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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Slipstream (disambiguation).

"Slipstream" is a science fiction term for a fictional method of faster-than-light space travel, similar to hyperspace travel, warp drive, or "transfer points" from David Brin's Uplift series.


Usage in Star Trek

Quantum slipstream was a starship drive used in two episodes of the science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager. It first appeared in the season 4 finale, "Hope and Fear". Similar to the Borg transwarp conduits, the slipstream is a narrowly-focused, directed field that is initiated by manipulating the fabric of the space-time continuum at the quantum level using the starship's navigational deflector array. It works by focusing a quantum field through a deflector dish to generate massive changes in local space curvature. This creates a subspace tunnel, which is projected ahead of the vessel. Once a ship has entered this tunnel, the forces inside propel it at incredible speed. In order to maintain the slipstream, a ship has to constantly modify the quantum field with its deflector dish; however, the calculations involved are too complicated, and the time available too short for 24th century Starfleet computer technology. When this technology was discovered by the crew of the lost and stranded USS Voyager, it was hoped this could be used to allow the starship to travel at even greater speeds: the first test of this drive allowed the ship to travel 300 light years in minutes.

However, in the episode Timeless, the technology proved to be dangerously unstable, resulting in the loss of all hands (save for Harry Kim and Chakotay) of the Voyager in an alternate timeline. With the shipboard computer unable to map the phase variance in the slipstream fast enough to calculate deflector corrections, Harry Kim and Chakotay offered to take the Delta Flyer ahead to map the slipstream and send the data in advance to Voyager. A miscalculation caused Voyager to fall violently out of slipstream, resulting in the starship's deadly crash-landing onto the surface of an ice planet on the outskirts of the Alpha Quadrant. Fifteen years later, after the remains of Voyager are finally discovered, Harry Kim and Chakotay, who survived the trip home onboard the Delta Flyer, sends calculations back in time to Seven of Nine, by using a Borg temporal transmitter, which they believe will allow the slipstream to hold and Voyager to return to Earth. They are unsuccessful, but with no chance to correct their mistake, Harry takes the advice of The Doctor, whose program had been recovered from the wreckage and re-activiated, and instead sends new calculations which collapse the slipstream field before the accident occurred in the primary timeline. Seven of Nine stated that she would continue studying it in hopes of someday reacquiring slipstream travel.

Quantum Slipstream technology was one of the items requested in the Think Tank episode, despite Captain Janeway's admission they never got it to work properly.

Usage in Andromeda

Slipstream travel is also used in the science fiction television series Andromeda.

Slipstream: it's not the best way to travel faster than light, it's just the only way.

Dylan Hunt, Episode 1x06: Angel Dark, Demon Bright



According to the show, a Gravity Field Generator drastically reduces the mass of the ship and then a slipstream drive opens a slippoint which the ship enters. The pilot then navigates the series of slipstream "tunnels" until they reach the desired slippoint where they exit the slipstream. Quoted from

Since its discovery nearly 10,000 years ago by Vedran physicist Rochinda, the slipstream has connected the galaxies together. Slipstream is an extension of our reality, an additional dimension that's integrally intertwined with our own. The slipstream is a place where quantum connections are visible as cords, especially the large and strong connections like those between huge concentrations of matter such as planets or suns. A spaceship that enters the slipstream can harness the energy of these cords and ride them from one star system to another.

One interesting thing about moving through the slipstream is that travel time between points has very little to do with the distance actually traveled. If a pilot is lucky, and the stream unfolds just right, the ship could transit between galaxies in minutes. But put an unlucky pilot at the helm and the same trip could take weeks or even months.

Luckily for the cause of interstellar commerce and communication, the more a certain path is frequently traveled, the faster, easier and more predictable the journey becomes. As a result, frequently-traveled routes between major Commonwealth worlds -- Vedra to San-Ska-Re, for example -- are safe and convenient.

Another unusual aspect of slipstream is the requirement of an organic pilot to guide a starship through the slipstream. At an intersection of pathways in slipstream space, both paths manifest the potentiality of being correct and incorrect. It's only when the pilot chooses a specific direction that this potentiality collapses and one path becomes right, and the other wrong. For reasons still not completely understood, organic beings tend to choose the correct paths, or more precisely, the very act of choosing makes the path they have chosen the correct one.

But strangely, computers -- even ones with artificial intelligence -- are incapable of this reality-altering guesswork. Even the most sophisticated starship in the Systems Commonwealth requires an organic sentient to pilot through the starlanes -- a prospect some sentients regard as deeply disturbing but others find comforting.

It was once stated by Andromeda that an A.I. attempting slipstream travel has a 50% chance of selecting the correct route at each intersection encountered, owing to organic 'intuition' a living pilot has a greater than 99% chance of guessing the correct route to take.

Usually one has to enter and exit slipstream several times before reaching their final destination. Slipstream travel almost always results in very little or no time dilation.

Limits of slipstream

Due to the complex nature of slipstream probability and difficulty in mapping slipstream, only biological entities are capable of successfully navigating it. Exiting slipstream near the edge of a galaxy or in certain regions of space could be dangerous because it is difficult to find a slippoint in these areas. If a slippoint cannot be found, or a slipstream drive is damaged, the ship is stranded and limited to slower than light speed.

Usage in Doctor Who

In the episode "World War Three" we find out that the Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius uses a Slipstream drive as a form of travel.

Usage in Halo

In the Microsoft video game series Halo, slipspace (also known as slipstream space) is the general method of faster-than-light travel. Both the Covenant and their human opponents, the United Nations Space Command forces use slipspace to travel between systems, the UNSC using the human-developed Shaw-Fujikawa translight engine.


According to The Halo Library:

This...engine allowed ships to tunnel into...slipspace... Slipspace is a domain with alternate physical laws, allowing faster-than-light travel without relativistic side-effects. Faster-than-light travel is not instantaneous; "short" jumps routinely take up to two months, and "long" jumps can last six months or more. Entire crews of some ships have been reported to disappear with no damage to the ship what so ever. ...scientists noted an odd "flexibility" to temporal flow while inside the Slipstream. Though no human scientist is sure why travel time between stars is not constant, many theorize that there are "eddies" or "currents" within the Slipstream—there is generally a five to ten percent variance in travel times between stars. This temporal inconsistency has given military tacticians and strategists fits—hampering many coordinated attacks. The Covenant have a very finely tuned version of this technology, and it is far superior to the UNSC's. Instead of simply tearing a hole into slipspace, it cuts a very fine slit and slips into slipspace with precision. It exits the same way, and can have pinpoint accuracy. It can even do so to slipspace within planetary atmospheres, though this is highly damaging to the surface of the planet.


To continue the previous metaphor, the Shaw-Fujikawa drive is described as violently punching a hole through to slipspace next to the Covenant and Forerunner surgical precision of travel. The possible method behind this precision is shown in Halo:First Strike, when the AI Cortana takes control of a Covenant ship. When attempting to jump inside of the gas giant Thresholds atmosphere, she was able to 'see' the bends and distortions of real space, and 'picked' her way through them into slipspace.

It has also been stated that "slipspace is a misnomer since; "there is nothing to slip across, and no space to travel through."


The workings of the drive are described in more detail in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, on page 53.

"Shaw-Fujikawa engines allowed UNSC ships to leave normal space and plow through a dimensional subdomain colloquially known as "Slipstream space." ... The drive used particle accelerators to rip apart normal space-time by generating micro black holes. Those holes evaporated via Hawking radiation in a nanosecond. The real quantum mechanical "magic" of the drive was how it manipulated those holes in space-time, squeezing a hundred-thousand-ton cruiser into Slipspace."


As aforementioned, slipspace travel is, when measured by Faster Than Light standards, slow. It can take weeks or months to travel from system to system, the inefficiencies of the Shaw-Fujikawa engine compounding the problems. A craft that travels through slipspace appears to travel faster than light to an outside observer, but the velocity is undefined for the craft relative to the slipspace field as in dv/0x. The craft does not travel through normal space, but around it.

The Shaw-Fujikawa drive also requires ships to enter and exit slipspace as far away from other masses as possible, as even the gravity of another ship can make slipspace calculations impossible. Because of this, an organized fleet of ships entering slipstream will exit into normal space haphazardly. The Covenant also seem able to read the slipstream currents better than the UNSC, allowing them to move faster, more precisely, and within a gravity well. This also allows them to move their entire fleets in battle-ready formations, giving them an advantage in conflicts against the UNSC.

Another limitation of slipspace travel as stated in the Halo universe, is that whenever a ship carrying plutonium for use in nuclear weapons enters normal space a large amount of Cherenkov Radiation is released which can alert any nearby forces of the slipspace re-entry.

Ships in Slipspace are not immune to detection from vessels in the normal plane, as hinted at by Cortana at the start of Halo 2; she informs Lord Hood, OC the MAC Platform Cairo, that "whispers" had been detected near Io, immediately before the confirmed arrival of a small Covenant Battlegroup. As well as humans are able to send "drones" into slip space to loosely monitor currents and objects traveling through them, obtaining rough, and often unrecognizable images(as mentioned in the books). Though this may be explained not by monitoring it from normal space, but because the Covenant's tactics often involved periodically dropping out of slipspace for an unknown reason(shown in Halo:Fall of Reach), possibly to observe the enemy before choosing to attack, and they dropped out by the UNSC base on Io.


  • Halo: The Fall of Reach
  • Halo: First Strike
  • Halo: Ghosts of Onyx

See also


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