Appendix Three: Hyperspace Travel

Hyperspace:  Hyperspace is the means by which a vessel traverses the vast distances between the stars.  While an object cannot exceed the speed of light, objects moving through higher dimensional states possess a much greater degree of freedom.  As shorter paths can be found between two points in higher dimensions, travel times can be greatly reduced.  Essential to a starship are three pieces of equipment: The Hyperdrive, the Inertial Containment Grid, and the Navcomp, which make FTL possible, feasible, and practical respectively.

 

The Hyperdrive:  Developed early in the last century before the Third World War, when the hyperdrive is activated, it causes the space in front of the vessel to collapse, creating a hole through which the vessel is pushed by the space behind it sealing the rupture.  This is called a shunt or jump.  Because of the brief but extreme acceleration involved, a ship must be protected by an inertial containment field.

The distance a ship travels in hyperspace for a given period is called its Jump Rate.  A ship’s maximum jump rate is 0.01 lightyears per hour per Jump Class of its Hyperdrive.  Thus, a class 1 starship can travel 0.25 lightyears in a single 25 hour day or 2.5 lightyears in a single 10 day week.  A class 6 vessel could travel 1.5 lightyears in a day or 15 lightyears in a week.

Because a hyperdrive takes up roughly 5% of a ship’s mass per class rating, in addition to fuel requirements, ratings of higher then 6 are impractical.  The one exception is the Exchange Courier, operated by the Free Trade Federation.  These ships are essentially nothing but a hyperdrive with a small crew compartment and a databank, unable to maneuver on their own.  These ships have jump ratings of 10, the highest possible under current technology.

 

Inertial Containment Grid:  Inertial Containment (or IC) grids are used on all ships, and some boats, to counter the effects of rapid acceleration and deceleration. This is accomplished by sustaining and absorbing the natural inertia of a vessel moving through space, allowing it to achieve otherwise impossible velocity changes while protecting both vessel and occupants.  In hyperspace travel, the three dimensional shell created by the field enables the ship to survive the shunt process as well as cross higher dimensional states intact.

 

Navcomp:  This is a dedicated navigation computer incorporated into the hyperdrive.  Given the proper astronomical information, it can calculate paths through hyperspace and maneuver the ship in higher dimensions, a task beyond the design parameters of the human mind.

Class IV hyperdrives and below can maneuver in up to 5-dimensional space.  These constitute the most powerful navigation systems that can be manufactured in the Riftward Marches and Fringeward Expanse.  Factions from these regions must acquire more advanced technology through alternate means.

Class V hyperdrives and higher must negotiate 6-dimensional space.  Since no circuitry yet devised can react quickly enough, these high-end Navcomps rely upon an engineered bio-processor: a specialized organic brain fully integrated into the larger machine.  Jump rates of higher then 10 would require 7-dimensional navigation, not plausible with current technology.

 

Dangers and Limitations of Hyperspace Travel:  Because a ship’s precise alignment when entering hyperspace is essential, exposure to gravitational tides can result in catastrophe.  As a rule, 1,000 diameters distance from planetary bodies is safe.  For very large and dense objects, such as stars, 10,000 diameters are recommended.  Reentry into normal space can be safely affected at half these distances but the risk of hitting a solid object increases deeper into a planisphere and crossing a system’s Oort cloud is always dangerous.

            A ship in hyperspace is completely isolated from the outside universe.  It cannot be detected while in hyperspace and its own sensors are effectively useless until it reemerges.  Because only the navcomp can maneuver the ship while in hyperspace, it is impossible to make course corrections en route and terminating a shunt early brings substantial risk.  Even routine extra-dimensional travel can be perilous.  Aside from gravity perturbation, numerous hazards await in hyperspace.  Three in particular that plague the spacer:

Graviton Streamers are tendrils of graviton partials that connect massive stellar objects such as black holes, neutron stars and giant suns.  While it is thought that all objects are thus connected, only very massive bodies seem to cause concentrations dense enough to pose a threat.  A characteristic of Hypergravity, the effects of this phenomenon were once attributed to dark matter, since proven to be far less prevalent than first assumed.

Shadow Bodies:  All known physical objects are 4-dimensional in nature (inclusive of time) but can be encountered, and with great force, in higher dimensional space.  The only defense against collision is to know of the object’s presence in advance.  Even if collision with the object is avoided, gravitational forces are much stronger in higher dimensions and can tear a ship to pieces if it strays too close.

Fore Flares are high-energy discharges from flare stars, super flares, supernovae, gamma ray bursts, quasars, and similarly energetic events that travel faster than light in higher dimensional states.  For this reason, these waves of energy can be encountered much further away from their epicenters than expected.

The most insidious risk of hyperspace travel is invisible however.  Most individuals begin to suffer what is known as Hyperspace Dementia after 500 to 600 hours of continuous FTL travel.  The cumulative effects of multiple shorter trips can also give rise to symptoms if jumps are repeated without sufficient intervals between.  Generally, a rest period equal to half the time spent in hyperspace should follow before additional jumps are attempted.

Early signs include headache, dry-mouth, disorientation, and irritability.  If exposure persists, hallucinations and sudden, violent mood swings can occur.  Permanent bipolar and schizophrenic disorders can develop and worsen over time.  This progressive condition can lead to complete disassociation from reality, and eventually, to a persistent catatonic state known as the Mariner’s Twilight.

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