# How long does it take to traverse the UFP?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by cgervasi, Jan 29, 2013.

1. ### cgervasiLieutenant CommanderRed Shirt

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How long does it take for a reasonably fast ship to fly through the Federation? In TNG, Warp 5 (the new scale) is described as fast, as if the typical ship does not travel at Warp 5.

Suppose a typical Federation citizen wants to travel to Bajor or some place like that from Earth to see antiquities in museums. How long would it take?

I get the idea that it would be months, which seems untenably long. Maybe the UFP is more dependent on information, which travels faster by subspace radio than ships, but it seems like you couldn't maintain a government if it took a year to traverse it. If the UFP were that big, it would require devoting years to just to visit a distant region. Most people would communicate with those regions but never visit them or exchange significant quantities of goods with them.

If it was to take Voyager 70 years, including stops and detours to search for fuel and supplies, to travel 70k lightyears, it would take them almost a month to go 100 light years. Your average run-of-the-mill transport ship traveling through well-known space would take at least a week or two to go that far. But I thought the Federation was supposed to be larger than 100 light years across. Does this mean it impractical for the average citizen ever to leave a particular sector?

2. ### Captain NebulaLieutenant CommanderRed Shirt

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The Enterprise E didn't take long to get from the Romulan Border to Earth in First Contact. The battle was still ongoing when they got there. Whatever 'Maximum Warp' is for a Sovereign class starship.

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It varies because warp factors aren't set in stone and vary from episode to episode. As a result, it could be anywhere from days to mere hours at high warp, IMO. And if the given 8000 light-year size of the Federation also takes into account three dimensions and with some points being closer together than others, it might be a shorter journey across than some people think.

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Going by canon, it depends entirely on the writer! We've such completely random and incompatible time/speed/distances over the years it's impossible to give an answer.

Going by non-canon sources, it depends entirely on who drew the maps! Star Trek Maps, The Star Trek Star Charts, The Star Fleet Technical Manual and FASA's manuals all have different ideas about how the Federation is sized, shaped and laid out.

Although in DS9, we saw the characters get to any major planet in the space of a scene break via Runabout - which is just a glorified shuttle. The Making of Deep Space Nine says their top speed is warp 4.7, although that was (perhaps wisely!) never stated on-screen.

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It's as fast or as slow as the plot needs it to be.

6. ### blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

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ETA = ( Distance x Which Series ) / ( Speed of Plot x Which Series )

7. ### SicOneCommodoreCommodore

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All of the above answers are correct. It basically comes down to what the plot requires, whether or not it makes any practical sense in actual astronomy, or even the "astronomy" of Star Trek, which takes certain liberties.

For example, the aforementioned part of "Star Trek:First Contact" has the battle against the Borg cube invading Earth just beginning while the Enterprise is patrolling the Romulan Neutral Zone). According to the excellent and handy Star Charts book, the closest area of the RNZ to Earth is about 25 light-years distant. And according to the Warp Factor Chart in the Trekpedia, even subspace signals (which move dozens of times faster than the fastest starship) take over an hour to propagate 25 ly.

Going from this information alone, the battle would probably have been over and Earth well on its way to being assimilated before Enterprise even received the subspace play-by-play that they were listening to, much less in the time it would take for Enterprise to traverse the minimum 25 ly distance. IIRC, the fastest Federation ship is the Prometheus-class, which I believe to be rated at Warp 9.99 maximum speed. Even if the Sovereign-class could match that speed, 25 ly at Warp 9.99 is 28 hours, per the Trekpedia.

Additionally, there is a line in First Contact about the Federation being composed of 150 worlds spread out over 8,000 ly. There's been numerous discussions about the interpretation of that line, but just looking at the Star Charts book, even the most simple interpretation (8,000 ly as viewed two-dimensionally, looking "down" on the maps), doesn't really hold much water. Per the Star Charts book, the Federation gerrymanders all over the goddamned place, much like a poorly drawn Congressional district. One of the farthest Federation planets from Earth, Cestus 3, is 160 ly away from Earth as the crow flies, per the maps, a journey of about 6 months at a leisurely Warp 5 or 40 days at Warp 9.

And that's not including the slight dogleg you'd need to take to avoid entering Klingon space...always a tenuous proposition depending on how the writers are feeling that week.

8. ### AlberteseCommodoreCommodore

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I dunno... This is pretty much exactly the model the old British Empire utilized. It would take months to get from England to the American Colonies, even longer to get from England to India and long yet to get to Australia. And all this was without any sort of electronic means of communication and traveling is sailing ships that weren't any faster than your car driving at the legal speed limit though an average neighborhood.

The Brits weren't the only ones to pull this off... The Roman Empire was spread out pretty far also. They could get around by sea a little bit (most of their empire surrounded the Mediterranean) but if you want to get from Rome to, say, Britain, you'll have a very lengthy trip by road. Even if taking a boat along the coast to Gaul (France), Iberia (Spain) or the other direction to Judea (Palestine) or Egypt, you're in for a long haul. This was further limited by weather, the Med is so choppy in the Winter, that the Romans enforced "Mare Invictus" which meant the sea was closed from, like, November to April or something like that. Heck, even in the United States, if you wanted to get from New York to the California coast before there were rail roads, that's a trip of a few months too... one limited by weather... You won't want to try and cross the Rockies in Winter!

There's nothing untenable about a far-flung governmental authority. The British and the Romans both held sway for hundreds of years, so the Federation being spread out and time-consuming to cross doesn't strike me as too hard to swallow...

--Alex

9. ### SicOneCommodoreCommodore

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The Federation is surrounded by threats on multiple sides, however. Though in current novel continuity the Klingons are allies and the Cardassians less of a threat than before, there are still the Romulans, Breen and Tholians to contend with, as well as the Tzenkethi and a host of lesser players. From what I observed in the Star Charts book, there are fairly good-sized chunks of Federation-claimed space that could be easily cut off from the main body of the Federation by powers a lot closer to said space than the bulk of Starfleet. It would be a question of who got there the fastest with the mostest, to coin an old phrase.

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I agree with all who said that it depends on the plot. However, I was always under the impression Earth and the other core worlds were relatively close to the Romulan Neutral Zone compared to a good chunk of the UFP. It would make sense given there was a conflict with the Romulans 200 years before Picard's time.

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I agree. this has always made sense to me. Wasn't there a comment in Balance of Terror about the Romulan's lacking warp drive back during the war? Been awhile since I've seen the episode, but that seems to have been there. In any case, Sol and the Romulan home-star must be reletively close to each other as well as, by extension, Vulcan.

I would also think that the Klingon sphere of influence can't be too terribly far off either, thus the high degree of conflict.

12. ### Dale SamsFleet CaptainFleet Captain

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I suspect there were ships still on their way from the outlying areas when the Dominion War ended.

What really should have happened is when the Feds were on the brink of losing, the outlying worlds should have been breaking off and trying to negotiate their own peace treaties.

13. ### SicOneCommodoreCommodore

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Doesn't the Enterprise series show the Romulans to have warp drive? The Romulans would have lost, like, big-time if they didn't have warp drive while trying to conduct an interstellar war. Even if Romulus was the star-next-door, it would still take years.

14. ### Dale SamsFleet CaptainFleet Captain

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Well we've got:

Balance of Terror

Whatever they showed on Enterprise

Picard's statement to Max Headroom implying that the Romulans getting Warp Drive was an event that occured after humans were acquainted with Romulans.

The fact that Romulans warp drive runs on forced singularities. I throw this in cause maybe it will help someone fanwank everything together.

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Probably can be rationalized as the Romulans lacking an efficient warp power source, so during the war faster Earth ships were able to more effectively concentrate their forces.

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Nope.

The episode gave three key specs about the old war, none of which touched upon warp drive:

1) fought with primitive atomic weapons
2) fought in primitive space vessels
3) (apparently as the result) there was no mercy given, no prisoners taken, no ship-to-ship visual communication

Later on in the episode, the heroes fight a modern Romulan vessel that evades them at warp three, even though Scotty claims "their power is simple impulse". This in no way establishes anything about the old war a century prior, as Scotty didn't make his claim without first having a look at the ship in question - he wasn't basing his (mistaken?) assessment solely on historical records or anything.

Some fan sources did interpret this all as the Romulans not having had warp drive until late in the game - perhaps as late as the second season of TOS! But onscreen Trek has never supported the idea that Romulans would have lacked the secret of warp at any point of their history. For all we know, they were capable of warp long before they even left Vulcan.

Curiously, we never quite learn who won the old Romulan war. The Neutral Zone between the powers suggests a stalemate conclusion to the conflict...

Then again, DS9 also suggested that Bajor wasn't really all that distant a place. It just happened to border on the territory of an unyielding enemy, in a direction where the UFP hasn't been able to expand much, so it certainly qualified as "frontier".

Sometimes our DS9 heroes discussed getting from Bajor to places other than Earth. In "Fasctination", it was 300 ly from Bajor to Regulus III; since Regulus is a real place about 80 ly from Earth, at least in our universe, Bajor would probably in turn be about 150-250 ly from Earth, if we accept that it is "to the left" of Earth and recognize that Regulus is "to the lower right". A couple of hundred ly in a week is average going in 24th century terms, and Archer in his warp 5 ship did something quite comparable in "The Expanse".

We aren't really into major complication or contradiction territory here, then. It's just that some parts of the amoeba-like UFP appear to be a lot farther out than Bajor. Jouret of "Best of Both Worlds" fame was another frontier location, an "outermost colony", and it again took at most a week to move the action from there to Earth, although this time at high warp in a very fast starship.

We don't know how long it really took for the comparable fight to move from the frontier colony of Ivor Prime, outside UFP borders just like Bajor (and apparently accompanied by a Deep Space station just like Bajor), to Earth in ST:FC. The fight moved from Ivor to Typhon in an unknown amount of time, and Typhon was mentioned in TNG "Cause and Effect", so we have some ballpark data there. Unfortunately, some of it gives minimum estimates (at least hours from Ivor to Typhon, or else our E-E heroes would not have dreamed of joining the fight), the rest maximum estimates (a 23rd century starship took at most three weeks to reach Typhon from Earth in the TNG episode), so it cancels out.

We do end up with a general feeling that the borders of the UFP are about a week away from Earth for anybody bothering to make the effort, save for individual special cases: some colonies or member systems may be thousands of lightyears away and probably take months to reach, while the RNZ may scrape really close to Vulcan and Earth at its closest point.

Timo Saloniemi

17. ### SicOneCommodoreCommodore

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We know from publications and sites like Ex Astris that ships can go Warp whatever in cruise mode indefinitely, Warp whatever-plus at maximum speed for an undetermined period of time, and Warp whatever-plus-plus for twelve hours. It also stands to reason that they may be capable of traveling at, say, Ludicrous Speed for however long it takes to move the action along...

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Indeed, several TNG episodes mention that the E-D has to pay a price for her repeated use of highest possible speeds: the expectation would be that a ship of this class would not need the sort of maintenance she gets in, say, "Phantasms".

So there isn't such a thing as "impossible speed" vs. "possible speed". There are just different levels of risk to be taken. Sit on the safety valve, and even Kirk's old rust bucket will reach Ludicrous Speed. Moments before she blows up, that is.

Timo Saloniemi

19. ### Dale SamsFleet CaptainFleet Captain

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It's probably just as well that Enterprise went off the air. The amount of fourth season style fanwanking to make this true would have been polarizing. They would have had to create a scenario such as : "We're straining all our resources just to get something that can move in space. Throwing together ships at a slapdash pace with no time to install phasers...slapping atomic missile launchers on cargo ships and shoving them to the front.."

On the one hand it's kind of cool and on the other, great amounts of people would have bitched about the creators tying their own hands with continuity.

20. ### throwbackCaptainCaptain

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May 27, 2011
I believe that it was possible to create a series based on information that was provided in four of the series. (TAS is kinda iffy.)

I checked a transcript site for "Balance of Terror". There is no warp three mention. However, there is a mention to emergency warp, and Kirk ordering his helmsman to parallel the enemy vessel and to match their course and speed. (http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/9.htm)

From "Little Green Men":
Quark:
From Insurrection:
Dougherty:
Picard:
Finally, we know something else about the Earth-Romulan War. The Romulans ships were painted like giant bird-of-preys.