Everything You Wanted To Know About Hyperspace (But Were Afraid To Ask)


With countless worlds and alien species spread across an entire galaxy far, far away, it would only make sense to create a plausible form of travel by which individuals could jump back and forth. This convenient little plot mechanic is known as hyperspace, and it’s been part of Star Wars lore since the very first film.

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Hyperspace might otherwise be known as “light speed,” but this is a misleading term. There’s a lot more that goes into this phenomenon, and its history stretches back for millennia. Here are ten facts about hyperspace that non-techies were afraid to ask, and physics experts were too embarrassed to ponder.

10 The Pre-Hyperspace Days

Long before hyperspace before the common method of travel within the Star Wars universe, the earliest spacefarers were setting out to chart the galaxy in hopes of laying down roots. To counteract the effects of extremely long voyages, these travelers would encase themselves in carbonite as a method of keeping their bodies in perfect hibernation.

Unfortunately, this rather crude preservation technique also brought about hibernation sickness and all of its undesirable side effects. Worse yet, certain individuals were at risk of dying from the condition. Hyperdrive motivators would put an end to the need for carbonite freezing during deep space travel.

9 Hyperspace Is An Alternate Dimension

Admiral Ackbar

While it’s tempting to equate hyperspace with so-called “warp drive technology” that is theoretically possible, the two aren’t related. Hyperspace in the Star Wars universe exists as an alternate dimension from realspace which can be accessed via hyperdrive technology.

As ships reach lightspeed (or greater) velocity, they can access this dimension and enter hyperspace “lanes” which allow for fast travel in between systems that would normally take thousands of years to reach. In effect, it’s the watered-down version of space-folding physics that we may one day get to take advantage of.

8 The Role Of A Hyperdrive

Millennium Falcon

Most Star Wars fans have heard of hyperdrive systems which are installed on ships in order to allow for jumps to hyperspace, but few know how they work. These engines were fueled by hypermatter, a substance that could be manipulated to propel a ship into hyperspace without damaging it.

These technological systems not only kicked a ship into hyperspace but maintained it as well. Any fault in the system would cause the ship to drop out immediately out of hyperspace, which was considered an extremely hazardous risk.

7 The Role Of Gravity

Interdictor Star Destroyer

Although hyperspace is considered an alternate dimension separate from realspace, the two are connected by the (loose) laws of physics in the Star Wars universe. One of these laws is shared with our own universe – the power of gravitational forces.

Ships flying through hyperspace could be yanked out in mid-flight by interdictor vessels which were capable of generating large gravity wells that affected hyperspace lanes passing through their diameter. Similarly, a gravity well could nullify a hyperdrive and prevent a ship from making the jump. The Empire utilized interdictor vessels to trap Rebel forces and prevent them from escaping.

6 Hyperspace Is Not Linear

X-Wing

While many Star Wars fans might think a hyperspace jump is a simple straight-line move, that’s not quite the case. Hyperspace is a twisting and turning dimension made up of specific lanes that ships must adhere to, as they forge a safe path to and from particular destinations.

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Entering hyperspace without precise calculations was extremely dangerous – a fact echoed by Han Solo who said it was possible to “fly right through a star, or bounce too close to a supernova.” It also explains why tracking ships who jump to hyperspace is a difficult affair that requires guesswork and extrapolation.

5 Organics May Travel Through Hyperspace

Purrgil

Ships aren’t the only thing that can travel through hyperspace. Certain organic life forms such as the Purrgil could also manipulate hyperspace lanes and travel freely, as evidenced by the Star Wars: Rebels episode “The Call.”

Similarly, the Yuuzhan Vong from the New Jedi Order Legends material implemented dovin basal technology to propel their organic vessels through hyperspace. If the physiology was correct, and the creature capable of withstanding the stresses of faster-than-light travel, they could make use of this natural phenomenon.

4 Discovery And Use

Old Republic hyperdrive

Without hyperspace, the Star Wars galaxy would simply not exist. It was the linchpin for all of the progress, growth, and expansion that eventually led to the formation of the Republic, the Galactic Empire, and the New Republic that followed in its wake.

Hyperspace had been in use for thousands of years before Luke Skywalker’s time, and it was instrumental in the battles that took place between countless worlds and species. In peacetime, it served as an effective trade system between friendly worlds and galactic commerce groups.

3 The Evolution Of Travel

Lando Calrissian

While Star Wars depicts the act of hyperspace travel as a singular jump with pre-programmed navigational coordinates, it wasn’t always so. In the early days, hyperwave beacons were required to chart hyperspace lanes and set up multiple jump points leading to the desired destination.

This necessitated that the ship drop out of hyperspace several times in order to reposition for the next wave point jump. Eventually, this archaic form of travel was replaced by computer-driven hyperdrive systems with coordinates built into their star charts.

2 Pseudomotion

Republic ships in hyperspace

When a ship makes the jump to hyperspace, the resulting visual phenomenon makes it appear as if the ship picks up massive acceleration. This is actually a distortion known as pseudomotion which may not represent what most viewers think it does.

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This could be the same type of distortion phenomena hypothesized when one crosses the event horizon of a black hole and is drawn inside, which appears different than what is actually taking place. Either way, the science behind it remains mysterious in Star Wars canon – possibly on purpose.

1 The Great Disaster

Jedi Hyperspace Beacon

Approximately 232 years before the Trade Federation invaded Naboo in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, an incident known as the “Great Disaster” caused starships from all corners of the galaxy to suddenly drop out of hyperspace. This triggered a catastrophically destructive reaction that obliterated several moons including the inhabited Korbatal.

The Jedi were tasked with investigating what caused the Great Disaster and learned that a mass shadow of debris had been lodged in the hyperspace lanes which caused the disaster to take place. It was the first true depiction of stationery realspace objects threatening travelers from within hyperspace itself. This event was created specifically for the upcoming High Republic lore.

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Updated: December 6, 2020 — 1:00 am

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