Want to take a look at our data? This chart will detail the results of our calculations.
Want to learn more about each ship’s technologies and speeds? This explainer article will break it down.
Data On The Fastest Ships In The Universe
The Fastest Ship In The Universe
|SHIP||TECHNOLOGY||ACCELERATION IN G FORCE
|Voyager 1 (NASA)||Gravity Assist||0G|
|Discovery One (2001: A Space Odyssey)||Nuclear-powered magnotoplasmadynamic thrusters||0.00002G|
|Red Dwarf (Red Dwarf)||Hydrogen engines, fuel collected via large scope at front||0.000033G|
|Ragnarok (Final Fantasy VIII)||Reaction-model 12-step compression turbines||0.015G|
|DeLorean (Back to the Future)||Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor / Flux Capacitor||0.34G|
|Jupiter 2 (Lost in Space)||Two deutronium-annihilation atomic motors||0.55G|
|Thunderbird 3 (Thunderbirds)||Ion drive / chemical rockets||1.12G|
|Space Shuttle Discovery (NASA)||Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25||3G|
|Space Launch System [SLS] (Interstellar)||Solid fuel, liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen||3.8G|
|Saturn V, Apollo 11 (NASA)||Saturn V SA-506||3.94G|
|Serenity (Firefly)||Trace Compression Block Engine||4.2G|
|Cylon Raider (Battlestar Galactica)||FTL Drive||7.5G|
|Moon Rocket X-FLR6 (Tintin)||Nuclear rocket engine||8G|
|Colonial ViperMark VII (Battlestar Galactica)||3 turbo- thrust engines||9G|
|Thunderfighter (Buck Rogers)||Fusion||9.4G|
|Kal-El’s Escape Pod (Superman: The Movie)||11G|
|The Event Horizon (Event Horizon)||Ion drive||30G|
|Swordfish II (Cowboy Bebop)||Rolls-Royce AF-15C axial fusion aero-spike turbine||50G|
|Project Orion (NASA)||Nuclear Pulse Propulsion||100G|
|TIE Fighters (Star Wars)||Twin Ion Engine||4,100G|
|Acceleration of a proton in the Large Hadron Collider||27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets||1,900,000,000G|
FASTER THAN LIGHT
|SHIP||TECHNOLOGY||Speed in C [c=299,792,458 m/s]|
|USCSS Prometheus (Prometheus)||4 ion powered plasma engines||19.5C|
|Fireball XL5 (Fireball XL5)||Nutomic reactor||24C|
|USCSS Nostromo (Alien)||Rolls-Royce N66 Cyclone thrust engines||44C|
|The Ark (Transformers)||4 Hyperfuel Intake Accelerators||115C|
|The USS Sulaco (Aliens)||Hyperdrive tachyon shunt||271C|
|USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (Star Trek)||Warp Drive||512C|
|Pillar of Autumn (Halo)||Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine||959C|
|USS Enterprise NCC-1701 D (Star Trek)||Warp Drive||1,649C|
|USS Voyager (Star Trek Voyager)||Warp Drive||1,909C|
|Borg Cube (Star Trek The Next Generation)||Transwarp Drive||7,912C|
|Prawn Mothership (District 9)||11,119C|
|Eagle 5 (Space Balls)||Liquid Schwartz||89,998C|
|Ascendant Justice (Halo)||333,164C|
|The Gunstar (The Last Starfighter)||Stardrive hyperdrive system||701,280C|
|Death Star (Star Wars)||Sepma 30-5 sublight engines||1,142,500C|
|The Roger Young (Starship Troopers)||1,300,000C|
|Galactica [BS-75] (Battlestar Galactica)||FTL (faster-than-light) drive||1,680,000C|
|Axiom (Wall-E)||BNL Hyperdrive||2,190,000C|
|Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer (Star Wars)||Ion Engine||2,285,000C|
|Trimaxion Drone Ship “Max” (Flight of the Navigator)||Phaelon technology / David’s brain||4,460,000C|
|X- Wing T- 65 Starfighter (Star Wars)||Thrust engines and hyperdrive||4,570,000C|
|Samus’s Gunship (Metroid)||Dual engines||6,500,000C|
|Slave 1 (Empire Strikes Back)||Ion Engine||6,500,000C|
|Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)||Class 0.5 Hyperdrive||9,130,000C|
|Daedalus (Stargate)||Asgard Hyperdrive||60,000,000C|
|Spaceball 1 (Space Balls)||Secret Hyperjets||1,360,000,000C|
|Planet Express (Futurama)||Darkmatter reactors with afterburners that move the universe around the ship. Later, whale oil.||4,870,000,000,000C|
|The TARDIS (Dr. Who)||The sentient ‘Heart of the Tardis’ is powered by both the Time Vortex and the Eye of Harmony, which is an exploding star permanently suspended in time.||10,000,000,000,000,000C|
|Heart of Gold (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)||Improbability Drive||∞|
Explaining How Sci-Fi Ships Stack Up
From the Millennium Falcon to the USS Enterprise, science fiction has shown us a vast array of out-of-this-world spaceships that defy our rules of physics. We’ve rounded up some of your favorite intergalactic crafts from television, film and video games, along with real NASA spacecraft, to compare and speculate who has the fastest ship.
We present our findings in either relativistic speed or faster-than-light speed (FTL). Ships travelling at the relativistic speed cannot pass the speed of light barrier because their mass would increase to infinity as their speed approaches light speed.
Ships in the Star Wars universe are also equipped with hyperdrive propulsion systems for making the jump to hyperspace (FTL speed), with the notable exception of the TIE Fighter. These hyperdrives are categorized by a class system in which lower numbers are faster. The X-wing has a class 1 rating. The Star Destroyer, which is larger and slower, is a class 2. Han Solo made illegal modifications to make the Millennium Falcon do 0.5 past light speed, but just how fast is this? 25,000 light-years per day or 1,041.66 light-years per hour. That’s a top speed of 2.74 x 1015 meters per second.
In Star Trek, FTL propulsion is achieved with a warp drive. Warp speeds are ranked, with the higher the number meaning the faster the ship. Warp 1 is the speed of light. The standard speed most enterprise ships could travel safely at is warp 8 (1.54 x 1011 m/s), with warp 10 being an unattainable infinite maximum that few ships have been able to travel close to — and not for very long.
The Galactica (BS-75) from Battlestar Galactica uses a FTL drive to achieve a top speed of 4,600 light-years in a day.
Ships from the Alien franchise get faster by an order of their magnitude. The USCSS Prometheus is able to travel at 19 times the speed of light to get to the binary star system Zeta Reticuli, which is 39 light-years from Earth, in two years.
The Trimaxion Drone Ship from Flight of the Navigator went to Phaelon, which is only 560 light-years away, in only 2.2 hours. To achieve this, it would’ve needed 130,000 g of acceleration and therefore had to exceed the speed of light.
The Ark from the Transformers cartoon travelled from Cybertron, in Proxima Centauri, 4.4 light-years to Earth. The Ark was attacked by Megatron upon takeoff and crash-landed on Earth 14 days later (because of a likely two-part episode). We estimate it was travelling 115 times the speed of light.
In Wall-E, when our robot hero first arrives on The Axiom, it is located behind the Horsehead Nebula, which is 1,500 light-years away. Assuming the journey home to Earth took eight hours, the Axiom hit a top speed of 6.57 x 1014 m/s
Fireball XL5 travelled at “Space Velocity 7,” which we estimate was 24 times the speed of light in order to reach Proxima Centauri, 4 light-years away, in 60 days (a few months).
The Roger Young from Starship Troopers travelled to Klendathu at the other side of the galaxy, 80,000 light-years away, which took the troopers only a few weeks to get there. It had to have been travelling at 1.3 million times the speed of light.
The Red Dwarf broke light speed after gradually speeding up for 3 million years while its crew was in stasis. The ship went from Saturn to Earth in four years. Red Dwarf would have traveled 1,000 trillion light-years by the time it hit light speed.
Eagle 5 from Spaceballs is said to be going “1,500 light leagues per minute.” A league is the distance a man can walk in a day. If a light league is the distance light can go in a day, Eagle 5 can travel at 90,000 times the speed of light unless Lone Star has a bottle of Liquid Schwartz. Spaceball 1 can attain a new speed definitely faster than light speed. It’s a speed so fast it causes the universe to appear in plaid. After engaging Ludacris speed for 1 minute and 5 seconds of movie time, Barf says Spaceball One must have overshot the space RV by “a week and a half”. This sets our top speed for the megalithic Spaceball One.
The closest we’ve ever really come to achieving a speed that makes the universe appear in plaid was a planned nuclear propulsion spacecraft known as Project Orion in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. It was projected to hit a maximum velocity of 10,000 kilometers per second, or 3.3% of the speed of light. The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 signed between the U.S., U.K. and U.S.S.R. to slow the nuclear arms race and halt excessive release of nuclear fallout eventually ended this project. For the time being, we’ll have to settle for Saturn V, which can achieve a top speed of 64,500 km per hour.
Comments or Contributions
Have something to share, a question to ask, or a ship that you’d like us to run the speed calculations for?
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