Distances between stars are too vast to be traversed at slower-than-light speeds within typical sentient lifespans. Every known interstellar empire has been made possible only by its development of faster-than-light (FTL) travel. The mechanism for this is the hyperspace jump drive.

Hyperspace Physics

To clear up a common confusion about the nature of hyperspace, it is not some "alternate universe" that starships move to and fly around in at FTL speeds. When a ship "jumps" or "enters hyperspace", it actually creates a bubble of warped space around itself, and that bubble transports the ship to its destination, collapsing at a pre-set time in order to release the ship back into normal space.

This has some important implications for what a ship can and cannot do in "hyperspace":

Jump Drive Engineering

The larger a mass to be moved into hyperspace, the larger the jump drive has to be and the more fuel it must consume. While there is no theoretical maximum mass that can be moved, engineering limitations put a practical limit on it. The kilometre-long Krai battlecruisers are the biggest ships that can be moved. Bigger ships would require drives of a size that are just not possible with known technology. (However, in an alternate 24th century, the Warscout from Dimension W was constructing hyperspace engines powerful enough to move the entire Earth.)

Similarly, there are practical lower limits to the size of drive that can be built, meaning that very small ships cannot be made hyperspace-capable simply because a drive could not fit into a very small hull. The Boluscan Pulsar class scouts are probably the smallest ships able to carry a jump drive. (However, the Earth scientist Abner Winkernickle successfully built a hyperspace engine into a large suit of armour.)

The great empires of known space (Boluscan, Krai, and High Illonan) all developed hyperspace technology separately, but all operate on the same physical principles. There are minor differences in engineering capabilities, though. It is acknowledged that High Illonan engines are superior and therefore their ships are faster than equivalently sized Krai or Boluscan ships, while the Krai have the edge in larger engine design and construction, and so Krai battlecruisers tend to be much larger than those used by the Boluscans or High Ilonans.

Another factor is fuel. The only energy source powerful enough to trigger a hyperspace jump is matter-antimatter annihilation. Although ships can obtain the "matter" component from the environment (via hydrogen fuel scoops), antimatter must be manufactured and carried by the ship. The greater the mass of the ship, the more energy, and so more antimatter, is required for each jump. Ships can usually carry sufficient fuel for multiple jumps, but their range is not unlimited before being refuelled with more antimatter.

Typical Speeds

Travel speeds in hyperspace jumps are expressed in parsecs per hour. This is sometimes referred to as a "warp number" or "warp factor". For example, six parsecs per hour is "warp six".

Large military cruisers typically travel at between warp five and six. Smaller vessels such as scouts, optimised for speed, will typically travel between warp six and seven. Larger civilian ships such as freighters will rarely travel higher than warp five. One experimental Earth vessel, the Millennium Q, is reported as exceeding warp 10.

To give an idea of what this means in practical terms, we will consider a Boluscan Pulsar class scout with a maximum speed of warp six point five. This ship would travel 6.5 parsecs per hour, with a maximum single jump distance of 1092 parsecs. Here are some typical journeys this ship might undertake.

Journey Distance (parsecs) Travel time Number of jumps
Bolusca to regional capital 4-TE 267 41 hours 1
Bolusca to Earth 4100 27 days 4
Bolusca to Krai Border 5500 35 days 5
Average distance between stars 1.5 15 minutes 1


Before jumping to hyperspace, a suitable course must be plotted. This is an incredibly complex operation, as the presence of gravity wells and other interstellar phenomena must be accounted for. It is generally considered to be nothing like dusting crops. Even the most powerful computers known can take several minutes to plot a jump. (However, the Star Guard scientist ENIAC has been known to plot jumps in seconds.) The ship's pilots don't need to be concerned about these calculations, they just need to tell the navigation subsystem where the jump endpoint should be, and then engage the drive once the course is calculated for them.

Reckless pilots who attempt a jump without waiting for a suitable course to be plotted will probably find their trip will end real quick.

Jumps cannot be performed to or from positions too deep in the gravity well of a star or planet, meaning that ships will have to spend some time under conventional drive to reach the minimum safe distance before jumping to hyperspace.

Tachyon Communication

Tachyon communication (sometimes called subspace radio) is a phenomenon not connected to hyperspace travel in any way, though it does happen faster than light. Tachyon communicators generate FTL particles that can carry information over vast distances at speeds many orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light. It allows a far-flung galactic empire near-instantaneous communication. Interference from interstellar phenomena can cause communication to become unreliable and limited in bandwidth over very great distances, however.

An offshoot of this technology is active tachyon sensors, which use returning pulses of tachyons to detect the presence of distant objects, for example the gravity wave ripples of a fleet crossing your borders.

Other Travel Methods

There are a few other phenomena that allow FTL travel over great distances. These are beyond the scope of this article, but include travel through wormholes (both natural and artificial), travel via the Nth Dimensional Parallax, possibly astral projection, and various other types of trans-dimensional portal (usually magical in nature).

Certain super-powerful beings (for example, Supernova, Corona, Solaris, Hyperman, Galaxia, the Golden Guardian, the Silver Sentinel, and Plutonium) have the ability to travel FTL under their own power, often in ways that defy the physics of hyperspace travel. The mechanisms for this are poorly understood.