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The speed of light, also referred to as light speed, or the warp threshold, is the velocity that light travels in a vacuum. This constant, usually denoted c, is exactly 299,792,458 meters/second.

The Phoenix, piloted by Zefram Cochrane, was Earth's first ship to be successfully equipped with a faster-than-light propulsion system. (Star Trek: First Contact)

The ability to travel faster than light is considered to be a major technological milestone in a species' development. The Federation typically subdivides civilizations and cultures on whether they have developed technology to exceed the speed of light. The species that have not yet achieved the level of technology required are placed in the pre-warp civilization category.

Faster-than-light technology

Subspace communications

See: Subspace communications

Propulsion

See: Propulsion

Background

According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual and The Making of Star Trek, the speed of light is equivalent to the speed of warp 1 on the scales used by Starfleet in the 23rd and 24th centuries.

Modern physics experiments have shown that the "phase velocity" of laser light can exceed c, and some observed phenomena in quantum mechanics also exceed c. However, practical applications of these experiments do not exist because it can be shown that no information or particles can actually be transmitted faster than light by those methods. Other than the information cited to Star Trek: First Contact, this information is not canon, but is considered to come from a Memory Alpha permitted resource. According to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, though, faster than light travel is not possible because when an object accelerates most of its energy goes into increasing its own mass, so at speeds approaching c, all of its energy goes into this process, therefore rendering faster than light travel impossible through conventional means.

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