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Hyperspace (science fiction)

Hyperspace is a method of traveling sometimes used in science fiction. It is typically described as an alternative region of space co-existing with our own universe which may be entered using an energy field or other device. Travel in hyperspace is typically depicted as faster-than-light travel in normal space.[1] As seen in most fiction Hyperspace is most succinctly described as a "somewhere else" within which the laws of general and special relativity decidedly do not apply -- especially with respect to the speed of light being the cosmic speed limit. Entering and exiting said "elsewhere" thus directly enables travel near or faster than the speed of light -- almost universally with the aid of extremely advanced technology.

Astronomical distances and the impossibility of faster-than-light travel pose a challenge to most science-fiction authors. They can be dealt with in several ways: accept them as such (hibernation, slow boats, generation ships, time dilation - the crew will perceive the distance as much shorter and thus flight time will be short from their perspective), find a way to move faster than light (warp drive), "fold" space to achieve instantaneous translation (e.g. the Dune universe's Holtzman effect), access some sort of shortcut (wormholes), or sidestep the problem in an alternate space: hyperspace.

Hyperspace is sometimes used to enable and explain faster than light (FTL) travel in science fiction stories where FTL is necessary for interstellar travel or intergalactic travel. Spacecraft able to use hyperspace for FTL travel are sometimes said to have a hyperdrive.

Detailed descriptions of the mechanisms of hyperspace travel are often provided in stories using the plot device, sometimes incorporating some actual physics such as relativity or string theory in order to create the illusion of a seemingly plausible explanation. Hyperspace travel is nevertheless a fictional technology.

Authors may develop alternative names for hyperspace in their works, such as the Immaterium (used in Warhammer 40,000), Z space in Animorphs, or "Underspace" (U-space), commonly referred to in the works of Neal Asher.

Normal space

In normal 3-D space, the "shortest path" between two events A and B is by traveling in a straight line. Because of relativity, there is no such thing as universal time: so let the time be measured with respect to a clock whose motion matches the space-time path. Call this space-time path "P". Then the shortest path in space is simply the path in space traced by the space-time path P.

In strict mathematical terms, it may be impossible to define such a path, along which matter can travel. However, it usually is possible to find an infinite sequence of paths that converge uniformly to some limit, that is, some "limiting" path. Of course, under relativity, matter may not be able to travel along this limiting path, but light can travel along this path. In fact, the path of the light beam from A to B is the theoretical limit. No ship in normal space could follow the path of light in 4-D space time, but it can get arbitrarily close (until the energy required to go any faster exceeds the energy available).

This path (or limiting path) may not be unique: there may be many "shortest paths." Also, no path may exist; for example, suppose A lies in a black hole and B lies outside the black hole—since nothing can exit a black hole, such a path would not exist. Finally, because of general relativity, this path is not a "straight line" in the strict Euclidean sense, but is "curved." For example, if we aimed a rocket at the Moon traveling near the speed of light, the shortest path to the Moon is still a curved path. In fact, even if we aimed a photon of light at the Moon, it will follow a curved path, since gravity bends all things. The space along which the photon travels is, in fact, curved because gravity curves space itself. Just like traveling along the surface of water; if the surface of the water is swelled in a wave, then it would still be possible to travel in a straight line through the water (traveling underneath the wave,) but it would require more effort than just traveling along the curved surface of the water. It is still possible to travel in a straight line to the Moon, yet since the curved light beam is the best, the curved path close to this beam (following the path of the curved space) is better than the straight path. This is because the light beam is technically actually traveling in a straight line, relative to the curved space it is traveling in, but the space itself is curved, so it appears to an outside observer that the light beam is traveling in a curved line. Of course, if we take energy expenditures into account, then the minimum energy paths are just transfer orbits and gravity boosts that Earth space agencies predominantly use although these are not 'fast'.


Generally speaking, the idea of hyperspace relies on the existence of a separate and adjacent dimension. When activated, the hyper drive shunts the starship into this other dimension, where it can cover vast distances in an amount of time greatly reduced from the time it would take in "normal" space. Once it reaches the point in hyperspace that corresponds to its destination in real space, it re-emerges.

In other words, some (or all) paths in hyperspace may have a travel-time less than the time it takes to traverse the "shortest-path" in normal space, defined above. The time it takes to travel in hyperspace is measured in the same way time is measured in normal space, unless the hyperspace is discontinuous. For example, the path in hyperspace may not be smooth but a sequence of points, and the time change from jumping from one point to another may be abrupt. In this case, add the time jumps. Some may be positive (jumps to the future), and some negative (jumps to the past), depending on how the hyperspace is defined.

Explanations of why ships can travel faster than light in hyperspace vary; hyperspace may be smaller than real space and therefore a star ship's propulsion seems to be greatly multiplied, or else the speed of light in hyperspace is not a barrier as it is in real space. Whatever the reasoning, the general effect is that ships traveling in hyperspace seem to have broken the speed of light, appearing at their destinations much more quickly and without the shift in time that the Theory of Relativity would suggest.

In much science fiction, hyper drive jumps require a considerable amount of planning and calculation, with any error carrying a threat of dire consequences. Therefore, jumps may cover a much shorter distance than would actually be possible so that the navigator can stop to "look around", take their bearings, plot their position, and plan the next jump. Maneuvering in hyperspace may or may not be possible. The time it takes to travel in hyperspace also varies. Travel may be instantaneous or may take hours, days, weeks or more. Some theories state that a route traveled for a long time may continuously stay open.

A different concept, sometimes also referred to as "hyperspace" and similarly used to explain FTL travel in fiction, is that the manifold of ordinary three-dimensional space is curved in four or more "higher" spacial dimensions (a "hyperspace" in the geometric sense; see hypersurface, tesseract, Flatland). This curvature causes certain widely separated points in three-dimensional space to nonetheless be "adjacent" to each other four-dimensionally. Creating an aperture in 4D space (a wormhole) between these locations can allow instantaneous transit between the two locations; a common comparison is that of a folded piece of paper, where a hole punched through two folded sections is more direct than a line drawn between them on the sheet. This idea probably arose out of certain popular descriptions of General Relativity and/or Riemannian manifolds, and may be the original form from which later concepts of hyperspace arose. This form often restricts FTL travel to specific "jump points".

A difficulty with interstellar travel through hyperspace is navigation. At small distances like the local solar neighbourhood, the astronomical background cartography will not have changed much and coordinates can be extrapolated. However, as the distance traveled increases, the background cartography changes more dramatically. If slower than light speed were used for travel through normal space, it would be easy to record the change in the cartography, but because the view of the cartography is hidden when in hyperspace, it is impossible to keep a record simply by visual reconciliation alone. Science fiction has myriad solutions to this problem.

Early depictions

Though the concept of hyperspace did not emerge until the 20th century, stories of an unseen realm outside our normal world are part of earliest oral tradition. Some stories, before the development of the science fiction genre, feature space travel using a fictional existence outside what humans normally observe. In "Somnium" (published 1634), Johannes Kepler tells of travel to the moon with the help of demons. From the 1930s through to the 1950s, many stories in the science fiction magazines, Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction introduced readers to hyperspace as a fourth spatial dimension. John Campbell's "Islands of Space," which first appeared in Amazing Stories in 1931, features an early reference to hyperspace.[2]

Writers of stories in magazines used the hyperspace concept in various ways. In The Mystery of Element 117 (1949) by Milton Smith, a window is opened into a new "hyperplane of hyperspace" containing those who have already died on earth. In Arthur C. Clarke's Technical Error (1950), a man is laterally reversed by a brief accidental encounter with "hyperspace".

Hyperspace travel became widespread in science fiction, because of the perceived limitations of FTL travel in ordinary space. In E.E. Smith's Gray Lensman (1939), a "5th order drive" allows travel to anywhere in the universe while hyperspace weapons are used to attack spaceships. In Nelson Bond's The Scientific Pioneer Returns (1940), the hyperspace concept is described. Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, first published between 1942 and 1944 in Astounding, featured a Galactic Empire traversed through hyperspace. Asimov's short story Little Lost Robot (1947) features a "Hyperatomic Drive" shortened to "Hyperdrive" and observes that "fooling around with hyper-space isn't fun."

Popular depictions in science fiction

By the 1950s, hyperspace travel was established as a typical means for traveling. Many stories feature hyperspace as a dangerous place, and others require a ship to follow set hyperspatial "highways". Hyperspace is often described as being an unnavigable dimension where straying from a preset course can be disastrous.

In some science fiction, the danger of hyperspace travel is due to the chance that the route through hyperspace may take a ship too close to a celestial body with a large gravitational field, such as a star. In such scenarios, if a starship passes too close to a large gravitational field while in hyperspace, the ship is forcibly pulled out of hyperspace and reverts to normal space. Therefore, certain hyperspace "routes" may be mapped out that are safe, not passing too close to stars or other dangers.

Starships in hyperspace are sometimes depicted isolated from the normal universe; they cannot communicate with nor perceive things in real space until they emerge. Often there can be no interaction between two ships even when both are in hyperspace. This effect can be used as a plot device; because they are invisible to each other while in hyperspace, ships will encounter each other most often around contested planets or space stations. Hyperdrive may also allow for dramatic escapes as the pilot "jumps" to hyperspace in the midst of battle to avoid destruction.

In many stories, for various reasons, a starship cannot enter or leave hyperspace too close to a large concentration of mass, such as a planet or star; this means that hyperspace can only be used after a starship gets to the outside edge of a solar system, so the starship must use other means of propulsion to get to and from planets. The reasons given for such restrictions are usually technobabble, but their existence is just a plot device allowing for interstellar policies to actually form and exist. Science fiction author Larry Niven published his opinions to that effect in N-Space. According to him, such an unrestricted technology would give no limits to what heroes and villains could do. In fact, every criminal would have the ability to destroy colonies, settlements and indeed whole worlds without any chance of stopping him.

Other writers have limited access to hyperspace by requiring a very large expenditure of energy in order to open a link (sometimes called a jump point) between hyperspace and normal space; this effectively limits access to hyperspace to very large starships, or to large stationary jump gates that can open jump points for smaller vessels. These restrictions are often plot devices to prevent starships from easily escaping by slipping into hyperspace, thus ensuring epic space battles. Hyperspace is often depicted as blue, pulsing with Cherenkov radiation. An example of this is the "jump" technology as seen in Babylon 5. In addition, a jumppoint into hyperspace is seen as yellowish in color because of the redshift effect, and jumppoints leading out of hyperspace are seen as blue. Only large starships and jumpgates can create jumppoints, as well as the Vorlon-enhanced Whitestar ship. Detailed depictions are listed below.

Albedo: Erma Felna

In the science fiction anthropomorphic comic book series by Steve Gallacci (1983–2005), starships use a hyperspace drive that translates the vessel into a parallel universe where distances are vastly shorter. The hazard of this usage being that matter in the parallel universe cannot exist above the most basic elements and most physical mass sent into the hyperspace dimension begins to decay. Thus a jump must be very short or the crew risks exposure to intense levels of radiation from themselves and the ship and must take a period after each jump to recover. During wartime though a ship may be forced to make several jumps in quick succession, or one longer jump which puts the crews health at increasing risk of radiation poisoning. One entry mentions a ship exploding in a nuclear burst upon re-entry into normal space after a dangerous long distance jump. Other ships never return from hyperspace and are assumed to have disintegrated.


In the science fiction book series Animorphs, written by K.A. Applegate, hyperspace is called zero-space (z-space) and is a white nothingness in which nothing exists, not even the stray molecules in real-space. Zero-space is another universe almost, and in z-space the normal laws of physics do not apply so you can easily travel faster-than-light (FTL). Hyperspace travel is called z-space travel and ships use z-space engines to achieve FTL travel. Zero space is also used to store the extra mass when someone is morphing into something smaller than themselves (such as an ant), and is used to hold the matter drawn from when they morph into something bigger than themselves (e.g. an elephant). It was wrongly thought by Andalite scientists that, in z-space, matter by a person morphing was stored in a blob of matter, but, in fact the matter is stored like their normal selves and they can extremely rarely "hop" between their smaller morphs and their bodies in z-space. If a ship passes too close the person will either, a) "hop" from their morph to their extra mass in z-space and get pulled towards the ship or b) more likely get disintegrated by the ship's shields. Andalites, Yeerks and Pemalites alike all use z-space as a means of travel and communication.

Asimovian Hyperspace

The concept of traveling between stellar systems via the hyperspace drive or "jump" is described or mentioned in several of Isaac Asimov's short stories and novels written from the 1940s through to the 1990s. Hyperspace seems to enable teleportation on a pre-calculated route, the ends of which are in normal space. Although the timeline is not consistent, it appears to start with the development of a hyperdrive from a theoretical construct by The Brain, a positronic supercomputer built by US Robots. Interplanetary travel has already been developed, and in 2002, when US Robots demonstrates its first primitive positronic robot, it is intended to be used for mining operations on the planet Mercury.

Simultaneously, the theories of the spacewarp are developed by a research project under military control, with the assistance of positronic robots, until the first hypership is built at Hyper Base on an asteroid. Once perfected however, the drive is little used, as it is fearfully costly in energy use and still very risky. But once the existence of habitable planets around the nearer stars to Earth is established (also with robot help), the drive is further developed, and over centuries colonies are established on these planets.

The collection of more and more data on stellar systems and the analysis of stellar spectra allows the compilation of what becomes the Standard Galactic Ephemeris, with which hyperspace navigation (see The Stars, Like Dust) becomes less of an art and more of a science. It still requires complex calculations; not until the fall of the Galactic empire and expansion of the Foundation thousands of years after the first drives were developed would a ship be developed (as in Foundation's Edge) that allows the total computerization of the calculation of single or multiple hyperspace jumps and the control of the jump without human intervention. Initially there was no description of the hyperspace environment (see below). In all of Asimov's writings, where hyperspace travel is described from the viewpoint of the character to the reader, the instant of hyperspace transit is described as a feeling of momentary "insideoutness".

Hyperspace is defined (in Foundation's Edge) as a condition rather than a location. In Hyperspace, all velocity is zero. Relative to the Einsteinian metrical frame, however, speed is infinite. For navigational purposes, the Galaxy is imagined as being real (G) and imaginary (G0). Perturbations such as those experienced by ship in space from the gravitational field around an object such as a planet or even a star are exacerbated in hyperspatial travel, since mass in real space distorts hyperspace in an equal measure. 'Jumping' near to a gravitational mass is likely to make the resulting exit from hyperspace to be highly uncertain, with the level of improbability decreasing as the inverse square of the distance to the nearest gravitational 'well'.

As a condition, hyperspace translates objects as a phased tachyon wave, which once collapsed restores the objects to their meson composition instantaneously. This is supposed to happen with a minimum of energy expenditure. While it is necessary for a ship to have nuclear engine to produce the hyperspace drive field to hurl a vessel through hyperspace, nearly all of the energy expended is recovered as the hyper field collapses. Also, there is no Cherenkov radiation flash associated with re-entry from hyperspace. Asimov describes the re-entry in several stories as "The ship winked into existence...."

In Nemesis, Asimov further explores the concept of hyperspace. The space colony Rotor uses hyper-assistance to travel at speeds hovering around the speed of light, transitioning in and out of hyperspace. Also in Nemesis, a group of explorers use a spacecraft named the Superluminal to travel faster than light to a nearby star system by means of moving into and out of hyperspace. During the voyage, the captain of the spacecraft discusses that during the transition into and out of hyperspace, for a fraction of a second, part of the vessel is in regular spacetime and the other part is in hyperspace, possibly, but rarely, resulting in grave danger. A scientist on the Superluminal determines that in hyperspace gravity acts as a repellent force rather than as an attractive one.

Babylon 5

In the American science fiction television series Babylon 5 (1993–1998), hyperspace is treated as an alternative dimension where the distances between spatial bodies are significantly shorter. The primary energy expenditure in hyperspace travel is the act of "jumping" into hyperspace. While in hyperspace itself, ships use their normal propulsion systems and interstellar travel is enabled by the shortened distances. Ships must either use jumpgates, which are artificial constructs that create a rift into hyperspace, or they can use their own jump-engine. The latter is usually restricted to large vessels, as opening a rift requires a staggering amount of power. Jump gates are used by larger vessels whenever possible, to save energy.

Hyperspace in Babylon 5 is devoid of useful features, with no points of reference. Therefore, ships have to use the hyperspace beacon system—a network of transmitters located in known points in realspace (usually jumpgates) — in order to navigate. If a ship travels off the beacon network, it will become lost in hyperspace. Babylon 5 is slightly unusual in that ships in hyperspace require no energy fields to protect themselves, so an object (ship, device) that becomes lost in hyperspace can theoretically drift forever, and be rediscovered millennia later (this has been used as a plot point). Hyperspace also has currents, which will pull a disabled ship off the beacon network in a relatively short period of time.

While the hyperspace background appears to the naked eye to be a reddish/black, stormy environment in the TV series, this is inconsistent with Babylon 5 science stated elsewhere. The Technomage Trilogy states that hyperspace should have no color or other visual aspects. According to the trilogy, it has yet to be determined why the naked eye sees anything at all in hyperspace.

Hyperspace has strong boosting effects on those with psionic powers, and allowed the PsiCorps to station their mothership far off the beacons to remain hidden without getting lost.

A jump point allowing entry into hyperspace from normal space is characterized by a yellow-orange-red whirlpool, while jump points for ships emerging from hyperspace are characterized by a blue whirlpool. This is a result of the red shift of the light's wavelength moving away from the observer as the portal is opened into hyperspace and the blue shift of the light's wavelength moving towards the observer as the portal is opened from hyperspace.[3] However, there seems to be multiple ways to enter and exit hyperspace as Shadow vessels are seen entering and exiting by appearing to simply fade away, and some of the other First Ones have other visual effects associated with hyperspace travel – assuming they use hyperspace at all.

Battles in hyperspace are infrequent and avoided; it appears that most such battles in history have ended disastrously for both sides.

Jumpgates in Babylon 5 can be opened in gravity wells and even atmospheres, although the practice is extremely dangerous due to the jumpgate quickly destabilizing with all the gas being sucked in and violently exploding. Even worse is to form a red jumpgate inside a blue jumpgate, as the resulting shockwave can destroy even a Shadow battleship if caught unaware, and few ships capable of generating a jumpgate are capable of outrunning the shockwave as well. (also known as The Bonehead Maneuver)

In the Babylon 5 fictional history, Earth acquired hyperspace technology from the Centauri who allowed humans use of their pre-existing jump gates. Earth used these already established jumpgates to explore the galaxy, and presumably later researched the ability to build their own jumpgates. By the 23rd century, larger Earth ships have the ability to create their own jump point without the use of a jump gate. No specific metric has ever been given to exact hyperspace distances in the Babylon 5 universe, and series creator Straczynski has stated on at least one occasion that distances are not linear.[citation needed]

The Vorlons were able to take a piece of hyperspace and fold it onto itself like a pocket and use it as a hiding place (anything inside the pocket is apparently almost invisible to sensors and the naked eye).

In the spinoff series Crusade, there is a scene where the crew of the Excalibur encounter several large jellyfish-like entities in hyperspace, resulting in one of the aliens attempting to mate with the ship. Constructs can also be established in hyperspace to serve as "hiding places" like in "The Well of Forever".

In Babylon 5: The Lost Tales – Voices in the Dark "quantum space" is introduced, which allows travel which is twice as fast, but causes disorientation when entering. It is leftover Vorlon technology.

Battlestar Galactica (BSG)

The FTL, or "Faster Than Light", drive is a propulsion technology that allows spaceships to achieve superluminal travel. It functions along the basic principles of a jump drive, with a ship disappearing from its initial location and reappearing instantaneously in a new location.

In the miniseries (2003), some crewmembers are shown reacting with nausea and/or vertigo when undergoing a jump, though no harm appears to come to living beings even after many jumps. Making a jump eventually proves damaging to the ship's armor and structure in later episodes, after several years of continual combat and metal fatigue have taken their toll on the elderly ship. An FTL jump can be executed in the gravity well of a planet (indeed, Galactica jumps in and out of a planet's atmosphere in the episode "Exodus, Part II"). Nonetheless, it is preferred not to jump too close to a planet, not necessarily because of any physical limitations, but because if the coordinates are calculated wrong there is a risk that a ship might jump too close to the planet and crash into it, or reappear within the planet (This happens to a Raptor in the episode "Lay Down Your Burdens"). Further, a BSG FTL drive can theoretically travel anywhere in the galaxy; the limiting factor is not the drive itself, but the finite distance that the navigation computer is able to safely calculate a jump trajectory; more advanced computers are able to calculate longer range jumps (e.g. the Cylons have better computers and have an effective jump range at least three times that of the Colonials). The extreme distance that a safe jump can be plotted is called "the Red Line", and while a vessel might jump a theoretically infinite distance beyond that, it is possible the vessel could end up jumping inside a star, asteroid, or other space debris.

Colony Wars/Red Sun

In the PlayStation game Colony Wars (1997), Jump Gates are purple, whirlpool-like structures that allow the player's ship (and presumably larger craft) to be rapidly transported to other areas. Jump Gates are temporary, projected by unknown means, allow only one craft through, and collapse after use. It is possible to interrupt one of these jumps, forcing the spaceship in question to reenter normal space at a different location. When "jumping," the spacecraft is surrounded by a light that comes from all directions. This light shifts through the entire visible spectrum repeatedly.

Massive Warp Holes also appear in some missions; these look like black holes with a massive, white accretion disc swirling around the center. Warp Holes are long lasting, and may be permanent. They allow vast numbers of spacecraft through.

The Culture

In the Culture universe in the books by Iain M. Banks (1987-2012), reality is described as being formed of nested 5-dimensional (4 space and one time) hypersurfaces. The 'real space' of our forms a 4-dimensional layer, enclosing a younger and slightly smaller antimatter universe and in turn enclosed by an older and slightly larger universe. The gap between our universe and the smaller universe 'below' it is called infraspace, and the gap between our universe and the larger universe 'above' it is called ultraspace; collectively these are referred to as hyperspace. The boundary between hyperspace and other universes is called the energy grid, and is usually impassible (though in Excession one group of aliens are able to travel between universes in order to escape the heat death or big crunch of their original home). In the book Consider Phlebas it is described, as viewed from a ship, as a "vast and glittering ocean seen from a great height. The sun burning on a billion tiny wavelets." It is then described as having a smooth black blanket of cloud, suspended high above the ocean. The reader is then told to keep the sparkle of the sea despite the fact that there is no Sun. The cloud is then described as having "many sharp and tiny lights, scattered on the base of the inky overcast like glinting eyes: some singular some in pairs, or in larger groups".

Ships travel through hyperspace by using traction with its irregularities (the "waves"). The sparkles on the ocean are the ships' source of power, while the sharp lights on the cloud are stars. Black holes are described as resembling water spouts.

Ships are ordinarily unable to enter hyperspace whilst in a strong gravity well; although a Culture Mind, facing destruction during the Culture/Idiran war of Consider Phlebas, not only navigates a gravity well but also exits hyperspace within the confines of a subsurface tunnel network.


A somewhat unusual depiction of hyperspace travel is found in Frank Herbert's novel Dune (1965). In the Dune milieu, space is "folded" using a complicated distortion technology. Travel is nearly instantaneous but very dangerous because of the extremely complex calculations required, compounded by the fact that computers are forbidden by religious decree. There are no personal ships capable of hyperspace travel in the universe of Dune; the Spacing Guild performs all hyperspace travel using their heighliners equipped with Holtzman drives. This monopoly gives the Guild great power.

The Guild's Navigators megadose on the addictive substance melange, found only on the planet Arrakis. Melange's unique properties enhance human prescience and allow the Navigators to find a safe path through space, although in such large amounts it also physically mutates the Navigators. The power granted to whoever in the universe controls Arrakis and its spice is an ongoing theme of the series.

How the spacetravel was done before the melange is explained in the 'Legends of Dune' trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. The trilogy describes the time shortly before and during the discovery of space-folding. In these works the discovery of space-folding is attributed to Norma Cenva, who goes on to become the first prescient folded space navigator. Prior to this, although described in 'The Machine Crusade' as "outracing photons", vessels still took weeks or months to cross between even the closest stars.


In the Farscape series (1999–2003), the Leviathan (living ship) Moya has a natural ability known as 'Starburst' which allows it and anything close to it to travel great distances in a short amount of time. Starburst depletes a Leviathan's energy and thus cannot be used frequently. It has been said that during Starburst the ship is "riding the seams between universes".

Another travel technology that forms an important plot thread is wormhole travel, which few races master.

It is otherwise not clear how ships cover the vast distances of interstellar space.

FreeSpace universe

FreeSpace universe is depicted in a series of space combat simulation video games developed by Volition, Inc. It includes Descent: FreeSpace – The Great War (1998) and FreeSpace 2 (1999).

An alternative plane enabling FTL travel in the FreeSpace universe is called Subspace. Two types of jumps are possible. First, an intrasystem jump can occur between two points in a star system. Most small, space-faring vessels are equipped with motivators capable of these short jumps. The presence of an intense gravitational field is required, prohibiting travel beyond the boundaries of a star system. Second, ships can jump from system to system via naturally formed Subspace Nodes, connecting systems in a weblike node network. The vast majority of subspace nodes are extremely unstable, forming and dissipating in nanoseconds. Other nodes have a longer lifespan, existing for centuries or millennia before collapsing. The jump nodes sanctioned by the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance for interstellar travel are expected to remain stable for many years. Intersystem jumps (through subspace) represent a very quick method of travel; journeys that would take years—or even centuries—at light speed are only a matter of hours or days when travelling via subspace, although it's not clear exactly how long they take.

Frontier universe

The Frontier universe of space trading/combat games Frontier: Elite II (1993) and First Encounters (1995) depicts a rather classic type of hyperspace: traversing several light years through hyperspace jumps takes days or weeks, depending on the type of vessel and hyperdrive. For the player, this time passes instantaneously. The jumps consume fuel in direct proportion to the distance traveled and the (empty) mass of the vessel. The destination is always some distance away from large masses in the target star system—in systems of one medium-sized star (such as Sol), typically around 10 astronomical units; more in systems with a large white star or multiple stars.

A hyperspace cloud is created in the entry and exit points. These can be analyzed by those wishing to intercept and destroy the jumping ship, as a faster ship can reach the destination sooner. Sometimes, more often with engines that have not been maintained properly, mis-jumps occur, which leave the player in interstellar space, where the ship will be forever stranded if sufficient fuel to reach a star system is not available (sub-light drive cannot be used to reach nearby stars, even if this were physically feasible).

Due to the danger of mutations caused by the powerful engines, hyperspace jumps are impossible (due to built-in restrictions in the engines) near large populations (around 15 kilometers from an inhabited planet's surface or any large space station).

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) opens with the destruction of the planet Earth by Vogons in order to "make way for a hyperspace bypass". Hyperspace travel is not clearly described, however. The general impression is that a ship travels for a short time along a bypass through an alternative dimension and emerges at its destination. The sensation of hyperspace travel is described by Ford Prefect as "unpleasantly like being drunk." When Arthur Dent asks why that is so bad, Prefect answers, "You ask a glass of water." The experience is further described in the narrative as follows:

It is at one point stated that one of the reasons for the development of the Infinite Improbability Drive is to allow people to cross vast interstellar distances quickly "without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace". This was fitted to the starship Heart of Gold.

In a sequel, ironically, it is stated that the development of the Bistromathic Drive is to allow people to cross vast interstellar distances quickly "without all that dangerous mucking about with Improbability Factors".

Instrumentality of Mankind series

In the Instrumentality of Mankind future history series by Cordwainer Smith (written in the 1950s and 1960s), FTL travel can be accomplished through a hyperspace known as Space2.


The invention and development of the Planoform drive was the turning point of the Interstellar Instrumentality of Mankind and its one direct competitor (though generally similar governmental form), The Bright Empire (which the Instrumentality eventually defeated).

From its name, and subsequent use, a number of different facts can be ascertained about the Planoform drive, and its operation.

  • As its name implies, the Planoform drive unit 'collapses' spacetime from its conventional 4-dimensional form into 3 dimensions. As time is considered a constant of experience, effectively space 'loses' a dimension.
  • The Planoform ship has two modes of operation: Go and Stop. The Stop Captain is responsible for turning the power on and off for the ship. The Go Captain navigates through Planoform space by interpreting the stellar patterns captured by sensors during a Planoform space-fold.
  • During the Space Fold, the view forward of the ship 'collapses' as Third Dimension of Space, Depth, is subtracted. The Go-Captain is thus able to direct the ship by picking (much as user picks a point on a computer screen with a mouse pointer) the course of the ship. In the manner of star charts, he uses what are known as Lock Sheets.
  • The Planoform clearly operates by meson-tachyon inversion. Ships that imperfectly Planoform are said to 'Go Milky' and disappear from loss of molecular cohesion.

Planoform devices are not very large; the Lord Crudelta uses 54 of them, operating in parallel, to lift a planoforming platform the size of Cape Canaveral Space Centre's Pad 34B during investigation of Space3. This implies a diameter of no more than about 50 cm.

Planoform ships can take any form. Initially ships were converted from standard interstellar ships of the enclosed hull type. Later, with the advent of Pinlighter controlled Cats (The Game of Rat and Dragon, see the chapter on History below), Planoform ships took on more fanciful forms. An example vessel at the Instrumentality's zenith of power, 4000 years before The Rediscovery of Man, was shaped like the countryside surrounding, and including the peak of, Mount Vernon. The passengers lived in houses on the ship, with an envelope of air held in place by gravitational force fields. The ship crew quarters and maintenance machinery were housed within the artificial peak.


The first transition of Space3 was by Artyr Rambo of Earth 4. He was driven by intense rage (a survival trait necessary for the experiment) by the Lord Crudelta. Transition across 68000 light years was instantaneous, and did not require any technology. Space3 is a further contraction of space from 3 co-ordinates into just 2. Thus all space is a point, and travel is merely a condition.

Planoform devices are necessary for a man to traverse Space3, operating in tandem as Space3 is entered. However, there are side-effects to moving through space in this way, which affect the traveler, dependent on the emotional charge necessary for transit. These include:

  • The Drunkboat Effect, named in reference to Rambo's description of the first transit. The traveler's nervous system is able to interface with electric and electronic circuitry directly, and effect changes through volition. This effect wears away with time.
  • Space Energy Re-radiation: in Transiting the space condition, powerful and strange energies are re-radiated from the traveler. These can have potent effects on materials, permitting a man of ordinary strength to warp and bend steel with hand-pressure alone. These are second-order effects of the Drunkboat effect.
  • Paralysis and pain were later counter-acted, but unprepared travelers would otherwise experience this if not suitably prepared pre-transit.

History of interstellar space

During the early eras of interstellar travel, crossing open space far from a star presented an incomprehensible danger: ordinary lifeforms, even protected within a hull environment, would die horribly for no apparent cause. Initially, this danger was met with the creation of the Habermen (humans, usually criminals, given cyborg modifications which removed their self-identity) and the Scanners (elite volunteers who underwent a modified form of the Haberman process and served as ship's officers), who could survive this unknown threat unharmed, at the cost of losing most of their senses other than sight. They would crew STL light sail ships, while the passengers were kept in suspended animation. Later it was determined that, if a large number of living organisms (clams, specifically) were used as a "living shield", organisms further inward could survive unharmed.

With the discovery of Space2 and the "planoform" drive, the cause of this mysterious threat was finally determined: living entities, sometimes referred to as "dragons", which existed in Space2 and fed on life energies. Since these creatures were disrupted and killed by bright physical light, they avoided the areas near stars. Thus, the practice of "pinlighting" developed: ships would be accompanied by smaller vessels piloted by genetically engineered telepathic housecats, who, guided by human telepaths aboard the ships, would attack the creatures (which they perceived as enormous rats) with miniature nuclear flares.

Aside from this, and the strange effects of the first attempts to travel through Space2 (and later, Space3), little is known about the planoform drive.

Known Space

In the Known Space series by Larry Niven, first introduced in "The Coldest Place" (1964), hyperspace (first mentioned in The World of Ptavvs, 1965) is a dimension in which (apparently) all objects move at a rate of 0.3 light years per terrestrial day relative to light moving in the physical universe. Prevailing theories hold that attempting to engage a hyperspace shunt within the gravity well of a sufficiently large celestial body causes the drive (and possibly the ship) to careen wildly into an even "higher" level of hyperspace, which cannot be reached normally and is thought to cause matter within the hyperspace field to disintegrate (though Niven revised this in a later work, Ringworld's Children; according to the new model, other-dimensional entities which exist near large masses consume ships which enter hyperspace in their vicinity). Because of this, the only species known to have developed hyperspace on their own are the Outsiders, a species whose biology is based on superfluid helium and who thus were more readily able and inclined to perform experiments in interstellar space.

When travelling within hyperspace, attempting to view anything outside the ship (through a porthole or, as in the short story "Flatlander", through a transparent hull) interacts with the human optic nerve such as to be perceived as a "blind spot"; this effect is extremely unnerving to most people, and prolonged viewing can lead to madness.

(In this connection in "Combing Back Through Time" by Mike Atkinson, a 2006 "hard-sf" novella, quite the opposite visual outcome – albeit a recording – is had by the 360 degree view that a front mounted camera has, from a probe within a described "interspace" employed in fourth-dimensional movement or time travel.)

Macross and Robotech

In the universe of Macross and Robotech, first introduced by the TV series Chou Jikuu Yousai Macross (1982), hyperspace travel also involves the notion of space folding. Hyperspace folding involves a large hyperspace bubble around the vessel travelling through hyperspace. Everything within this bubble is transported along with the vessel itself to its destination. Thus when Captain Global/Gloval is forced into making a hyperspace fold from close to the surface of the earth and fold into behind the moon, an entire island, its sea, and its inhabitants are caught in the hyperspace bubble and accidentally transported to near Pluto's orbit along with the SDF-1 Macross. Elsewhere in the series, space folds looks as if the ship turns into a beam of energy which disappears as the ship goes into spacefold. The same happened in the 1994 Macross 7 TV series. In other entries in the Macross franchise, spacefolding seems to be a bit more conventional. For instance, in Macross Plus, Isamu Dyson and Yang Neumann travel to Earth in a Variable fighter modified with a space fold drive. There, the fold process seems to look like an iridescent tunnel which the ship flies through.

Perry Rhodan

The series of books (1961 onward) approaches hyperspace in two ways: At first we see 5-dimensional jumps. This was the way to travel through space with FTL technology, and it could be described in the same words that of Asimov's Hyperspace. The passengers suffered pain and distress after each jump. The second hyperspace technique is called Superlinear technology, learned from the phenomena seen by Arconids during the war against the "Druufs"; after five decades of research, human scientists surrounded ships with a "Kalupian bubble" in which it was possible to see Einstein's normal space, but not to be seen by sensors or scanners. Superlinear flights occurred in a "libration region" between the fourth and fifth dimensions. This allowed the ships to achieve velocities thousands or even millions of times greater than that of light.

Thousands of years later, humanity is spread along the many star systems. Then a new third kind of propulsion is developed with the name "dimmesexta", using extragalactic technology, and achieving billions of times light speed. Dimmesexta consists in a kind of hyperfast travel, through a zone existing exclusively between the fifth and sixth dimensions. The only Terran ship able to use dimmesexta drives is the supergiant ship "MarcoPolo".

A fourth description of hyperspace comes from the matter transmitters. This equipment acted as portals or stargates, with different ranges, proportional to the energy available, allowing travel among the planets of a single system.

Redshift Rendezvous

In Redshift Rendezvous (1990) by John E. Stith hyperspace is a layer of space in which the speed of light is ten meters per second. People aboard a passenger craft in this region experience relativistic effects in daily life. Flick a light switch and the room slowly fills with light. Run, and you can create sonic booms. People behind you see you red-shifted.

Sins of a Solar Empire

In the game Sins of a Solar Empire (2008) the most popular way of achieving FTL is the Phase Drive, also called the Jump Drive. The drive's mechanism is undescribed, but what is known is that (1) the ship is enveloped in a cone of cobalt-blue light, (2) travels along a set highway, called a "Phase Lane", and (3) the ships travel through an alternative dimension called "Phase Space", but must be far enough away from a significant gravity well to enter. There are also defense stations called "Phase Inhibitors" which use nanomachines or spacetime distortion to stop the drive from working efficiently, thus preventing a timely retreat. The Vasari Empire can attach a phase drive to a missile, allowing it to pass through shields. These are unaffected by Phase inhibitors. There is also a Vasari Phase Stabilizer Node structure that allows ships to travel between nodes as if there were a Phase Lane connecting the systems; Vasari logistical structures can also raise a Phase Barrier to reduce damage, Vasari scout ships can disable themselves but become invulnerable for as long as their antimatter reserve lasts (when near a star, it is regenerated faster than it is spent), and their "fast battleship" can do that to any ship: itself, friend or foe – for a brief duration.

Star Control II

In the video game Star Control II (1992), hyperspace is depicted as a different plane of existence that provides the means of feasible interstellar travel. Entering Hyperspace requires propulsion be made to the edges of the solar system away from the star's mass. Inside of hyperspace these same stars are represented as gravity wells (or holes in the hyperspace), which suck the ship into normal space when entering it too close. Enemy vessels also generate gravity wells of a much smaller size, resulting in spacefaring civilizations being able to establish territory and patrol it even from ships in hyperspace. The physical laws of hyperspace travel are slightly different from those of travel in normal space: the ship travelling in hyperspace must continuously provide its own propulsion, or the vessel simply stops (in normal space, propulsion is only needed to change the course and Newtonian physics means that once thrust is applied, it will continue in that direction). Hyperspace is represented as a red foggy area with strange artifacts seen moving and twinkling in the 'distance'.

Note that many of the same properties (though not the red colour) are reflected in Starflight (1986), a game which heavily influenced Star Control II.

Star Control II also has another plane of existence known as QuasiSpace. More difficult to access, the access points in quasispace lead into several different (predetermined) locations in hyperspace. One interesting fact is that the ship does not consume any fuel at all while traveling inside QuasiSpace. Whereas hyperspace is depicted in redness, quasispace appears a harsh green with a negativity effect on objects. One alien race, the Arilou, has a planet which can only be reached through QuasiSpace, while another alien race, the Orz, are rumored to be able to enter and swim through QuasiSpace. There are also hints that the Orz can exist in yet another dimension, with QuasiSpace being "above" and this other dimension being "below".

Star Trek

The Star Trek (first broadcast 1966) universe equivalent of hyperspace is known as subspace. Although similar in concept to hyperspace, subspace plays a slightly different role in FTL travel. Subspace exists in layers, all of which are "below" normal three-dimensional spacetime much like the different layers of a cake. When a starship is traveling at FTL speeds (commonly known as "warp" in the Star Trek universe), the ship itself does not enter subspace. Instead, the ship either reacts a steady stream of deuterium and anti-deuterium together, or else taps the massive energy of an artificial quantum singularity in order to power large subspace field-generating coils ("warp engines"). The field (known as a warp field) extends into subspace, allowing the enclosed starship to travel at FTL speeds while it remains within a "pocket" of normal spacetime (similar in concept to a 20th-century hydrofoil) and it is this pocket of normal space itself which travels faster than light, as the ship sits safely inside the pocket. Wrapping a spaceship within the warp field prevents the relativistic time dilation normally associated with standard FTL travel, and allows interstellar travel to continue in a reasonable amount of time. Despite warp drive's incredible speed compared to current day travel speed, it can still take years to travel across a mere fraction of the galaxy, around a year per 1000 light years. This was demonstrated in part in the Star Trek: Voyager episode Endgame, in which it originally took the starship Voyager 23 years to travel the 75,000 light years needed to return to Earth.

This concept of FTL travel is asymptotically limited by the idea that if the warp field is too strong, the ship itself will be too deeply submerged in subspace, which has negative genetic effects on living things. In addition, at high warp factors the energy required to sustain the field grows exponentially.

Among the uses of subspace in Star Trek is as a medium for propagating audio and visual signals at FTL speeds, thus allowing nearly instantaneous communication across vast interstellar distances. This is commonly referred to in the Star Trek world as "subspace communication".

Star Wars

The role-playing video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) gives one of the more substantial explanations of how hyperspace travel works in the Star Wars universe. There are established safe hyperspace routes that were scouted out by an unknown species 50,000 years prior to the events in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). These routes made interstellar trade and eventually the establishment of the Republic possible. New routes are almost never scouted out, mostly because the end coordinates might place the traveling ship inside some star or planet. For example, the Deep Core Systems are especially hard to navigate because of the high density of stars. A pilot's skill in hyperspace has a lot to do with how he navigates the tangled web of hyperspace routes that criss-cross the galaxy.

Traveling through hyperspace requires the aid of either an astromech droid (such as R2-D2 or R4-P9) or a navicomputer (navigational computer), although Jedi are sometimes reputed to be able to travel through hyperspace without reference to navicomputers, astromech droids, or existing known routes. Traveling through hyperspace is also apparently quite complex as Han Solo tells Luke that "It ain't like dustin' crops, boy."

In any case, hyperspace is an extremely fast method of travel, as Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker's journey from Tatooine to Alderaan is theorized to have only taken two days maximum, whereas these two planets are separated by half a galaxy or more. Darth Maul took approximately seven hours to travel from Coruscant to Tatooine. The movies, as well as multiple Expanded Universe sources, show hyperspace as having a mottled, blue-and-black appearance. An entry into hyperspace shows the stars stretch into starlines, then turn into the mottled appearance. Externally, a ship entering hyperspace is described in Timothy Zahn's novels as displaying a "...flicker of pseudomotion..." before disappearing. Like the above-mentioned Star Trek series, "holocomm" transmissions are featured in Star Wars as long-range, faster-than-light communications signals, sent through hyperspace.

The hyperspace speed of a ship is represented by "class," an arbitrary and abstract measure. Lower numbers indicate proportionally lower travel time, and thus higher speed. For instance, an X-Wing is class 1. The Death Star is class 3, which means it can travel through hyperspace only one-third as fast as the X-Wing. A more standard capital ship such as a Star Destroyer may clock in at class 2, and a civilian bulk freighter at class 4. Very fast ships, with class lower than 1, are relatively rare; the remarkably speedy Millennium Falcon is class 0.5, or twice as fast as the X-Wing. The Ebon Hawk, the primary ship used in the Knights of the Old Republic series, is said to be the fastest in the galaxy, 4000 years prior to the rise of the Empire. However, at that time, hyperdrive technology was not as well-developed; a class 1 hyperdrive, the Ebon Hawk′s class, was considered extremely fast. It is stated that it is the only ship capable of breaking the Sith-blockade of the planet Taris (although that may be interpreted as the only ship that was capable and also located on Taris at the time of the blockade). Similarly, the Ebon Hawk was used for smuggling prior to the events of the games, just as the Millennium Falcon.


In the Stargate universe (1994–2011), most spaceships are equipped with hyperdrives that open up a window to hyperspace. Different races have hyperdrives of varying speeds; a hyperdrive constructed by the Alterans (Ancients), or by the Asgard would be significantly faster than a Goa'uld hyperdrive. There are two types of hyperdrives: interstellar, which only allows the ship using that hyperdrive to travel between stars in one galaxy in relatively expedient manner, and intergalactic, which allows the ship using it to travel greater distances and at greater speed. The only races shown to use intergalactic hyperdrives are the Tau'ri (through Asgard hyperdrive engines, for example on the USS Daedalus), the Asgard, the Ancients/Alterans (most notably Atlantis), the Asuran human-form Replicators, the Milky Way human-form replicators, the Ori and the Nakai (Stargate Universe).

Most hyperdrives use the fictional substance of Naquadah as fuel. Some, including certain Earth vessels, use the highly unstable, but more powerful isotope of Naquadriah instead. Ancient hyperdrives are powered by one or more ZPMs, whereas the Asgard hyperdrive engines use the Asgard Neutronium-Ion generator, although when installed on Earth vessels they use whichever power source is available (typically a Naquadah generator or, in the case of the Odyssey or on occasion the Daedalus, a ZPM).

Unlike hyperdrives used in other universes, hyperspace travel in Stargate does not interact with any matter in real space. Therefore, it allows ships to pass straight through any object (but not large space-time distortions, such as black holes) in its path. This has been used in numerous escape scenarios throughout the series. The speed of the hyperdrive can be increased by increasing its power by an external or internal source, or by modifying it manually.

When the Daedalus is powered by its Asgard Hyperdrive, it takes 18 days to travel to Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy; however, when the engineers rigged the Zero Point Module (ZPM) sent for Atlantis' Ancient shield into the system, it took only 4 days. Earth's Daedalus-class battle cruiser the Odyssey is mentioned to have its own permanent ZPM during the war against the Ori, although it is unknown if the ZPM is sent to Atlantis following the Ori's eventual defeat.

Several ships can be encompassed in one hyperspace window by expanding the window but it takes a lot more power than usual, it is also possible to land a ship on one that is entering the hyperspace window and travel alongside. This previous is not a problem if someone can install a ZPM, because a fully charged module can procure massive amounts of energy. It has been shown that it's possible to open a hyperspace window in a planet's atmosphere, but it seems to distort space around it.

Each species's hyperdrives works on a unique "frequency", a fact that the renegade Ancient scientist Janus took advantage of when creating the Attero device: a weapon of mass destruction intended to disrupt the hyperspace window generated by any Wraith ship in the galaxy, instantly vaporizing the ship as it entered the window. This device was ultimately abandoned by Janus due to unforeseen, yet catastrophic side-effects on the Stargate network: causing active gates to explode, destroying most or all of the planet on which it resides.

Hyperspace also has a type of "Hyperspace Radiation" which all Wraith ships suffer damage from and as a result must exit out of hyperspace incrementally to allow their organic ships to regenerate their hull from the hyperspace radiation damage. Due to this shortcoming, the Wraith often plan their hyperspace travel in a series of "jumps" in which they simultaneously enter and exit hyperspace as a cluster. Wraith ships are the only ships known to require these pauses in their hyperspace travel as all other hyperspace-capable ships are protected by their energy shielding.

In order to reach the full potential speed of their hyperdrive, the Asgard must shunt all power away from shields and weapons. When using the full potential of their hyperdrives, the Asgard can move from one galaxy to another in under two minutes.

The Ancient Ship Destiny uses a different method of Faster-Than-Light propulsion, simply referred to as FTL by the Destiny Expedition. Much of its workings remain unexplained. Destiny's drives, once engaged, must remain active for a minimum of four hours and, upon exiting FTL travel, must remain inactive for a minimum of three to prevent damage to the drives. Unlike sublight and hyperdrives on previously seen ships in both the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies, Destiny's engines appear to be a single unit which provide both forms of propulsion. This same method of FTL is used of both the Ancient Seed Ships seen in Stargate Universe, and the Alteran city ship seen in Stargate: The Ark of Truth.

Besides hyperspace travel, there is, of course, wormhole travel through the stargates that give the series its name.

Sword of the Stars

In the video game Sword of the Stars (2006), each race has its own form of hyperspace, and therefore interstellar travel.

Humans, for example, utilize "Nodespace," a degenerate form of normal space formed by "cracks" between areas of heavy gravity such as stars. In Nodespace distances are greatly reduced, allowing ships to use ordinary sublight propulsion and yet still cover distances that would require FTL propulsion if traveling in normal space. Without the special "Bell Drive" nothing can cross between normal space and Nodespace, rendering traveling ships effectively invisible while in Nodespace, though they cannot see what they are traveling toward either. As well, Nodespace fractures form naturally and somewhat randomly, meaning that the shortest path between stars may still be somewhat circuitous.

The Hivers do not utilize any form of fast travel, instead employing Jumpgates to physically connect two or more points in space. Though it takes substantial amounts of time for a ship to travel between stars at sublight speeds, once a jumpgate is constructed within an intense gravity field it is essentially "next to" all other jumpgates, allowing instant travel between any worlds in the network.

Liir ships can not use normal drives due to their special requirements (their ships are much more massive than normal due to having to be filled with water, and thus would require enormously larger amounts of power to move). They instead perfect a form of instantaneous teleportation allowing them to transport from one location to another without moving at all. Eventually they can teleport far enough and quickly enough to achieve "speeds" that are effectively FTL over long distances.

The Tarkas are the only race to truly develop an FTL drive. Their ships fold space around them, allowing them to move at faster than light speeds.

Zuul Slavers, introduced in the expansion Born of Blood, utilize Nodespace in a similar manner to humans. Rather than exploiting natural Nodespace fractures, however, Zuul ships rip paths into Nodespace directly. This allows them to travel between stars as they wish, rather than being subject to the whims of nature. However, these artificial fractures are unstable and must be continually reinforced or they will collapse, destroying any matter in them at the time. As Zuul and Humans both use Nodespace in their travel, they may actually contact or intercept each other while in transit.

The Voyage of the Star Wolf

An idea similar to hyperspace, called hyperstate, was introduced by David Gerrold in the novel The Voyage of the Star Wolf (1990). In this setting starships used artificially-produced gravitational singularities (the space-time distortions found at the center of black holes) to transition between normal space and so-called irrational space, where faster than light travel was possible. The primary limitation of hyperstate was that the resulting gravitational distortions could be easily detected by other starships, so stealthy movement at faster-than-light speeds was effectively impossible.


In Traveller, hyperspace is referred to as Jumpspace, an alternate dimension/universe, accessed using a jump drive, which rely on the rare earth element lanthanum, and which uses an immense amount of power, to create an artificial singularity inside the drive, drives it out of normal space, and then uses hydrogen gas to literally inflate the singularity, creating a bubble of jumpspace, in which the ship exists. The ship is totally alone in jumpspace, even if another ship jumps very close (but far enough to avoid field overlap), each ship will be alone in their respective bubbles of jumpspace. A ship in jumpspace cannot be contacted by any sort of means, even by another ship in jumpspace. The distance traveled during a jump varies depending on the drive class, which is measured in how many parsecs one jump will carry a ship. The most unique thing about jumping (travelling through jumpspace), is that all travel, no matter the distance, takes around a week. This is because that is the amount of time that the bubble of jumpspace is able to maintain itself, before collapsing, putting the ship back in normal space. Travelling through jump space is done by "riding" quantum levels, higher levels go "faster" and are able to transport ships higher distances. The distance that a ship travels is dependent on what level it uses, higher class drives use higher levels to travel more distance in a single jump. Velocity is meaningless in jumpspace, as movement happens by quantum mechanics, but energy is still conserved, so a ship coming out of jumpspace will have the same velocity and heading as it did when it entered jumpspace. In addition, it is impossible to change direction or really "move" in jumpspace, as any gravity fields, and really any force similar, severely affects the bubble of jumpspace, and would cause it to, at best, collapse prematurely, putting the ship back into real space. It is for this reason that it is standard procedure for a jump is to form the bubble 100 diameters away from a planet, star or other gravity well.

Warhammer 40,000

In the Warhammer 40,000 fictional universe, from 1987 onward, human starships are able to enter "the Warp" or the "Immaterium", a parallel dimension that is the domain of the consciousness of every sentient being in the universe, and also the realm of Chaos. Imperial ships, and others, use it for faster than light travel, a relatively unsafe operation due to the Warp's unpredictable nature. Ships are known to emerge from the Warp many hundreds of light years from their intended destinations, and timewise many Earth-years, decades or even centuries after they had been expected to arrive; the time-dilating effect means ships can arrive before the date their journey started. The Emperor of Mankind, perhaps the most powerful psyker ever, provides a psychic magnetic north for human-navigated starships attempting to traverse the Warp. Called the Astronomican, it is the only feasible means for navigating the Warp, and so making interstellar travel possible for the Imperium. Imperial starships require a special force shield known as the Geller Field, that creates a "realspace bubble" around the ship when in warpspace. In James Swallow's Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, Book 4 of the Horus Heresy book series, a description of the inside of a ship whose Geller field had failed is given.[4]

The Tau, however, do not register in the Warp and therefore cannot truly enter it. But by studying the Warp drives from other species, they developed a method in which their ships "dive" towards the Warp and are then catapulted away, back into real space. While this is much safer than actually entering the Warp, it is much slower.

The Hive Fleets of the Tyranids do not travel through the Warp but instead rely on small Narvhal bio-ships which are capable of harnessing a planetary system's gravity from immense distances away to create a corridor of compressed-space through which Tyranid vessels can travel towards the system at a swift rate. Whilst slower than proper Warp travel, this method is much more reliable.

The Eldar (and a parasitic sub-race, the Dark Eldar) use a system of Jumpgates known as the "Webway Matrix", which operates using an expansive series of ancient "tunnels" in the warp that are immune to the influences of Chaos or the usual perils of warp travel. However, the scope and nature of the webway is as yet unknown to the vast majority of mankind. The race of Necrons may have used a similar system at some point in their past, but use an inertialess drive now.


In the video game series Xenosaga (published 1998– ) for the PlayStation 2 console, people routinely travel long distances in space through hyperspace. Hyperspace in the Xenosaga universe is a realm of alternative space that looks like a long tube or column similar to a wormhole. In this space a starship can accelerate to faster than light speeds without experiencing the time dilation effects normally experienced when approaching the speed of light in normal space. Only spaceships equipped with a special force field can enter hyperspace, because exposure to hyperspace even for short period of time is hazardous to unprotected humans. In order to enter hyperspace a ship must go to a specific area in space known as a Column Area. Column Areas are places where ships can safely gate into and out of hyperspace. They can be found all over the universe and are separated by less than a day's travel at sub-light speeds. Navigating hyperspace requires entering a Column Area and finding a corresponding point within the universe-spanning navigation network known as the Unus Mundus Network (U.M.N.). The U.M.N. Transportation Gate management facility controls the use of Column Areas, and clearance must be granted before hyperspace can be entered.

CJ Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe/Compact Series

Other forms

Other forms of hyperspace usually have the same properties; however, some allow travel throughout time as well as space (e.g. Doctor Who's Time Vortex). Popular names include warpspace, slipstream and subspace.

Slipstream is a method of travelling faster-than-light in the television series Andromeda (2000–2005). 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. Slipstream has the unusual property that it cannot be navigated by machine-based intelligence, however advanced. Only organic sentient beings are capable of selecting the correct path.

Halo (2001 onward) also uses slipstream (called slipstream space, and generally shortened to slipspace), albeit with different capabilities from that of Andromeda. Humans, using Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engines, can tear black holes in known space which quickly evaporate, creating a hole in space. This puts a human ship into eleven-non-dimensional Slipspace. Human technology only goes so far, and the ship usually comes out several kilometers off target. Their maximum speed is universally under 1000 c. Covenant ships have drastically more accurate precision in this matter, along with much faster speeds (336,000 c). Halo: Contact Harvest describes it as "If one imagined the universe as a sheet of paper, Slipspace was the same sheet of paper crumpled into a tight ball."

Interspace (see also a footnote above under "Known Space Series", Niven) : In "Combing Back Through Time" by Mike Atkinson, this is used to step a visual history recording probe through the fourth dimension.

Overdrive : In the works of science fiction writer Murray Leinster (first SF story: The Runaway Skyscraper, 1919), Overdrive is a method of faster than light travel by a field of energy called an overdrive field, first appearing in First Contact (1945). When the overdrive field is activated, the ship then enters a dimensional subspace moving thirty times faster than light. Most of this power is held in batteries and recharged when the overdrive field is turned off. This method of faster than light travel is common in his works where faster than light travel is used though the stories are not connected in any other way.

Spindizzy : The spindizzy from James Blish's "Cities in Flight" series (1955–1962) as well as the Haertel overdrive in several other novels are described as creating a small space-time bubble in which the spacecraft travels. The ship therefore occupies a space-time continuum where effects such as the Lorenz-Fitzgerald contraction do not apply. The space-time created by the spindizzy or Haertel overdrive can be considered a small, self-contained hyperspace.

Plane Space is the form of faster than light travel in the Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars (both 1996 onward) series written by Hiroyuki Morioka. It is only accessible via Sords, making ones located near star systems of high strategic value.

Eschless Funnel : In Arwen Elys Dayton's Resurrection (2001), the Kinley race has developed a device called the "Eschless Funnel", which harvests energy directly from atomic mass. This allowed a normal fusion drive to warp space. Instead of traveling to another dimension, however, the field created an "enclave where the normal rules didn't apply".

OtherSpace : In the text-based MMORPG of the same name, OtherSpace is a mystical space-folding dimension long believed to only be navigable by trans-dimensional beings called Hivers. Governments were required to make treaties with these beings and keep one onboard each of their ships in order to make use of the FTL properties of the dimension.

See also


  1. ^ Westfahl, Gary (2005). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders 3. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 404. ISBN 978-0-313-32951-7. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Stableford, Brian M. (2006). Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. pp. 238–239. ISBN 978-0-415-97460-8. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Lurkers Guide to Babylon 5. "Babylon 5 posts by JMS for September, 1993". 
  4. ^ Swallow, James (2007). The flight of the Eisenstein: the heresy unfolds (MASS MARKET PAPERBACK) (print). Horus Heresy [book series] 4. Cover art & illustration by Neil Roberts (1st UK ed.). Nottingham, UK: Black Library. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-1-84416-459-2. 

Further reading

  • Hyperspace by Michio Kaku (Anchor)
  • Surfing through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons (Oxford University Press) by Clifford A. Pickover
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (Knopf) by Brian Greene

External links