Hello everyone and welcome to the Sarlacc Pit. This week I want to discuss hyperspace: the only mode of intergalactic travel that allows pilots to traverse lightyears in moments. There is little canon information about hyperspace, but I am going to attempt to explain what hyperspace was, the technology behind it, and some of the dangers of traveling through hyperspace. This post will have mild spoilers and refers to material from most of the movies, as well as a very strange episode of “Star Wars: Rebels.”
What is Hyperspace?
Hyperspace refers to a separate dimension from “realspace” reachable only to those moving at the speed of light. Moving through hyperspace was the only way to travel across the galaxy without dealing with multiple years of travel between planets. Without hyperspace, intergalactic travel was impossible, as it would take an entire lifetime or more to simply reach the next star system (just think: to get from Earth to Mars takes approximately 258 days with our current technology). Because ships in hyperspace are moving at the speed of light, their surroundings appear blurred around them.
Objects in realspace, such as planets, meteors, starships, etc., can interact with object in hyperspace, so careful calculations must be made to safely travel through hyperspace.
The History of Hyperspace
The ability to travel through hyperspace originated in nature with deep-space inhabiting species such as purrgil. These non-sentient species were able to travel through hyperspace without the use of any external technologies. All that is known about the first sentient species to travel through hyperspace is that they were an “archaic species,” and probably not still around during the time that the movies take place.
In order to travel through hyperspace, the first piece of equipment needed is a ship equipped with a hyperdrive. Most larger ships had these, as well as some one-man starfighters (i.e. X-wings, Y-wings, TIE advances, Jedi starfighters, etc.). However, some smaller ships, such as TIE fighters, did not have hyperdrives and thus needed to be connected to or carried in larger hyperspace-capable ships.
Besides a hyperdrive, ships also needed the ability to accurately calculate hyperspace routes. This could be done via a computer, or by astromech droids. Astromechs were usually a good choice, as not only could they program and change hyperspace coordinates as needed, but they could also make repairs and help with other tasks. Smaller ships with hyperdrives such as A-wings could travel through hyperspace, but only between two coordinates before having to reprogram the hyperdrive. Larger ships and starfighters equipped with astromechs could program series of hyperdrive jumps either in advance or as they traveled.
The Dangers of Hyperspace
So people traveled through a different dimension at the speed of light or faster, what could possibly go wrong? The first major thing to be aware of while traveling through hyperspace was to make sure pilots did not smash into planets, stars, or other things at light speed, which theoretically would cause the destruction of the object, the ship, and a good bit of stuff in the area. To avoid this, there were a few major hyperspace lanes with hyperspace buoys that pinged safe coordinate and routes to jump into and out of hyperspace. However, these lanes did not lead everywhere, so having a computer or droid that could accurately calculate hyperspace routes was key for safety.
Animals such as the above-mentioned purrgil that could travel through hyperspace also presented another danger while moving through hyperspace, especially considering purrgil’s affinity for traveling close to starships. This branded purrgils as a nuisance and pilots often killed them on sight.
Pilots also had to be careful how they entered and exited hyperspace. Because of the dangers of hitting something while going the speed of light, safely entering hyperspace from a standstill or exiting within the atmosphere of a planet were considered impossible, and many ships had safety precautions to prevent such madness. That did not, however, prevent Han Solo from achieving both maneuvers during the events of “The Force Awakens.”
Suddenly being pulled out of or “falling” out of hyperspace was also very dangerous, as suddenly shifting position as a ship slowed from light speed has very dangerous implications. The Empire, however, was known to employ gravity well generators to pull ships out of hyperspace. They could track ships entering hyperspace by the emission of Cronau radiation emitted upon a ship entering hyperspace. These had to be used very carefully though, or they could cause the Imperial ship to implode, or drag ally ships toward themselves.
While hyperspace was often used in the galaxy, it was actually incredibly dangerous, but most dangers could be avoided with the proper equipment.
I hope you found this information about hyperspace informative. Hyperspace is one of the coolest parts of Star Wars lore, and I hope that we will one day get information about it’s discovery. As for next week, however, I will do a short-ish overview of a few planets whose struggles during the Clone Wars helped set the stage for the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. Naturally this will use information mostly from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” as well as some information from “Star Wars: Rebels,” and a little from Star Wars: Lords of the Sith. Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!