Faster-Than-Light or FTL is a term that refers to the propagation of matter faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. In accordance with the Special Theory of Relativity, a particle (that has rest mass) with subluminal velocity needs infinite energy to accelerate to the speed of light, although Special Relativity does not mathematically prohibit the existence of theoretical subatomic particles that travel faster than light at all times (called tachyons).

In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, FTL travel is the primary method of long-distance interstellar transportation in the known galaxy. The various forms of this advanced technology allows its users to traverse immense distances of interstellar space in a reasonable amount of time rather than the Terran decades to standard centuries required by conventional, sublight propulsion.

Notable Methods of FTL TravelEdit

  • Dolmen Gates - A Dolmen Gate is a living stone portal that serves as a gate into a portion of the Webway that was created millions of Terran years ago by the highly advanced xenos species known as the Old Ones. Dolmen Gate technology was first developed by the Necrons with the aid of a C'tan so that they might make use of interstellar travel without having to face the dangers of the Warp.
  • Ether Drive (Gravitic Drive) - An Ether Drive is a form of non-Newtonian, reactionless FTL starship drive that allows for faster-than-light travel by skating the boundary between realspace and the Warp. Unlike an Imperial Warp-Drive, which allows a starship to fully enter and navigate through the Warp to achieve apparent superluminal speeds and reduced travel times in realspace, the Tau Ether Drive only allows a starship to make a brief "dive" into Warpspace. While a Tau starship outfitted with an Ether Drive can still achieve apparent superluminal velocities from the perspective of realspace, interstellar travel using this technology is far slower than conventional Warp travel. Despite the Tau's lack of psykers, and their lack of understanding of the true nature of the Empyrean, the Earth Caste have nevertheless developed an effective drive system that is sufficient to suit the needs of the rapidly expanding Tau Empire. These technologies are utilised exclusively by the Tau for interstellar travel. Note: The Gravitic Drive was once considered canonical, but its canonicity is now questionable due to contradiction by new sources. Please see ZFR Horizon Accelerator Engine below.
  • Inertialess Drive - The Inertialess Drive is a non-Newtonian, reactionless form of voidcraft propulsion that allows a vessel equipped with it to move through space without any form of inertia. This allows the voidcraft to actually travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum in realspace without increasing its mass to an infinite size or requiring an infinite amount of power. How this is accomplished without violating the known laws of physics is completely unknown to Imperial Tech-adepts. The Inertialess propulsion system is utilised exclusively by the Necrons, who are capable of interstellar travel without the need to enter the Warp when using this technology. Like much about Necron technology, its inner workings are completely arcane to Imperial science.
  • Narvhal - The Narvhal is a unique Tyranid bio-ship that allows Tyranid Hive Fleets to traverse interstellar space by warping space-time between the origin and destination star systems without the need for entering the chaotic multidimensional space of the Warp.
  • Warp-Drive - This technology allows a voidcraft outfitted with it to make a jump from realspace into the multidimensional space-time geometry of the Immaterium, colloquially referred to by most in the Imperium of Man as "the Warp." A Warp-Drive is integrated into the voidcraft used by many intelligent races of the galaxy, including those of the Imperium.
  • Warp Engines - A Warp Engine is the uncertain and erratic technology utilised by the Ork race to make use of Warp travel. Many of these Warp Engines are rebuilt from the ruins of salvaged Imperial Warp-Drives, while other are bizarre contraptions built around the disembodied brains of Ork Weirdboyz. Like all Ork technology, no matter how outlandish, Warp Engines seem to be powered ultimately by the gestalt psychic powers of the Greenskin species as a whole, allowing their creations to seemingly violate the known laws of realspace physics.
  • Webway - The Webway is an extra-dimensional pocket dimension partitioned off from the Immaterium millions of Terran years ago by an extremely advanced xenos species known as the Old Ones that traverses most of the known galaxy and perhaps beyond. Today, it is utilised by the Eldar of the Craftworlds and their Dark Eldar counterparts for faster-than-light travel.
  • ZFR Horizon Accelerator Engine - The ZFR Horizon Accelerator Engine, also known informally as the ZFR Drive, is a system of interstellar starship propulsion that was the great invention of the Tau Earth Caste and allowed the Tau Empire to expand rapidly during the Second Sphere Expansion. It is the primary means of Tau interstellar travel, and is used by all of the vessels of the Tau Navy, the Kor'vattra. An ingenious design, this powerful new mechanism allowed Tau starships to attain near-light speed. It was this device that would usher in the next phase of progress, as now Tau vessels could reach new star systems in only a few objective Terran years, while their crews experienced very little subjective passage of time due to the relativistic effects of moving at such high speeds.


  • Battlefleet Gothic: Armada (Blue Book), pp. 96, 98, 105
  • Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, Appendices, pg. 96
  • Battlefleet Gothic Magazine 13, "The Cerberus War: Endgame," pp. 22-23, 25
  • Battlefleet Gothic Resources: Necron & Tyranid Fleets
  • Codex: Chaos Daemons (4th Edition), pp. 18, 43
  • Codex: Dark Eldar (7th Edition), pp. 8, 11-15, 18-20, 35, 42, 54, 63, 75, 85-86, 88, 95, 98, 105-107, 110, 114
  • Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition), pp. 6-8, 20
  • Codex: Dark Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 15
  • Codex: Eldar (7th Edition), pp. 9, 12, 15, 23, 26-27, 44, 52-55, 58, 135, 146, 149, 153, 166, 181, 189, 193, 197
  • Codex: Eldar (4th Edition), pp. 12-13
  • Codex: Eldar (3rd Edition), pg. 3
  • Codex: Eldar (2nd Edition), pp. 5-6
  • Codex: Harlequins (7th Edition) (Ebook), pp. 3, 7, 9, 12, 15, 21, 23, 27, 30, 34-35, 37, 68, 70
  • Codex: Necrons (5th Edition), pp. 6, 8, 27
  • Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), pg. 24
  • Codex: Tau Empire (6th Edition), pp. 11-13, 19
  • Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema (RPG), pg. 77
  • Epic Swordwind, pp. 3, 22
  • Horus Heresy: Collected Visions, pp. 322, 324, 326, 328, 350-351, 359-361
  • Rogue Trader: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 181, 183, 192, 199, 227, 310-313, 316-317
  • Rogue Trader: Battlefleet Koronus (RPG), pp. 75-78
  • The Horus Heresy - Book Two: Massacre by Alan Bligh, pg. 27
  • Warhammer 40,000: Compendium (1st Edition)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pg. 131
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (7th Edition), Voyages through the Immaterium
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pg. 146
  • Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (4th Edition), pg. 122
  • Flight of the Eisenstein (Novel) by James Swallow
  • Daemonigfuge (Graphic Novel)
  • Inquisition War Trilogy
    • Draco (Novel) by Ian Watson
    • Harlequin (Novel) by Ian Watson
    • Chaos Child (Novel) by Ian Watson
  • Atlas Infernal (Novel) by Rob Sanders
  • Execution Hour (novel) by Gordon Rennie
  • Specialist Games Resources: Tau Fleets (Link Defunct)

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