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I was wondering how Star Wars hyperdrives work. I'm mainly interested in how they use energy (i.e. electricity or any other types of power) to cause a ship to go faster than light's speed.

I'm aware that going faster than the speed of light is impossible according to real-world physics, but how does a hyperdrive in the Star Wars universe work?

Do hyperdrives generate wormholes? Do they simply make the ship accelerate faster than lightspeed? Do they create warp bubbles, or is there some other way they cause starships to go faster than light?

What are the generally accepted ideas and/or theories of how hyperdrives in the SW universe work? Is there a canon explanation?

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The science behind Star Wars is only peripheral. So, those subjects are not very well defined and/or elaborated. After all, when peoples can move objects with the power of their mind, why bother about those scientific details?

Anyway, a Hyperdrive is just what allows travel faster than light through something called Hyperspace.

Excerpt from the Hyperspace starwars wikia article

Hyperspace was the alternate state of existence used by starships to achieve faster-than-light travel. It was a phenomenon not completely understood by scientists; it was alternately described as a parallel universe, an extra dimension of space, an alternate mode of physical existence, or simply the universe as viewed traveling faster than the speed of light.

As for how the Hyperdrive itself works, you could read the following, but since the Hyperspace itself is so poorly defined, it just looks like a random bunch of technical electronics and physics jargon. It looks like, at some point, they just gave up and said it works "somehow", as for the Force.

Excerpt from the Hyperdrive starwars wikia article

The process of a hyperspace jump began with the collection of gamma radiation by the field guide. A motivator would build up and modify the energy in a fusion generator through several kilometers of looped superconducting wire. To enter hyperspace, the hyperdrive's horizontal boosters would provide energy to the ionization chamber to begin ignition that would release the radiation, causing ripples in the time-space matrix and allowing the ship to propel off the ripples into hyperspace. Inertial dampers were used to protect the ship, crew, and cargo from being crushed by the tremendous acceleration of the jump. Once in hyperspace, a null quantum field generator helped stabilize the vessel and kept it from prematurely emerging from the alternate dimension. Shields also protected the ship from fatal collisions with interstellar gas and dark matter particles. To prevent the relativistic passing of time while in hyperspace, starships used stasis fields attuned to hyperdrive levels to keep organic onboard crews or cargoes "in time" with the standard galactic dimension.

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    Yes! This is the type of specific answer I was looking for - thank you very much! – Peter Cassetta Sep 20 '11 at 17:27
  • I only have a little nitpicky thing to say: the Force is a proper noun in Star Wars. :) – PrinceTyke Aug 14 '15 at 14:52
  • Not sure why they would want to prevent the relativistic passing of time... even though a journey across the galaxy might only take a few days or weeks, who wouldn't want to avoid aging during that period? – user11521 Sep 13 '15 at 5:41
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There are various loopholes to the limit of light speed in our space time.

Often they include a different space-time, called Hyper space where the speed of light differs greatly (Much higher).

Or else a different space time where distance is contracted, therefore distances travelled in it, then popping out, carry you further in our universe.

There are all sorts of different approaches and a bunch of good answers on this site already:

Slipstream vs Warp

Honorverse FTL

Star Trek FTL

  • Thanks for your helpful answer, geoffc - the answer and those other questions helped me to better understand the concept of ftl travel. (Although I'd already seen two of them.) :) – Peter Cassetta Sep 18 '11 at 13:05
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    Would you happen to have any knowledge about hyperdrives specifically in the Star Wars universe? – Peter Cassetta Sep 18 '11 at 13:25
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    PeterDC: Its make believe! :) Lucas made it all up. – geoffc Sep 19 '11 at 0:13
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    You didn't answer anything related to Star Wars, just some references to how OTHER things work. – dkuntz2 Sep 20 '11 at 17:20
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    @DKuntz2 Well, it's actually probably my fault - my original question was rather vague and not very specific to Star Wars. :-[ – Peter Cassetta Sep 21 '11 at 12:59
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In theory, a hyperdrive is impossible to make or produce. Such materials would be out of this world (literally.) Although, due to the nature of science fiction, such things happen and are possible. First off, you have the main engine comprised of separate ionization, thrust, and vector parts. First, you need the energy, in this case, super-electricity from nano-batteries. Since the power from these batteries are so powerful, they'll be able to provide huge amounts of power to the engines.This energy is then fused and pressurized through super-coils located in the ionization chamber of the engine. The energy creates vast amounts of ion and nuclear energy which then powers a super powerful magnet that distorts space time. This creates a distortion in the fabric of space and creates substantial amounts of crushing gravity. All this power adds up and zip. The vessel goes away into space. Technically, the vessel would start at a slow speed, accelerate, and eventually go faster than light, but since this is the Star Wars universe, you might wanna get away from those nasty TIE fighters. :)

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To date, very little was mentioned on-screen (in canon) on how hyperdrive works.

It hadn't been used to go beyond the galaxy (or, at least no mention of that was made). A lot of the outer rim of the Star Wars galaxy is also unexplored or otherwise remains unknown. However, it was stated that in order for Hyperdrive to work, you'd need accurate star charts, otherwise you risk slamming into a star or a black hole (this makes little sense considering how large space actually is... and the distances between stars are usually humongous... but your chances of slamming into a star do increase if the galaxy is very small).

We also know little of how fast it actually is given that almost little is stated on how long it takes to get from one destination to the other and no information on the distances involved.

The Millenium Falcon was stated by Han Solo: She’ll make point five beyond the speed of light.

What does point five beyond the speed of light mean in the context of Star Wars though? 1.5C? (that's way too slow to traverse huge distances in any appreciable amount of time even if the galaxy is a small one).

How big is the smallest galaxy? The black hole is five times the mass of the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It is inside one of the densest galaxies known to date -- the M60-UCD1 dwarf galaxy that crams 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years, which is only 1/500th of our galaxy's diameter.

For Hyperdrive to work on such a scale and being able to go from one end of the galaxy to the other in say 2 or 3 days.. the speed of the Hyperdrive would need to be about 42,946 times C (would need just about 2 and a half days to go from one end of the galaxy to the other).

So, if a galaxy is very small and is densely packed with stars like M60-UCD1, you'd probably have to be careful about exiting Hyperdrive (plus, gravitational fields from Stars might affect ships).

None of the expanded universe novels or technical manuals were ever considered to be canon by George Lucas or officials who made Star Wars before Disney took over. And also, after Disney took over, only the things we saw on-screen (movies) and their novelizations have been generally accepted as part of canon (nothing however that would validate fan made up gigaton level firepower on ISD's part for example or existence of Hypermatter).

Mind you, my familiarity with Wars newest canon is a bit rusty, so there might have been some things mentioned since Disney took over that explains Hyperdrive better than what I'm familiar with.

Does Hyperdrive create wormholes, warp bubbles and whatnot? Warp bubbles? Not so much - since they rely on usage of subspace in Trek, but little to no mention is given of subspace actually existing in Wars universe or that its being used as any type of medium for FTL or communications.

It doesn't seem like Hyperdrive generates wormholes... it looks similar to a tunnel which a starship uses to travel at FTL, so it might be similar to Slipstream... but it appears that unlike Slipstream, you need correct star charts for navigation.

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From what some of the more recent comics have shown, hyperspace is parallel to realspace and both do not exist at the same time, but have the same physical obstructions in place (ie: planets) and calculations must be made ahead of time as to not end up destroyed by flying through one. This is why "Runs" are a thing in the various hyperspace lanes.

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    Hi there! "Recent comics" meaning which ones exactly? Can you edit in some panels, or at least an arc/issue reference? – Jenayah Feb 24 at 22:38

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