hyperdrive Technology / Science in Star Wars: Shards | World Anvil

hyperdrive (HI per driv)

Adapted from The Star Wars Roleplaying Game Second Edition, pages 116-119 and 192, published by West End Games.

Holopedia Galactica entry:



A hyperdrive is the mechanism that propels a starship into an alternate dimension known as hyperspace, where it is possible to travel at many times the speed of light within our native reality.


John Washington, Fortune Hunter:


Okay, look, I chunked a large portion of the old Holopedia article because it is useless in modern times. And then I paid a slicer to see that my changes propagated as the root article across the network. If you need the old version for scholarly research or something equally obscure, you can find it in various well-maintained archives. Which, being a scholarly type, I figure you already know how to do. I am not here to help with that sort of work.
I even agree up front that those original authors did some good work. If I could shake Greg Farshtey by the hand -- alive, I mean, not some kind of Reaver-esque cybernetic immortal -- I absolutely would. Word around Tortuga is that the Straw Hat Gang went up against Farshtey, trying to raid his personal collection, and they ran out of ammo before Farshtey ran out of return volleys. That's a hominid who did not just talk the talk, he walked the walk!
So, yeah, the Holopedia had good writing staff. Over the decades, their starcraft-adjacent articles also got "publisher" revisions thanks to the Galactic Empire, and they got "supply chain" revisions thanks to the Corporate Sector Authority. The end result is that those solid sources got microholes full of "colorful misunderstandings".
Too much of that could lead the nascent adventurer down a faulty path.
I decided to get you a better start. I recorded some stuff from my own lived experience, and I recruited input from some other respected names across the Galaxy.
Here is the lowdown on hyperdrive technology, from the perspective of the people working with it:

What is "hyperdrive"?

To understand that, you have to understand hyperspace.
Got any post-graduate degrees in mathematical learnin'?
Me neither.
Here's how a Mentat passenger broke it down for me:

Imagine an unmoored Gungan hydrostatic bubble, adrift in an ocean. It moves around where oceanic pressure and currents nudge it. It is affected by ripples of other bodies' motion. If it bangs into a more solid, more rigid structure, it may take damage.

Bodies in realspace are like the hydrostatic bubble. Realspace is the ocean in which we float.

If the hydrostatic bubble happens to eject past the surface tension of the ocean's outer perimeter, it continues to be subject to the same laws of fluid dynamics. But! Due to the change in fluid density on several sides, due to the additional dynamics of surface tension, the hydrostatic bubble suddenly travels the same distance between coordinates at a much faster rate!

This is because the environment on one side of the surface tension layer is a coterminous reality to the environment on the other side. Same laws, different factors, do you see?

The transition from one side of the surface tension layer to the other is structurally difficult. A thousand variables can cause the hydrostatic bubble to pop. Over the centuries we have determined perhaps forty methods of successfully, reproducibly making a transfer with no unfortunate impact to the molecular structure of the vessel, its contents, the barrier between realities, or for that matter either of the realities. We have unfortunately discovered unknowable hundreds of thousands of methods of not avoiding damage -- and in a contest between a greater existence such as an entire reality (or its boundary) versus a mere time-constrained physical component, it is always the unauthorized smaller body that absorbs most of the damage.

In this simile, hyperdrive technology is the engineering methodology of safely passing through the barrier. The most common solution is to generate a sort of "patch" from hypermatter particles, so that the continuity of the barrier remains unbroken while rerouting around a discrete realspace fragment that includes the vehicle hull and all its interior bits.

— Mentat-Hypothesist Hissasa Corinne
She had more to say. That just happens to be the point where she lost me. Most pilots do not really need to understand the nature of coronau radiation, wake rotation, null quantum fields, hypergates, or a Thorsen field. A good pilot knows how to use the equipment involved … and when not to use them until something gets fixed.
"Hyperdrive" is the technology that gets a starship from realspace into hyperspace, across a distance, and back to realspace with no creepy special effects from a horror holovid. "A hyperdrive" is the propulsion system that a starship uses to travel any distance which, in realspace, would be measured in comparison to the speed of light. A hyperdrive, meaning the object, is a properly integrated conglomeration of parts that all have to function at consistent levels for an externally-calculated amount of time. When they stop doing that, the best possible result is that the ship abruptly returns to realspace.

How do I use it?

Take some lessons from an experienced pilot. Do not start off with the idea that piloting a hyperdrive-equipped vessel is the same as launching a glider off a cliff. Any interstellar pilot has to know enough astrogation to make accurate calculations for their imminent jump, the trip through equivalent hyperspace, and the return to realspace at the end.
In the more practical frame of approach: After each landing, your astromech should check the ship's systems and highlight to the starport pit crew any significant maintenance issues. Of course, a smart pilot does their own systems check every couple of days. What if the astromech is buggy? What if it gets a false positive? What if a business rival decided to tilt the odds?
Standard BoSS training says to do a thorough visual inspection at least half a day before an expected departure, another one an hour before departure, and a third before signing off any repair or maintenance report. Out in the real galaxy, lots of folks keep that third but go lax on the first two.
Not me. I will do a hurried systems check if I have an unexpected rapid departure. But I almost never skip it completely.
Once it's cockpit time, though, all fueled up, astrogation calculations entered, use of the hyperdrive is not all that complex: Fly sublight well away from massive bodies. Activate the programmed route. Punch it. Enjoy the ride.
Keep enough attention on vessel and upcoming hyperspace terrain to react quickly if something goes wonky. Or if purrgil swarm through.
If you do see purrgil, pay more attention to your terrain even on a regularly cleared hyperlane. Interstellar debris can ruin your hyperdrive. Navigational shielding filters out the fine particles, sure, that's what navshields are for -- but a few hits from purrgil tooth fragments (or, well, dung) are going to overload those navshields into a cascading failure.

End of the road

Your hyperdrive is supposed to shut down at the end of the calculated journey. That presumes your navcomputer is working according to factory specifications, your journey was uneventful, and no hinky business is in progress at the terminal coordinates.
Most pilots of my acquaintance shut down their hyperdrives manually. It's nice to have an emergency evac course laid in for a short hop "away", just in case some numbskull decided to loiter near the system arrival locus in realspace, and have a manipulator limb already in position to reactivate the hyperdrive. This is a terrible strain to put on any starfighter or freighter, but it beats hull damage or tractor beams.
(Remember to aim away from the large masses in the system!)
If the ship's mass shadow sensor detects the hyperspace shadow of a realspace massive object, it will override the hyperdrive into shutting down immediately. This is a last-chance attempt to prevent the destruction of the starship via hyperspace collision. Unfortunately, the starship in question continues to have the same forward velocity on its return to realspace that it possessed before the jump. A pilot surprised by the emergency hyperdrive shutdown has microseconds to figure out its cause before they need to alter course away from a realspace massive object. This is a "succeed or perish" emergency action! Do your simulator drills until they become deeply ingrained reflexes.

- database entry updated Datunda
34 Nelona
HG Editor Overwrite Permissions Revoked


OOC: Game Mechanics
Three things happen when a character wants to travel to a different system:
  1. The GM picks the astrogation difficulty number.
  3. The pilot makes calculations for the jump to hyperspace.
  5. Based on the astrogation roll, the vehicle's hyperdrive multiplier, and the hyperlane terrain, the GM and the pilot determine the trip's duration.

- database entry permalocked on Katunda
32 Helona
HG Editor Overwrite Permissions Revoked


John Washington, Fortune Hunter:

The Galaxy used to have as many makes and brands of hyperdrive as it had makes and brands of memory crystals. Maybe a tenth of them survived the Galactic Civil War without being bankrupted, bombed, nationalized, or made obsolete.
Due to the nature of hyperspace travel, the engineering principles of a hyperdrive's components are universal. Maintenance and repair procedures got standardized back in the early Colonial Era. No technological improvements since then have made modern hyperdrives too complicated for the average citizen to keep functional. BoSS offices in planetary capitals tend to offer a few low-cost or no-cost beginner maintenance courses -- it's a great place to plunk down any loose adolescents in the family group for a month or three, freeing up a half day for primary caretakers to manage their own concerns.
The low bar to proficiency in hyperdrive maintenance also means that passenger liners can make a modest profit off comfort upgrades while keeping their base ticket price low. Most citizens in the post-war galaxy can afford interstellar travel if they have a reason to pack up and go, even if they are not able to lay manipulator digits on a ship of their own.
The hyperdrive is seldom the cause of a spacer's debit balance. It will be the other costs -- atmo, port fees, fuel, merchandise, protection -- that get a pilot into financial difficulties.

- database entry updated Natunda
35 Nelona
HG Editor Overwrite Permissions Revoked

Holopedia Galactica entry:

It is unknown whether hyperdrive was invented by the humans of the Core Worlds or introduced by alien traders from far off in the Unknown Regions, but this miraculous technology, which predates the Republic, allowed the formation of a galactic civilization.
— p. 92

- database entry updated 932:06:10 RR
HG Editor Overwrite Permissions Revoked
Related Items

Hyperdrive Multiplier Class
Every hyperdrive fits within a "class" or "multiplier rating". The number is listed as "class" if the target customer has deep pockets (governments, long-established noble family scions, Corporate Sector bigwigs). For those with more finite resources, the plainer "multiplier" is listed.
Both terms get treated the same by engineers and astrogators.
To oversimplify: Bigger multipliers indicate slower transit times.
What will happen to this system in another few centuries, when a hyperdrive faster than x0.3 is a reproducible design?
Best to ask a Librarian how past cultures have handled similar terminology changes. Maybe we'll swap to something based on electromagnetic spectra.
Currently, any vehicle above a certain lofty price tag is going to have a hyperdrive backup included in its design. These are significantly slower drives, fuel inefficient, self-contained until needed. They cannot operate simultaneously with the main drive. After use, they are likely to require dismantling for replacement of some components before being refueled and sealed back up.
  • Yachts are for the wealthy citizen of the galaxy; they have a hyperdrive backup.
  • Military Transports, Scouts, and Shuttles carry goods or intel that their owner really wants to arrive at its destination. They'll probably have a backup. It might not be in decent shape. It might get the goods intact to a safe destination, but not the grunts.
  • Starfighers do not get designed with hyperdrive backups. They are meant to be short range. Starfighters are expensive, but if they stray that far away from a capital ship before encountering main drive failure then that's too durned bad.
  • Capital Ships absolutely have hyperdrive backups whether they are military, municipal, or privately owned. They may have multiple hyperdrive backups, if they are hospital ships or Ithorian Worldships.
  • Heavy Freighters and Bulk Transports also carry a significant investment in materials for someone, so they come equipped with a hyperdrive backup.
  • Medium Freighters might have a hyperdrive backup; Light Freighters likely do not. Any ships of these sizes found to have an integrated hyperdrive backup are either aftermarket modifications, or else extralegal.

OOC: Missing Content
discuss fuel!
  • not all starcraft have hypermatter.
  • How often is refueling necessary:
  • What happens if you mix fuels?
See also https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Fuel/Legends and https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Hypermatter/Legends


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