Sometime after this, a solution to the damage was found and the speed limit was redacted.
In 2372 the transwarp barrier was broken by Tom Paris, but with extreme side effects. Sometime past the 24th century, these effects were solved and ships were able to move at transwarp speeds of up to 15.
How does it work?
In the 24th century, Federation warp engines were fueled by the reaction of matter (deuterium) and antimatter (antideuterium), passing through an assembly of dilithium crystals, which were nonreactive with antimatter when subjected to high-frequency electromagnetic fields. This reaction produced a highly energetic plasma, called electro-plasma or warp plasma, which was channeled by plasma conduits through the electro-plasma system (EPS); that system also provided the primary energy supply for the ship's other electronic systems. For propulsion, the electro-plasma was funneled by plasma injectors into a series of warp field coils, usually located in remote warp nacelles. These coils were composed of verterium cortenide and generated the warp field which acted like a bubble around the ship.
With this bubble, known also as a static warp field, ships distorted the local spacetime continuum via a deformation of subspace. Which then allowed them to move long distances through space at speeds faster than light moves.
What does science say now?
Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity,” says, As an object approaches the speed of light, its mass becomes infinite and it is unable to go any faster than light travels. For decades this held, making faster than light travel impossible. Then in 1994, Miguel Alcubierre envisioned a spacecraft that could contract space-time in front of the vehicle while expanding it behind the craft. Such a craft would require a massive amount of negative energy, which would not be feasible for a real spacecraft… until Alexey Bobrick and Gianni Martire wrote a paper published just weeks ago describing their ideas for viable a warp drive. Bobrick and Martire suggest that a massive gravitational force could be used to bend space-time. The trick, they say, is finding a way to compress a planet-sized mass to a manageable spacecraft-module size to use its gravity. Because of the implied difficulties, a warp drive created from the model could not be built today, but it does suggest that someday soon it might be possible to cruise among the stars in a starship boldly going where no one has gone before.