Quantum Slipstream Drive
The quantum slipstream drive (also known as quantum slipstream, slipstream drive, or simply QSD) is an advanced form of propulsion technology that allows for travel across vast distances at speeds far exceeding that of conventional warp drive. It is believed to have originally been developed by a Delta Quadrant race with the Borg designation, “Species 116”.
The crew of the USS Voyager first encountered slipstream technology in 2374 when they discovered the USS Dauntless, a vessel they were made to believe was sent by Starfleet to transport them back home to the Alpha Quadrant. It was later revealed, however, that the vessel was an elaborate ruse by an alien named Arturis who was seeking revenge on Captain Janeway and her crew for what he saw as their complicity in the assimilation of his species by the Borg. When Arturis’ plot was uncovered, he managed to kidnap Janeway and Seven of Nine, disappearing with his vessel’s slipstream drive. His goal was to deliver them to be assimilated.
Arturis was pursued in the slipstream by Voyager, which had been outfitted with the same technology. After overtaking the Dauntless and rescuing their crew, Voyager altered course to go back the way they had come. They remained in the slipstream for an hour and traveled three hundred light years before it finally collapsed. Analysis of the drive system at that time led them to believe they could not risk using the technology again.
The following year, the Voyager crew managed to construct their own quantum slipstream drive using rare benamite crystals. This unique mineral enabled them to overcome some of the limitations experienced during their previous attempt. Despite the initial promise of the new drive, however, a phase variance was discovered in the slipstream threshold which threatened to overload the drive’s quantum matrix and destroy the ship. It was suggested that a smaller vessel such as the Delta Flyer could fly ahead of Voyager in the slipstream, monitor the phase variances, and relay that information along with corrections that would then help Voyager safely navigate the quantum slipstream.
Seventeen seconds into the test flight, the phase variance of the slipstream threshold started increasing and the slipstream itself began to destabilize. Initial corrections received from the Delta Flyer had little effect. A second set of corrections was received via Seven of Nine’s cortical implants. When these new corrections were implemented, the slipstream dispersed and Voyager returned safely to normal space, eliminating approximately ten years from their journey to the Alpha Quadrant. Only later, was it discovered that the second set of corrections they received had actually come from the Harry Kim of an alternate future.
The Vesta Project
Starfleet Command first learned of the quantum slipstream drive in 2376 after receiving technical specifications and sensor data from Voyager via the work of Project Pathfinder. Analysis of the information began immediately in the hope that it might yield some method of bringing the Voyager crew home. Not long afterward, a team was formed at Utopia Planetia Fleet Yards to take on the project of making quantum slipstream drive a workable reality.
With Voyager’s safe return to the Alpha Quadrant in 2378, it was no longer necessary that Starfleet develop a functioning slipstream drive as a means of bringing the Voyager crew home. The drive’s potential for use in deep space exploration, however, remained and so the work continued. Having access to the physical hardware and personal experience brought back by the Voyager crew gave the team a significant advantage. Within a relatively short time, they were ready to begin the initial testing phase.
The first official tests of a Starfleet-built quantum slipstream drive began in 2380 utilizing specially designed drone ships. These were followed by the construction of the first Spirit-class vessels, which served as the primary testbed for the next phase of slipstream development. The re-prioritization of Utopia Planetia toward a total emphasis on the Romulan evacuation fleet in 2381 shifted primary responsibility for the Vesta Project to the 40 Eridani A Starfleet Construction Yards in orbit of Vulcan. By the year 2385, all efforts were focused on incorporating a fully functioning slipstream drive system into the newly designed Vesta-class starship.
Commissioned at 40 Eridani A Yards in 2386, the prototype USS Vesta was dispatched to the Eleventh Fleet patrol zone to conduct her shakedown and slipstream trials away from civilized areas. The results of these trials were found to be in line with those of earlier testing. Although a few of the tests did uncover some flaws that the smaller test vessels did not experience, refinements to the system and additional tuning of the Vesta spaceframe ultimately proved the system’s viability for use aboard larger starships.
Development on the quantum slipstream drive continued even after the Vesta entered regular service. Data from the shakedown tests was reviewed by Captain Valerie Palmer and her team at the 40 Eridani A Yards. This was later supplemented with ongoing field reports submitted by the Vesta’s crew, making it possible for the design team to further refine the slipstream drive system.
By 2392, Starfleet had made the decision to begin refitting certain individual vessels with quantum slipstream drive systems whilst newer vessels to leave Starfleet shipyards often had the system added as standard. Among the newer classes of vessels to receive the propulsion advancement, the new Polaris-class explorers were fitted with the drive at the Beta Antares Shipyards in the Bajor sector. The first vessels of the class, the USS Polaris and her sister, the USS Ulysses, left the shipyards in late 2393 for systems testing.
The current Starfleet quantum slipstream drive system maintains a cruising velocity of one hundred (100) light years per hour. This can be sustained for a period of five (5) hours before the auto-shutdown sequence is initiated. Forty (40) minutes of preparation, inspection, and warm-up are required before making a standard slipstream jump. Afterwards, the system will require at least thirty-six (36) hours to cool down and a minimum of seventy-two (72) hours if the auto-shutdown sequence was initiated.
Vessels equipped with a Starfleet quantum slipstream drive can achieve an emergency velocity of three hundred (300) light years per hour. However, these speeds can only be maintained for one (1) hour before the auto-shutdown sequence is initiated. Forty (40) minutes of preparation, inspection, and warm-up are still required before making a standard slipstream jump. A full seventy-two (72) hours are required for the system to cool down afterwards. In addition, a vessel which has made such a jump will require considerable maintenance and repair at a qualified shipyard facility to account for the damage sustained as well as the resources expended in making the jump.
Any attempt to activate the quantum slipstream drive before the full cool-down cycle has been completed presents an extreme risk of slipstream failure and the significant possibility that the vessel in question will be severely damaged or destroyed.
Benamite crystals are rare, unstable, and extremely difficult to synthesize. The supply of benamite crystals allotted to each vessel equipped with a quantum slipstream drive has only a finite use as the crystals are in a constant state of decay, a problem which is exacerbated by the crystal’s use. When operational guidelines are followed, the benamite matrix is expected to require servicing at a qualified shipyard facility once every two (2) years. If these parameters are exceeded, the benamite matrix will last significantly less time.
Failure to abide by Starfleet regulations when utilizing the quantum slipstream drive will result in an investigation and a hearing at which disciplinary action may be taken.
Starfleet Command has ordered the strictest security and marked all materials pertaining to the quantum slipstream drive as classified. This is largely due to the anticipated impact such technology will have on the balance of power across the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. While it is expected that other powers will eventually become aware of the drive’s existence, Starfleet considers it of paramount importance that the specifications are not allowed to pass into the hands of non-Starfleet personnel.