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Propulsion Theories

impulse drive  
  • Spacecraft propulsion system using conventional impulse reactions to generate thrust.
  • Aboard most Federation starships, impulse drive is powered by one or more fusion reactors that employ deuterium fuel to yield helium plasma and a lot of power.
  • A ship under impulse drive is limited to slower than light speeds. Normally, full impulse speed is about half the speed of light. Although this is adequate for most interplanetary travel (within a single solar system), it is inadequate for travel between the stars. Faster than light velocities, necessary for interstellar flight, require the use of warp drive.
  • An explosion of 97.835 megatons will result if the impulse drive reactor of a Constitution class starship is overloaded.
  • Such an explosion, produced in the destruction of the U.S.S. Constellation, was used to destroy the extragalactic planet killer in 2267. 
inertial dampers  
  • Field manipulation devices designed to compensate for the acceleration forces generated when a space vehicle changes speed.
  • The Enterprise-D's inertial dampers failed just before the ship experienced a near collision with the U.S.S. Bozeman in 2368. 
intermix formula  
  • A crucial concept in warp drive, the intermix formula is a mathematical expression determining the manner in which matter and antimatter are brought together to produce the energy required to warp space and travel faster than light.
  • Science Officer Spock and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott devised a new intermix formula based on a theoretical relationship between time and antimatter that permitted an emergency restart of Enterprise's warp engines in less than thirty minutes when the vessel was trapped in a decaying orbit above the planet Psi 2000 in 2266. 
  • An intermix imbalance can propel a starship into an extremely dangerous, artificially created wormhole. 
  • Kosinski's unsuccessful warp drive upgrades in 2364 called for variations in the intermix formula in an attempt to improve engine performance. 
ion propulsion  
  • The ship from the planet Sigma Draconis VI that invaded the Enterprise and stole Spock's brain in 2268 used ion propulsion. The propulsion system left a faint but distinctive ion trail of residual gas that permitted the ship to be tracked. 
  • Highly efficient spacecraft propulsion system that uses magnetic fields to drive electrically charged gases.
Lang cycle fusion engines  
  • Picard knew of this technology, and hoped an ancient Promellian battle cruiser discovered near Orelious IX would still have its Lang cycle engines intact. 
  • Ancient power plant used aboard Promellian spacecraft a millennium ago.
light speed breakaway factor  
  • Also known as the slingshot effect, a warp speed maneuver used to propel a starship through time.
  • It was used to propel the Enterprise back in time from 2268 to the year 1968 on a mission of historical research.
  • This procedure involves close passage to a massive gravitational source, like a star, at a high warp velocity.
magnetic seals  
  • Component of the matter/antimatter containment system aboard Federation starships.
  • The seals help prevent the highly volatile antimatter from coming into contact with the structure of the ship.
  • The magnetic seals of the U.S.S. Yamato collapsed just prior to that ship's explosion in 2365.
  • An emergency system that should have dumped the antimatter from the ship in that situation evidently failed. 
maneuvering thrusters  
  • Used in low speed docking maneuvers and similar situations. 
  • Low power reaction control jets used for fine positional and attitude control by starships and other spacecraft.
matter/antimatter integrator  
  • The emergency bypass control valve to the matter/antimatter integrator was fused by Losira in 2268, causing the Enterprise to travel at dangerously accelerated speeds up to warp 14.1 before the problem was solved. 
  • Component of a Constitution class starship's warp drive system.
matter/antimatter reaction chamber  
  • Component of the warp drive system used aboard federation starships.
  • The reaction chamber is the vessel within which matter and antimatter are allowed to intermix in a controlled fashion, resulting in the massive release of energy necessary to power the faster than light warp drive.
  • The matter/antimatter reaction is regulated by a dilithium crystal, and the entire volume is contained by a magnetic containment field to prevent the volatile antimatter from coming into physical contact with the ship's structure.
mid-range phase adjustor  
  • An innovative device developed by Geordi La Forge for use in the Enterprise-D warp drive system.
  • When installed in the power transfer conduits, it corrected the phase of the energy plasma, compensating for inertial distortion.
  • La Forge offered to collaborate with Dr. Leah Brahms on a scientific paper describing the technology. 
nacelle  
  • In starship design, a large outboard structure that houses a warp drive engine.
  • Nacelles generally incorporate powerful subspace field generation coils and sometimes have Bussard collectors to gather interstellar hydrogen.
  • Most Federation starship designs feature two warp engine nacelles mounted parallel to the axis of flight.
nullifier core  
  • The nullifier cores must be maintained in precise alignment to avoid magnetic disruptions that can be detected when the ship is cloaked.
  • Major component of the propulsion system on a Romulan Warbird.
particle stream  
  • An energetic by-product of the Enterprise-D warp drive.
  • Geordi La Forge considered using a particle stream to attempt to sweep a holodeck clean when Dr. Katherine Pulaski was trapped in an ongoing simulation program, but the plan was abandoned when it was realized that the energetic particles would also kill Pulaski. 
plasma  
  • A starship's impulse engines leave an exhaust of plasma, which can be detected, even from a cloaked vessel.
  • Scientific term for very hot, ionized gas.
 
plasma conversion sensor  
  • Starfleet instrument used to measure the consumption of matter and antimatter fuel during engine use.
 
plasma fire  
  • Combustion supported by the intense heat from an externally supplied ionized plasma gas source, such as those found in a starship's internal power grid. 
plasma injector  
  • Component of a warp drive system. 
ramscoop  
  • Device that employs powerful magnetic fields to collect interstellar hydrogen for use as fuel for a space vehicle.
  • O'Brien compared a ramscoop to the arva nodes in Tosk's ship, which essentially did the same thing. 
  • Also called a Bussard collector.
space normal  
  • Technical term describing slower than light, i.e. non-warp speed, travel. 
sublight  
  • Scientific term describing space normal speeds, slower than c, the speed of light.
  • Sublight speeds do not require warp drive, and are generally achieved using impulse power. As a result, sublight travel is subject to relativistic effects such as time dilation and Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction.
subspace  
  • Spatial continuum with significantly different properties from our own, a fundamental part of warp drive.
  • Warp driven starships employ a subspace generator to create the asymmetrical spatial distortion necessary for the vessel to travel faster than the speed of light. Subspace is also used as a medium for subspace radio transmissions.
subspace compression  
  • Phenomenon resulting from differential field potential values in nearby portions of the same warp field.
  • Depending on relative field symmetries, subspace compression can also cause numerous other, often unpredictable, side effects. 
  • Subspace compression can cause different parts of an object to have different inertial densities, resulting in structural strain on the object. In severe cases, subspace compression can tear an object apart at the subatomic level.
subspace field distortions  
  • The Cytherian probe encountered by the Enterprise-D in 2367 did not create any detectable field distortions and its method of propulsion remained a mystery. 
  • Phenomena that generally indicate the presence of a warp propulsion system.
theta-matrix compositer  
  • The device made dilithium recrystallization ten times more efficient than it was on Excelsior Class starships. 
  • A component of the Enterprise-D warp drive.
touch-and-go downwarping  
  • The crew of the Enterprise-D used this technique to transport an away team to Gravesworld while en route to an emergency rendezvous with the U.S.S. Constantinople. 
  • A maneuver in which a starship drops briefly out of warp into normal space, then quickly accelerates back to warp speed.
transwarp conduit  
  • Artificially created subspace tunnel.
  • In 2369, a previously unknown type of Borg ship was traversing Federation space using a series of transwarp conduits, which they accessed by transmitting an encoded high energy tachyon pulse. 
  • Inside the conduit, the normal limitations of subspace travel did not apply. Ships that were able to access the transwarp state could travel at speeds at least twenty times greater than the maximum warp of Galaxy class starships.
transwarp drive  
  • Although initially showing great promise, the transwarp development project eventually proved unsuccessful and was abandoned after extensive testing on the starship Excelsior. 
  • Experimental technology for increasing the efficiency and speed of starship propulsion systems.
warp field  
  • This technique was used by Geordi La Forge in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the moon of the planet Bre'el IV from crashing into the planet in 2366. 
  • The "bubble" of subspace in which a starship travels when using warp drive.
  • O'Brien was able to use a low level warp field to reduce the mass of DS9 sufficiently for the station's maneuvering thrusters to move the station to the Denerious Belt following the discovery of the Bajoran wormhole in 2369. 
  • A low level warp field can have the effect of reducing the local gravitational constant within the field itself. This is because a subspace field resembles the time/space distortion of a gravitational field. The effect is that a low level warp field can be used to temporarily reduce the apparent mass of an object, with relationship to the outside universe.
warp bubble  
  • An enclosed subspace field.
  • A static warp bubble was accidentally created by Wesley Crusher in 2367 during a warp drive experiment aboard the Enterprise-D.
  • A starship at warp speeds exists within a warp bubble, essentially its own universe.
 
warp drive  
  • Warp drive systems used by Federation starships employ the controlled annihilation of matter and antimatter, regulated by dilithium crystals, to generate the tremendous power required to warp space and travel faster than light. 
  • Primary propulsion system used by most faster than light interstellar spacecraft.
  • Warp drive was invented in 2061 by noted scientist Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri. 
warp field phase adjustment  
  • By adjusting the field phase of the Ferengi ship Krayton, Commander Riker was able to send a surreptitious signal to the Enterprise-D when he was held captive on that ship in 2366. 
  • A procedure used to suppress the subspace interference generated by a starship's warp engines.