NASA Is Working On Warp Drive Technology

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The gap between science fiction and science fact is getting smaller every day. Dr. Harold “Sonny” White of the Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate and his team of engineers are currently working on building an actual warp drive. Yes, a warp drive like in Star Trek. The theoretical physics behind a warp drive are concrete and now NASA wants to try to build one.

So far, NASA’s ventures into space have been pretty conservative when considering a universal scale. We’ve been to the Moon and back, and we’ve sent a robot to Mars, but so far traveling beyond our own star system has seemed like a nigh impossible task. The amount of fuel needed for craft to reach even the nearest stars would be astronomical. It would also involve breaking the laws of physics in respect to going faster than the speed of light. But Dr. White may have found a loophole to help turn warp drive from flight of fancy to real possibility. His goal: “We want to go, really fast, while observing the 11th commandment: Thou shall not exceed the speed of light.”

White and his team are searching for a microscopic instance of what they call a “warp bubble.” If they can find one, even one that small, it will suggest that it could be applied in larger and more dramatic ways. The eventual goal would be to build an engine that, just as in Star Trek, could compress the space ahead of it while expanding the space behind it, making the engine travel without actually moving, thus getting to its destination ludicrously fast. As Dr. White states, “By harnessing the physics of cosmic inflation, future spaceships crafted to satisfy the laws of these mathematical equations may actually be able to get somewhere unthinkably fast—and without adverse effects.” So how fast is unthinkably fast? If such a technology is created and works the way White claims it could, we could get to Alpha Centauri in two weeks. Yes, I said weeks.

But figuring out the key equation isn’t the only thing required to build an effective warp drive. Engineers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center are trying to solve the fuel and energy problems a warp-driven spacecraft would need. It was believed that you’d need a “Jupiter-sized ball of exotic matter” to fuel a ship to go this fast but, Dr. White’s work suggests otherwise. To optimize the warp bubble thickness, you would only need “500 kilograms (of exotic matter) to send a 10-meter bubble at an effective velocity of 10c.” That’s 10 times the speed of light. Of course the ship wouldn’t travel this fast, it would only appear as if it did.

These are the first steps toward potentially opening up the galaxy in a real way. Dr. White said of the project, “Perhaps a Star Trek experience within our lifetime is not such a remote possibility.”


  1. Hunter Coch says:

    More of this please.

  2. I hope HHHOOOPPPEEE they actually achieve this and allow people like myself to travel on it to see this amazing universe we live in. That in itself would be a dream.

  3. How are you going to navigate at FTL speeds, you won’t be ablle to see anything? Plus, the greater the distance to a destination, the more deviated its current position from the viewable, so a method for accurately calculating precise postions would be necessary and would probably involve alot of stopping and reorientation.

    • Chris Greenstein says:

      I imagine at first, it will be with star charts and telescopes, and a
      lot of luck- point in the direction you want to go, warp, pop out of
      warp, get your orientation based on what the stars should look like from
      where you intended to go, and hope you don’t get lost because space is
      really big, and perhaps the warp bubble might be uneven… and a quantum
      computer, and quantum linked particles designed as some sort of compass
      could prove very helpful.

    • RUSSELLHICKS27 says:

      Calculating precise current position is actually reasonably easy, a couple of points of reference and then its just application of maths.

    • This somewhat makes sense what you said, but they must have a way to figure this out as well.

    • You would not be traveling faster than light, that is not possible. You are merely reducing the amount of space you have to travel through. This will distort your view, but in a predictable way. At any rate our spacecraft rarely have to “navigate”. You just point them in the right direction and check up on them occasionally.

    • Daniel Parry says:

      exactly many people don’t seem to properly grasp the complexity of navigation at relativistic speeds , i can only imagine the level of complex computer system needed to calculate those distances

    • Colin Scaden says:

      I’d just like to add that while navigation and propulsion do work together, they are in fact separate systems and thus developed independently of each other.

  4. Please let them develop this in my lifetime. It will make the disappointment of being raised a second generation science fiction fan (and a mother to Gen3) bearable.

  5. i bet 5 pounds they will work on it for years, finally make a small amount of practical progress and then get there funding cut
    hope not though!

    • The easiest way to insure funding would be to secretly pass all knowledge gained to Russia and China, and encourage them to publicly start their own warp drive programs. NASA would suddenly find themselves awash in trillions.
      Sad that this is how Americans are motivated.

  6. UnRiel says:

    We need a source of beryllium spheres

  7. James Elliott says:

    NASA can’t even send people into space now. It’shard to believe they can jump from taxi rides to warp drive. How would it ever get funded?

    • Work on the Orion system is coming right along. They recently completed a series of splashdown tests on the reentry vehicle. The first manned mission of that system is slated to be an asteroid, and they are on schedule. NASA is not going to be using the system for ISS crew rotation, that job will be left to commercial companies such as SpaceX.
      Actually the warp drive research IS being funded.

    • Stevles says:

      Can’t? Poor choice of words.
      They simply have run out of reasons to go into space.. The moon has been thoroughly scoured and the Mars Rover is doing the work that men would do, thus making it pointless for people to go there.
      What we need is a way of traveling further and faster and that is why they are doing this research.

  8. Void says:

    *Puts on sci-fi nerd hat*
    All good, but the description is more along the line of the ship from Futurama than Star Trek.
    ST the ‘warp bubble’ puts them in a sub-space in which the laws of physics are such that C is not the max speed.
    Futurama the Professor explain that the ship gains FTL speeds not by travelling through space but make space move about the ship.
    Either way it would be quite impressive.

    • Daniel Parry says:

      ‘FTL’ engines of this type are the most plausible , the use of string theory in BSGr is another example travel without exceeding C

    • Stoney3K says:

      Effectively, the warp drive in ST works basically the same, just take a look at some of the ‘warp field diagram’ charts splashed around randomly on bridge displays. These look a lot like electromagnetic field lines which are formed around a *real* object such as a magnet (presumably that’s where the artist, Michael Okuda, got the idea).

      The real-world version is based on a paper by Miguel Alcubièrre in the 1990’s, which was based on special relativity and a large chunk of, you guessed it, Star Trek. The ship itself remains stationary, it’s a chunk of space that’s being moved around by the effects on the space around it.

      Finally, the new film pretty much confirms the principle by means of Scotty’s epiphany: “Aye, I never imagined space as being the thing that’s moving!”

  9. Denis Dendrinos says:

    Don’t you first need to build the “typical and standard” star trek engine-glowy-thinga-ma-bob which allows them to do the normal travel before we do warp speed?

  10. Mike Adamson says:

    Please, providence, make it happen! It has been an article of faith my whole life through that advancement in physics and engineering would make it possible, and this is to me like the answering of that faith. Humankind will journey to the stars one day, and to be alive to see it would be the reward of life itself!

  11. hmmm half a ton of anti matter…

  12. Mwani says:

    Oh God that’s exciting.

  13. Chilis says:

    warp bubble? Well, at least people are finally looking at science it terms of fiction… at don’t really know what to say, because all of this sounds like a long shot to me… maybe…. and just maybe this is going to make more sense if I read more. But so far, compressing space ahead, expanding space behind, not actually moving, getting to stars in a couple of weeks, feels like… nha, i don’t know…

  14. Edward says:

    I am freakying out right now, this would be awsome.

  15. Dan Reborn says:

    I was born a few hundred years too soon.

  16. GW says:

    I’ll take a ticket! (I put my order in last century)

  17. Al Pa says:

    tear a hole in space send stuff through.. then watch it seal itself up… it will seal up… wont it :/

  18. KingreX32 says:

    I think i found s new blog to subcribe to.

  19. Colin Kendig says:

    Great, then whats going to happen? We will find a mass effect drive from some ancient alien species on pluto, then get into an accidental war with the first alien species we find, and then be on the low end of the totem pole of the intergalactic species council for a couple millennia. On top of that, giant hybrid android spaceships will crash into earth and destroy the last remnants of the human race. I fail to see how this is a good thing.

  20. lightwarp says:

    I don’t want to wait for it……

  21. Guest says:

    They want to do that and yet they still can’t figure out a way to slow down global warming?

  22. swage99 says:

    my best friend mark tomion electrical engineer already development of star drive engineering manual book in 2002 year in real life and build the prototype 29 feet saucer and 4 feet remote control drone and tested it and ran 1 miles and back in second and half at eight of speed can do it ! mark tomion warp drive star drive technology has always been light . yesrs ahead. N A S A.

    wrote by alex swage