Hyperspace (science fiction)

Hyperspace (science fiction)

Hyperspace is a fictional plot device sometimes used in science fiction. It is typically described as an alternate region of subspace co-existing with our own universe which may be entered using an energy field or other device. Travel in hyperspace is frequently depicted as faster-than-light travel in normal space.

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 prima facie plausible explanation. Hyperspace travel is nevertheless a fictional technology so far.

Normal space

In normal space, the "shortest path" in 3-D space between two events A and B is found in the following way. First, look at all paths in 4-D space-time between A and B, and find the space-time path that takes the shortest time to traverse. 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 same black hole (Hawking radiation is irrelevant, since it is random and carries neither information nor matter to the outside). Finally, because of the 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 travelling 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, even light. 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 is better than the straight path. Of course, if we take energy expenditures into account, then the minimum energy paths are just the good-old transfer orbits and gravity boosts that Earth space agencies use all the time. Yet these are not "fast."

Hyperspace travel

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 his bearings, plot his position, and plan the next jump. 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 hyper surface, 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'. See jump drive, Alcubierre drive.

Early hyperspace depictions

Though the concept of hyperspace did not emerge until the 20th century, stories of an unseen realm outside of 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 of 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 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.

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), an accident causes a man to be laterally reversed due to a brief encounter with "hyperspace."

Hyperspace travel became widespread in science fiction due to the perceived limitations of FTL travel in ordinary space. In E.E. Smith’s, "Grey 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 Science Fiction, featured a Galactic Empire traversed through hyperspace. Asimov's short story, "Little Lost Robot" (1947), features a 'Hyperatomic Drive' shortened to 'Hyperdrive' and goes on to describe how "...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 one's 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 typically 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 due to 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.

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 heavy 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. There is no description of the hyperspace environment, as travel through it is instantaneous (it must be mentioned however, that in all of Asimov's book where hyperspace travel is described-except for Foundation's Edge, where the time in hyperspace is very short-the travel is said to involve a feeling of momentary "insideoutness").

Asimov (in Foundation's Edge) defines Hyperspace 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"). Peturbations such as those experienced by ship in space from the gravitional 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 resulting exit from hyperspace to be highly uncertain, with the level of improbability "i" increasing with the square of the distance to the nearest gravitional '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...."


A somewhat unusual depiction of hyperspace travel is found in "Dune" (published in 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, giving them great power over all as without the Spacing Guild, there is no transportation anywhere. Guild Navigators (employees of the Spacing Guild) megadose on an addictive substance called melange from the planet Arrakis (also known as Dune), the unique properties of which enhance the humans' nascent ability to see into the future and fully comprehend the underlying nature of the universe, although this also mutates the Navigators heavily. It is this prescient ability that allows them to see a safe passage and guide the ships safely through folded space. The Spacing Guild and also whoever controls Arrakis holds a monopoly and wields great power in the "Dune" universe as a result.

Instrumentality of Mankind series Cordwainer Smith

In the short stories of Cordwainer Smith (written in the 1950s and 1960s), FTL travel can be accomplished through a hyperspace known as "Space2".

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 whatever this unknown threat was unharmed. 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 on-board 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 first introduced in "The Coldest Place" (1964), hyperspace 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 hypershunt within the gravity well of a sufficiently large celestial body supposedly 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 of 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 4th. dimensional movement or time travel.)

tar 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 an inner sphere of normal spacetime (similar in concept to a 20th century hydrofoil). 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.)

Of course 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".

In later "Star Trek" spin-offs, the main protagonists begin to experiment with unusual forms of FTL drives such as transwarp drive, soliton wave drive, wormholes, and even subspace. There are also similarities between the Hyperspace Drive of Star Wars and the Quantum Slipstream Drive of Star Trek Voyager. Also included in the Star Trek Voyager series is the use of the much fabled warp 10 although in earlier original season's the Enterprise was able to travel at warp 14.1 (That Which Survives), this was changed however for the series to be a maximum unattainable speed of warp 10, which is implied to be infinite velocity. Every series such has followed suit except , which, taking place before the warp scale rearrangement, still abides by the original scale. (However, in Enterprise, most of the ships seen are of a lower technological level than in the original series, and speeds above Warp factor 6 are highly unusual.)

In episode , the speed of warp 10 is achieved with disastrous results. Crew member Tom Paris takes the Shuttlecraft Cochrane out to test his theory. He makes it back after disappearing off the sensors and tells of what he saw at warp 10. He was in every point in the universe at once. After this he begins to evolve into a future stage of human evolution; millions of years of evolution in the space of a few hours. Later on, after another trip at warp 10, both Tom Paris and Captain Janeway devolve into primitive newt-like creatures from an earlier stage of human evolution. (It should be noted, however, that harsh critical reaction to this episode caused it to be stricken from Star Trek canon, and its consequences are disregarded in subsequent episodes.)

pace Battleship Yamato

In the animated series "Space Battleship Yamato" (first broadcast in 1974) and its sequels, spacetime is described as having a [http://www.desslok.com/INFO/tech.htm wave form] in four or more spatial dimensions. By activating a 'wave motion drive' at a 'crest' in this wave, you can travel instantaneously to another point in space where a similar crest in the spacetime wave exists, allowing jumps across vast regions of space. Activating the drive at other points would result in the vessel being 'submerged' in subspace, remaining stationary but invisible; this is used by the antagonists of the series, the Gamelons, as a form of cloaking technology.

tar Wars

The computer role-playing game ' 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 25,000 years prior to the events in ' (1977). These routes made interstellar trade and eventually the establishment of the Republic possible. New routes are almost never scouted out, mostly due to the fact that 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 or she navigates the tangled web of hyperspace routes that criss-cross the galaxy. According to George Lucas, that is why Han Solo brags about the "Millennium Falcon" making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs when a parsec is a measure of distance rather than time: apparently, his real gift is as a navigator (although in the Star Wars IV: A New Hope novel by Lucas, published in 1975, Solo says "she made the Kessel run in less than twelve Standard Time measures"). This appears to make no sense within the context of the original dialogue, however, as Solo's statement about the Falcon making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs was in response to Obi-Wan Kenobi saying, "If it's a fast ship." However, to get to Kessel, a ship must pass through The Maw, an incredibly dense cluster of black holes. To achieve a shorter distance, the ship must be moving faster, to skirt the edge of a black hole without being sucked in. Traveling through hyperspace requires the aid of either an astromech droid (such as R2-D2) 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 happens to have 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. If so, this ship could be considered class 0.5. It is stated that it is the only ship capable of breaking the Sith-blockade of the planet Taris. Similarly, the Ebon Hawk was used for smuggling prior to the events of the games, just as the "Millennium Falcon."


In the Stargate universe, 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, and intergalactic, which allows the ship using it to travel greater distances and at greater speed. The only races shown having intergalactic hyperdrives are the Tau'ri (Earth), the Asgard, the Ancients/Alterans, the Ori, the Asuran human-form replicators, and the Milky-Way human-form replicators.

Most hyperdrives use the fictional Naquadah. Some, including Earth's, use the highly unstable isotope Naquadriah, and Ancient and/or Asgard hyperdrives may utilize alternative materials. Unlike hyperdrives used in other universes, Stargate hyperspace travel does not have to be navigated carefully and does not interact with real space and so allows the ship to go straight through black holes, stars etc. The speed of the hyperdrive can be increased by increasing its power by an external source, [in the case of Asgard hyperdrives] overpower it, but overpowering increases the chance of burning out the engines; or by modifying it manually.

When the Daedalus was powered by standard naquadah reactors, it took three weeks to travel to Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy; however, when the engineers rigged the 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. This isn't a problem if someone can install a ZPM, because a fully charged module can procure a huge amount of energy.

Hyperspace also has a type of "Hyperspace Radiation" which all Wraith ships suffer damage from and as a result must exit out of hyperspace every once in a while to allow their ships to "repair" from the hyperspace radiation damage. It is also believed that hyperspace radiation stops Asgard shields from functioning, and if turned on while exposed to hyperspace, the generators would explode.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" opens with the destruction of the planet Earth by Vogons in order to "make way for a hyperspace bypass". Hyperspace travel is not described very clearly, however. The general impression is that a ship travels for a short time along a bypass through an alternate 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::"At that moment, the bottom fell out of Arthur Dent's mind. His eyeballs turned inside out. His feet began to leak out the top of his head. The room folded flat about Arthur, spun around, shifted out of existence and left him sliding into his own navel."

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 Bistromatic Drive is to allow people to cross vast interstellar distances quickly "without all that dangerous mucking about with Improbability Factors".

Macross and Robotech

In the Macross and also the Robotech universe, first introduced by the original 1982 Chou Jikuu Yousai Macross TV series, 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.

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.

Babylon 5

In the television show "Babylon 5" (1993-1998), hyperspace is treated as an alternate 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 a jumpgate, which are artificial constructs that create a rift into hyperspace, or they can have their own jump-engine. The latter is 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 utterly featureless, 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 a ship 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, this is inconsistent with Babylon 5 science. 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. A jump point allowing entry into hyperspace from normal space is characterized by a yellow whirlpool, while jump points for ships emerging from hyperspace are characterized by a blue whirlpool. This is likely dependent on the design of the jump gate or jump engines, as Shadow vessels are seen entering and exiting hyperspace by appearing to simply fade away, and some of the other First Ones have other visual effects associated with hyperspace travel. Battles in hyperspace are infrequent and avoided; it appears that most such battles in history have ended disastrously for both sides. 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 JMS has stated on at least one occasion that distances are not linear.Fact|date=February 2007

On a sidenote, in the spinoff series Crusade, there is a scene where the crew of the Excailbur encounter several large jellyfish like entities in hyperspace, resulting in one of the aliens attempting to mate with the ship. Also, 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 invisible to sensors and the naked eye). Constructs can also be established in hyperspace to serve as "hiding places" like the Well of Forever.


In the video game series "Xenosaga" (published 1998-present) for the PlayStation 2 console, people routinely travel long distances in space through hyperspace. Hyperspace in the "Xenosaga" universe is a realm of alternate 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.

tar Control II (computer game)

In Star Control II, hyperspace is depicted as a different plane of existence, that provides the means of feasible interstellar travel.

In SC2, the physical laws of hyperspace travel are slightly different than the travel in normal space: the ship travelling in hyperspace must continuously provide its own propulsion, or it stops (in normal space, propulsion is onlyneeded to change the course).

Stars in the hyperspace are represented as gravity wells, which suck theship into normal space when entering it too close.

SC2 also has a "quasispace", which is even another plane of existence,of a different colour, and harder to access. The access points inquasispace lead into several different locations in the hyperspace. One interesting fact is that the ship does not consume any fuel at all while travelling inside QuasiSpace.

Sword of the Stars

In the computer game Sword of the Stars, 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.

Frontier universe

The Frontier universe of space trading/combat games and First Encounters 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 Culture

In "The Culture" Series by Iain M Banks, hyperspace is a four dimensional (five dimensions including time) energy grid underlying the universe that separates it from its smaller antimatter twin. In the book "Consider Phlebas" it is described as being viewed from a ship as it flies through Hyperspace 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, which is 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 to have "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".

All ships with hyperspace capabilities fly through by finding traction with its engine fields on. The irregularities in the grid that are the waves, while 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 being like water spouts.

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

Warhammer 40,000

By the 41st millennium, humanity and human culture have fallen under the sway of a kind of self-worship which keeps their civilization intact. A human Emperor-God guides mankind, scientific research has all but ceased, and technology is synonymous to religion, superstition and, in some cases, magic.

Human interstellar ships are able to enter 'the Warp', a spiritual maelstrom of malignant, unreal and imaginary beings and events caused by the conscious thoughts of every sentient being in the universe and the source of "Chaos", mankind's greatest enemy. Taking advantage of its chaotic nature, humanity uses it to attempt faster-than-light travel, often with mixed success. Ships are known to emerge from the warp many hundreds of light-years from their intended destinations, many years after they had been expected to arrive, or even to arrive before they had left. However, the Emperor of Mankind, whose psychic strength is many times greater than that of normal humans and augmented still by a 'celestial choir' of lesser psychics, provides a psychic magnetic north for Imperial ships attempting to traverse the Warp. Called the Astronomican, it allows the already-perilous interplanetary travel of the Imperium to exist in its current form..

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 the vast majority of mankind. The race of Necrons may have used a similar system at some point in their past.

Homeworld series

The first civilization known to possess hyperdrives were the Progenitors. Their ships were able to cross the galaxy in a matter of days with almost no external power. To aid younger species, they created Hyperspace Gates which are connected to another with artificial hyperspace rifts. These Gates ' destination is fixed, meaning that they can only be traversed to another, with the exception of the network of Gates known as the Eye of Aarran which can travel in every direction. Also, each travel through these Gates leave behind a faint energy trail. If a certain path is used extensively for a long time, the energies cause a local space-time distortion, preventing individual ships from hyperspacing. To counter this, the ship in question can use conventional drives to leave the area (a frigate-sized vessel can get to enough distance in a matter of months) or try a very dangerous move: if the ship's own hyperdrive is synchronized with the rift, the resultant feedback will form a hyperspace gate stable enough to travel, yet unstable enough to collapse at any time. If a gate collapses when a ship is in hyperspace, it will be trapped in there and essentially cease to exist.

The three Hyperspace Cores are the central method of travelling in the Homeworld universe. Each can overpower a normal hyperdrive on their own. However, if they are combined and synchronised, they can easily bypass multiple black holes, evidenced, in Homeworld 2 when the "Sajuuk" (a god turned out to be a large and extremely potent warship) jumped the ENTIRE Mothership Fleet from the dense black hole cluster of Balcora to Hiigara's orbit, a feat unmached by every ship in the galaxy (the fleet entered Balcora through a special Hyperspace Gate). Aside from being a method of transportation, these Cores also form the Sajuuk's power source, tapping quantum energy from hyperspace itself. The First was found by the Bentusi and put to good use onboard the "Great Harborship of Bentus". After its destruction by the Vaygr and the extinction of their race, the Hiigarans salvaged it. The Second was found by the Hiigarans and used in a war of agression against the Taiidan, totally devastating their homeworld in a sneak attack. After the Hiigaran Empire's dissolution, the core was secretly smuggled onto the "Khar-Toba", serving as the ship's power source after it touched down on Kharak. 4000 years later it was rediscovered by the Kushans, who put it inside the Mothership under the control of Karan S'jet. When Hiigara has been recaptured, the Core was put into museum for 115 years, when it was placed inside the second Mothership, the "Pride of Hiigara" to halt the Vaygr progress. However, the shipyard was ambushed, causing Karan to hyperspace away in a hurry with the "Pride" not fully functional. The Core was finally removed from the "Pride" in Balcora, causing the abandoned ship to finally lose power and plunge towards a black hole.

The Third Core drifted into the Eastern Fringes, found by the Vaygr. Using its power, Makaan united the Vaygr Crusades into a formidable armada. He gradually anvanced into Hiigaran space, tricking Karan to retrieve the "Gatekeeper of Sajuuk" and enter Balcora. However, he was defeated there, enabling Karan to complete the Trinity and become Sajuuk'khar, Manipulator of He Whose Hands Shape What Is. Using the Trinity, she jumped the whole fleet from between black holes to Hiigaran orbit, defeating the remainder of the Vaygr fleet and their World Crushers with the Phased Cannon Array of "Sajuuk".

Hyperdrives work by opening a quantum waveform in front of a ship, seemingly engulfing it from front to end while pulling it into hyperspace. Once there, the transit can be sustained with less power. At the end of the transit, observers in real space can see the waveform appearing, depositing the ship in the same way, then the waveform closes and dissipates. They are mentioned in the Homeworld manual as a "solid state hyperspace induction module". Although frigate-class vessels possess their own hyperdrive, it is much shorter ranged and slower than the Cores. To facilitate travelling with the Mothership, its hyperspace-capable ships gathered in a pack around the gargantuan vessel. Utilizing a special technique, these drives resonate with the Core, causing them to "ride" its quantum waveform in order to travel with it.The remaining Progenitor Keepers in the Karos Graveyard are equipped with a phase drive similar to a hyperdrive, only it uses less power and can only do short-distance tactical jumps. Additionally, hyperdrives are affected by gravity wells. If a ship wanders into one, the hyperdrive's energy consumption will increase proportionally to the well's power. In this way, artificial gravity wells can be used to force passing ships to exit hyperspace, damaging the drive in the process if they resist. During Homeworld, the Kushan encountered many times when their hyperdrive was prevented from functioning properly. First, when they entered the Great Nebula of Kadesh, the Kadeshi attacked them with impunity; when they tried to leave, the quantum wavefront collapsed right after forming; it was revealed thet Kadeshi Needleships have built-in inhibitor systems to trap prey from far away. When the Kushan forced the Kadeshi to retreat, they made one last attempt at destroying them by using THREE Needleships, of which one is retreated after the other two were destroyed, leading to the discovery that the Kadeshi are a Kushan offshoot. When the Mothership reached the Galactic Core, they were pulled out of hyperspace by three gravity wells and a sizeable Taiidan fleet. A similar tactic was used later, except it was one inhibitor inside a huge (1,000,000 ton), rocket-boosted and escorted asteroid aimed straight at the Mothership in a last ditch effort to vaporize the mighty vessel with all 650,000 personnel aboard. As of the inhibitor network around Hiigara, it was said to be able to prevent anyone from entering the system. If the emitters were so powerful, then it is unclear how did the Mothership arrive so close to the leat defended one that it was less than 10 minutes away on conventional drives.

Another type of hyperdrive is the inertialess drive used onboard the Naggarok in , enabling its impossible feats of achieving well over 5000 km/h from a standing stop in less than a second and fighter-like maneuverability despite its size of more than 2km long; although it is possible that the drive wasn't built with this capabilities, only improved by the Beast to better suit its needs after the Taiidan repaired it. It is theorized by fans that if a hyperdirve would be combined with a Keeper's phase drive, the resulting drive would achieve a similar effect.

[1] Karan: "Priority alert! Hyperdrive malfunction detected. The quantum waveform is collapsing. Safety interrupt engaged. Prepare for emergency return to normal space."

Early Video Games

Early video games in which hyperspace was featured include Asteroids and Defender along with its sequel Defender II (aka Stargate). This was a way of escaping danger by having your ship vanish and reappear in a random area on the play screen. However, there was always the chance that the player's ship would reappear in a more dangerous spot. Defender and Defender II had a feature in which a ship would explode a certain percentage of time upon re-emerging from hyperspace. It was explained as having the ship rematerialize in the same space as an enemy ship or missile, which made using hyperspace a last ditch effort to avoid an otherwise certain demise.


*"seaQuest DSV"
*"Cowboy Bebop" (anime)
*"Doctor Who"
*"Honorverse" (series)
*"Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate Atlantis"
*"Space Runaway Ideon (In Space Runaway Ideon , the hyperspace is called null space)
*"Farscape" (A US sci-fi channel series featuring a faster-than-light travel method known as 'starburst')
*"Halo" (Xbox videogame as slipspace)
*"Mass Effect" (known as FTL travel)
*"" PC game series (known as 'subspace')
*"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeline L'Engle (children's book)
*"Sonic X" (anime) - second season.
*"Event Horizon" (film)
*"Animorphs" Books and TV series (known as Zero-Space)
*"OGame" Browser game involving spaceships and travel through space - The hyperspace technology and hyperspace propulsion are developments to do in order to unlock certain battle ships or defense cannons.
*"The Culture", a civilisation featured in some of Iain M Banks's novels. Here, 'hyperspace' and 'warp' travel are separate technologies.
*"Gene Roddenberrys Andromeda" has slipstream.
*"Gradius Gaiden" (As Hyperspace)

Other forms of Hyperspace

Other forms of hyperspace usually have the same properties, however, some allow travel throughout time as well as space (eg the Time Vortex). Popular names include warpspace, slipspace and subspace.

Slipspace is a method of travelling faster-than-light in the television series "Andromeda". 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. Slipspace 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.

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, Overdrive is a method of faster than light travel by a field of energy called an overdrive field. 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.

The spindizzy from James Blish's 'Cities in Flight' series 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' series written by Hiroyuki Morioka. It is only accessible via Sords, making ones located near star systems of high strategic value.

ee also

*Faster-than-light transmission
*Fourth dimension
*Spacecraft propulsion
*Warp drive
*Jump drive
*Boom Tube


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

* [http://doc.cern.ch//archive/electronic/other/ext/ext-2004-109.pdf Hyperspace A Vanishing Act by P. Hoiland]
* [http://www.jessesword.com/sf/view/59 SF Citations for OED ] at www.jessesword.com
* [http://www.astronomycafe.net/anthol/scifi2.html Hyperspace in Science Fiction : The Astronomy Cafe - Dr. Sten Odenwald ] at www.astronomycafe.net

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