The hyperdrive was a propulsion system that allowed a starship to reach lightspeed and traverse the void between stars in the alternate dimension of hyperspace. As a consequence, the hyperdrive was a key instrument in shaping galactic society, trade, politics, and war.
The hyperdrive functioned by sending hypermatter particles to hurl a ship into hyperspace while preserving the vessel's mass/energy profile, and required a functional hyperdrive motivator to do so. The vessel then traveled along a programmed course until it dropped back into normal space—realspace—at its destination.
A hyperdrive only functioned to keep a vessel in hyperspace, and should a hyperdrive be forcibly deactivated or destroyed during transit, the ship was violently and instantly pulled back into realspace.
Being short-range craft, most starfighters lacked a hyperdrive. This was notably the case with the Galactic Empire's TIE fighters, which had to be ferried to combat zones aboard larger ships. However, the X-wing and A-Wing starfighters used by the Rebel Alliance were fitted with hyperdrives, allowing them to make long-range jumps.
Large objects in normal space cast "mass shadows" in hyperspace, thus hyperspace jumps required accurate plotting to avoid collisions, which were often fatal.
Later technologies could pull vessels out of hyperspace. For instance, interdiction fields created gravitational shadows, simulating mass, in the path of an oncoming vessel, yanking the vessel out of hyperspace. Imperial technologists developed the widely used Interdictor vessels and their various sub-models, some of the most effective interdiction technologies.
Sightings of purrgil, a spacefaring species capable of traveling at lightspeed, were said to have inspired the early development of the hyperdrive. Before its invention, the earliest spacers utilized sleeper ships, using cryogenic freezing processes to preserve their original hosts in carbonite. Once hyperdrives made faster-than-light travel possible, galactic civilization flourished throughout ancient history. The Old Republic sent pioneering scout ships to explore the galaxy as increasing numbers of civilians from the Core Worlds sought a better life.
Later, more advanced hyperdrives allowed even faster travel across a galaxy over 100,000 light years across, while major hyperlanes such as the Perlemian Trade Route and Hydian Way further accelerated galactic expansion.
- "Mistress Lina. As you know, the hyperdrive engines won't fire within the gravitational pull of a planet. The safety protocols will activate."
"Not if we turn them off."
"You can't do that!"
- ―CR-8R and Lina Graf
During the Clone Wars, a microjump was used to rescue Jedi Master Eeth Koth from the forces of the Confederacy of Independent Systems in orbit of Saleucami. Using the exact coordinates of General Grievous' command ship, Anakin Skywalker precisely jumped through hyperspace, arriving meters away from his target, undetected. The same precise jumping technique was used by Han Solo to infiltrate the First Order superweapon Starkiller Base, since the planet's shields were using a fractional refresh rate that would keep anything below light speed from passing through. Without careful planning, using the hyperdrive in such a manner could result in the loss of a ship due to the nature of mass shadows, but the most gifted pilots like Solo and Skywalker could use those characteristics of space to their advantage.
In 34 ABY, Resistance Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo executed a hyperspace jump with the cruiser Raddus that was directly aimed at the First Order flagship Supremacy, causing the enemy ship to be sliced apart in the resulting collision.
Hyperdrives were rated by "class"; the lower the class, the faster the engine. With its Class One hyperdrive, the Carrion Spike was the fastest ship in the Imperial Navy, while top-of-the-line capital ships such as the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer featured Class 2 hyperdrives. The First Death Star, meanwhile, had a mere Class 4 hyperdrive. The T-14 hyperdrive generator equipped on J-type 327 Nubian starships was rated Class 1.8. Some exceptional ships, like Nakari Kelen's Desert Jewel or Han Solo's Millennium Falcon, had exceptionally fast hyperdrives—Class 0.8 and 0.5 respectively.
Notes and references
- Star Wars Battlefront II
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Victory and Death"
- Star Wars: Ships of the Galaxy
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections
- Star Wars Rebels – "The Call"
- Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side!
- The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
- Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
- Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Grievous Intrigue"
- Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens
- Star Wars: Galactic Atlas places the events of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens in 34 ABY. Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi takes place immediately after the end of The Force Awakens.
- Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi
- Star Wars Encyclopedia of Starfighters and Other Vehicles
- Ultimate Star Wars
- Heir to the Jedi
- Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know