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Warp core breach close up

A warp core breach begins

For the beverage, please see Warp core breach (beverage).

A warp core breach, or warp drive containment breach, was a catastrophic failure of a starship's warp core.


A breach could occur in a variety of ways, but was frequently characterized by a coolant leak from the main reaction chamber, resulting in a runaway reaction within the warp core. Antimatter containment was lost, and the resultant contact between antimatter and the normal matter of the ship destroyed the vessel.

Consequences and prevention[]

The breach was almost always irreversible, as most safety protocols and systems would have failed prior to the event. Warp core ejection was a common method of dealing with a breach, although this was considered a last ditch effort and often failed aboard. The evacuation of the crew to the primary hull and initiating separation was also used in cases where the vessel had that capability, such as on Galaxy-class vessels. In situations where a saucer separation could not be initiated, then evacuation of the ship via escape pods or shuttles would occur. Regardless, the aim was to get as much distance between the core and the crew as possible before detonation. In the case of saucer separation (or warp core ejection), the ship was left running on impulse power and batteries, as the warp core and warp nacelles were required for warp drive.


In September 2153, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed suggested overloading the Seleya's power grid in order to disrupt the ship's bulkhead mechanisms and allow the Enterprise NX-01's away team the chance to escape. However, Sub-commander T'Pol warned that in the ship's condition, doing so would likely also shut down antimatter containment in the already unstable warp reactor, causing a breach. However, Captain Jonathan Archer saw no other choice and ordered the overload which caused the Seleya to be wracked by a series of explosions before finally detonating in one massive explosion as the reactor breached. (ENT: "Impulse")

In 2154 Klingon Augments lead by Marab boarded and sabotaged the Enterprise NX-01 by changing the engineering subroutines to shut down the antimatter flow regulators, causing an overload in the ship's intermix chamber, and threating a warp core breach if Enterprise dropped to impulse. Commander Charles Tucker III did a risky ship to ship transfer from Columbia and repaired the warp core so they could continue their pursuit and catch the Klingon ship that had kidnapped Phlox. (ENT: "Affliction", "Divergence")

In 2259, La'an Noonien-Singh tried to blow up the USS Enterprise by shutting down the antimatter containment field in the warp core while she was infected with an Illyrian virus. Una Chin-Riley was immune to the virus and was able to stop La'an and reactivate the containment field. (SNW: "Ghosts of Illyria")

In 2267, Khan Noonien Singh tried to blow up the Enterprise by overloading the warp core when he failed to capture it. James T. Kirk stopped him and the overload in time. (TOS: "Space Seed")

In 2365, the USS Yamato had been scanned by the Iconian probe orbiting the planet of Iconia in the Romulan Neutral Zone. After the Yamato rendezvous with her sister ship the USS Enterprise-D, the energy build up in the engineering section by the Iconian scan overloaded the warp core. (TNG: "Contagion")

In 2367, following the Battle of Wolf 359, the USS Saratoga was destroyed by a warp core breach after it battled Locutus' cube. The survivors managed to make it into escape pods and escape the detonation. Benjamin Sisko and his son Jake were among the survivors. (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II"; DS9: "Emissary")

In 2368, Commander Riker remembered a containment breach situation in main engineering due to a telepathic memory invasion by the Ullian Jev. Ensign Keller died during this event. (TNG: "Violations")

In 2368, the Enterprise-D collided with the USS Bozeman after encountering a space-time distortion in the Typhon Expanse, causing a warp core breach which destroyed the ship. The explosion led to the creation of a temporal causality loop, from which the Enterprise was able to avoid the collision before it happened. (TNG: "Cause And Effect")

Voyager engineering, warp core breach

Engineering aboard the Voyager moments before a warp core breach

Warp core breach flashpoint

The flashpoint of a core breach

In 2369, the Enterprise-D was destroyed by a warp core breach, generated by a massive energy feedback into the warp core from a power transfer to a Romulan vessel. The core breach was averted when time reset itself and Captain Picard remotely steered a runabout into the transfer beam. (TNG: "Timescape")

In 2370, in order to prove her theories, Doctor Serova purposefully caused a warp core breach on her ship, exposing a region of subspace instability to a massive amount of warp field energy in order to create a subspace rift. (TNG: "Force of Nature")

In 2371, the engineering hull of the Enterprise-D was destroyed in a warp core breach caused by a coolant leak following rupture of the magnetic interlocks due to an attack by a D12-class Bird-of-Prey. The ion shock wave created by the explosion of the vessel's stardrive section caused the vessel's saucer section to be disabled and crash-land on Veridian III. All hands survived, but the vessel was a total loss. (Star Trek Generations) However, Geordi La Forge eventually rebuilt the vessel by 2401, repairing the damage to the saucer section over the course of twenty years and replacing the engineering hull with that of the USS Syracuse. (PIC: "Võx")

Later that year, the USS Voyager suffered severe damage after being transported to the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker's array. Engineering reported to Captain Kathryn Janeway that they were facing a possible warp core breach from the damage and the Chief Engineer was dead. Janeway ordered all engineering systems to be secured and went down to help out personally. The computer reported a microfracture in the warp core and Janeway had the magnetic constrictors locked down despite worries from Lieutenant Joe Carey that they wouldn't be able to initialize the dilithium reaction again if the constrictors were locked down at the current extremely high pressure levels, thus making warp drive impossible. The crew then managed to seal the microfracture, repairing the warp core which came back online fully stabilized. (VOY: "Caretaker")

In early 2372, as a result of a subspace inversion of the Bajoran wormhole, the USS Defiant was under threat of a core breach, with the ejection system disabled. Benjamin Sisko was able to shunt the excess power over to the deflector array with the help of an interphasic compensator, averting the breach. (DS9: "The Visitor")

In 2374 during a test of the Borg transwarp drive aboard the Voyager, tachyons got into the warp core and almost caused a warp core breach. B'Elanna Torres was able to eject the warp core and evacuate engineering. (VOY: "Day of Honor")

In 2383, damage from a tachyon storm caused the USS Protostar's proto-core to go into a warp core breach. Across several fractured temporal phases, the breach occurred, destroying the ship and killing Jankom Pog, Murf, Dal R'El and Gwyndala. However, Rok-Tahk managed to build a warp matrix before the breach occured in her temporal phase and install it with the help of Hologram Janeway, stopping the warp core breach and fixing the temporal anomaly. (PRO: "Time Amok")

In 2384, Jankom referred to the detonation of the Protostar's proto-core as a supernova warp core breach which would destroy everything in 50 million miles, including the entire star system that the ship was in. By taking the ship to proto-warp at the moment of detonation, Hologram Janeway was able to spread the destructive energy across dozens of light years, minimizing the damage. (PRO: "Supernova, Part 2")

In circa 3069, much of the Milky Way Galaxy's dilithium suddenly went inert in an event known as the Burn, which resulted in any starship with an active warp core losing antimatter containment and exploding. Millions of people were killed in this event. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 1", "People of Earth")

Risk factors[]

Nucleonic particles from a polaric field flooded the intake manifolds of Enterprise NX-01 in 2153, causing an injector flare that could have caused a warp core breach. Trip Tucker sustained life-threatening injuries during a manual shutdown of the reactor to prevent the breach. (ENT: "Similitude")

Antineutrinos tended to have a neutralizing effect on warp core containment fields of Federation starships. A Sikarian spatial trajector field, utilizing antineutrinos, nearly caused a warp core breach on the USS Voyager. (VOY: "Prime Factors") One of the USS Voyager's shuttlecraft, the Cochrane, was destroyed by a warp core breach in 2374. Its occupants, B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris, had to don environmental suits and beam into open space to await rescue. (VOY: "Day of Honor")

The reaction of veridium isotopes with warp plasma would cause a warp core breach. This led to the near destruction of the Delta Flyer in 2377, although the warp core was successfully ejected into a class J nebula before the explosion could destroy the vessel. (VOY: "Drive")

If a large number of tachyons leaked into a warp core, a warp core breach was almost certain to occur, as a result of the tachyons creating a resonance frequency causing the core pressure to increase out of control. (VOY: "Day of Honor")

Deliberate initiations[]

USS Enterprise-D, warp core breach

A warp core breach in progress

Warp core breaches were occasionally performed deliberately; they were most often used as the primary means of fulfilling a starship's auto-destruct sequence.

Q purposefully caused the core aboard the Enterprise-D to breach in 2369 (so that, if he was right and she was in fact a Q, Amanda Rogers could prevent it), and Geordi La Forge caused a breach of the USS Enterprise-E's warp core in 2375 to seal a subspace tear caused by an isolytic burst (the core having been ejected from the ship prior to detonation). (TNG: "True Q"; Star Trek: Insurrection)

In 2258 of Nero's alternate reality, Montgomery Scott ejected and detonated the warp cores of that timeline's USS Enterprise and the resultant explosion pushed the ship free of the black hole consuming the Narada. (Star Trek)

To demonstrate the damaging effects warp drive were having on subspace, Serova took her ship out into the Hekaras Corridor and intentionally overloaded her warp engines, causing a core breach that killed her and destroyed her ship. The resultant burst of warp energy proved her theory by creating a subspace rift. (TNG: "Force of Nature")

Farrakk was killed by a warp core breach when Hagath had his ship sabotaged in 2373. (DS9: "Business as Usual")

In 3189, the crew of the USS Discovery implemented a purposeful overload of their warp core and then ejected it into the Viridian. While the Discovery escaped via its spore drive, the breach of the ejected warp core destroyed the Emerald Chain flagship. (DIS: "That Hope Is You, Part 2")