A warp factor is a term indicating velocity in the subspace realm where fasterthanlight (FTL) speeds are possible. Starfleet and the Federation has used a scale using cochrane units to measure the distortion potential of a warp drive. An original (OCU) scale was used up until the early 24th century, whereupon a revised scale (MCU) was put into effect when a more complete understanding of the nature of subspace was reached. (ST reference: Starship Spotter)
In the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the warp factor, WF, was calculated as follows:
giving a speed of 1c for Warp 1, 3c for Warp 2; at Warp 6 it reaches 243c.
In the 24th century, the warp factor, WF, was calculated as follows:
where v is the speed of the signal or starship and c = 3.0x10^{8} m/s (the speed of light). At Warp 1, a starship reaches lightspeed, or c; at Warp 6, a starship reaches a speed approximately 392 times the speed of light. This continues up to warp 9 at which point the formula destabilizes and approaches infinity. The maximum speed ascertainable appears to be just under Warp 10 (transwarp)  for most civilizations. However, the Borg (and a few other races) have broken the transwarp barrier.
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Warp factor is a unitless figure which is used to describe the speed of a starship or signal which is traveling at faster than light.
In 2379, participants in the "Great Starship Race" were limited to travel at warp factor 4 so that the slower starships in the race could still have a fair chance against the larger vessels. (Star Trek: Daedalus: "Tsunami")
