The hyperdrive, or hyperspace module, is a device that makes interstellar space travel possible in the Homeworld universe, through the manipulation of Hyperspace. It is composed of several parts including an automatic navicomputer, the surrounding chassis and containment fields, as well as the most important part, the hyperspace core (if Far Jump). Ships equipped with a hyperdrive are capable of reaching the faster-than-light velocities required for interstellar transit.
While the hyperdrive is an important part of interstellar travel it is not the only example of such technology. Hyperspace Gates also allow interstellar travel. In addition some forms of hyperdrives appear to be superior such as Far Jump drives or the experimental hyperdrive used by the Naggarok.
It is not quite understood how a hyperdrive works, even by its manufacturers. This is because it was not so much invented as discovered, reverse-engineered from ancient Progenitor wreckage. However, while it is not precisely known how it works the basics of a hyperdrive are fairly simple. A hyperdrive achieves hyperspatial travel by a process known as Quantum Wavefront effect. By generating a quantum waveform, a type of (another misunderstood material) energy wave, a hyperdrive pulls a ship from real space into hyperspace. This manifests itself as a Quantum Wavefront effect, a screen of varying colours that opens up in front of any ship making jump to hyperspace.
Once in hyperspace, the ship travels at faster-than-light velocities until it reaches its destination. The vessel then returns to normal space in a similar fashion, with a quantum wavefront opening up and depositing the ship in realspace once again. The automatic system that initiates this, called the, Achieved Target interrupt is based on regular astrogation technology and takes a "sighting" in normal space and deactivates the hyperdrive once the time vs. distance in hyperspace algorithms state that the ship is close to its programmed destination.
The ability to travel at FTL speeds is one of the important advantages of a hyperdive. The other is that while it requires an enormous amount of energy it requires very little fuel as it is the wavefront which is pushing the ship along, NOT the ship's engines.
The quantum wavefront travels in a linear method. Even with correct coordinates, a vessel has no way of knowing where they are in realspace during a quantum translocation. Multiple sorts of errors can occur. One is that while the hyperdrive is very fast it is not very accurate. Because of the vast distances involved it is difficult to arrive precisely where you want. Therefore the simplest way to arrive at your wanted destination point is to make a series of shorter jumps rather than one large jump. While many hyperdrives can jump thousands of light-years they might arrive several light-years off course. Therefore most ships choose to take the latter method of hopping from one destination to another.
Another major problem with the hyperdrive is that hyperspace transit can be interrupted through the use of Gravity Generators or inhibitor fields. Gravity wells appear to increase the amount of energy required to initiate or sustain a jump, while inhibitor fields merely deform the waveform to prevent or interrupt a jump. This can be potentially fatal, especially if the gravity well in question is that of a large star or black hole.
Furthermore, while a ship traveling through hyperspace may be able to detect the presence of a gravity well, they cannot observe its actual nature without disengaging the drive's quantum effect emitters. Therefore if a ship is to determine if the gravity field is coming from a star system or an enemy hyperspace inhibitor the ship must exit hyperspace to find out. Often this is carried out by an automatic system present aboard the vessel.
The Anomaly Interrupt activates when an unknown gravity well is detected by the ship's sensors and the vessel is automatically returned to normal space to investigate the identity of the disturbance. The Safety Interrupt occurs when ship's control computers sense any irregularities in either the waveform effect or in a ship's hull integrity. These three interrupt systems together provide for the automatic power down of a hyperdrive's navigational computer in order to allow it to return to normal space.
History of the HyperdriveEdit
The Progenitors were masters of hyperspace: they created the most powerful hyperdrives ever known which are still operational after many millenia. How their ships were jumped is unknown, as their Mothership's Foundry only created three Hyperspace Cores; probably all of their ships were equipped with phase drives similar to the ones onboard the Keepers. The hyperdrive originated from the Bentusi's discovery of one of the three Far Jump cores, and it was from this First Core that all other galactic hyperdrive technology was reverse-engineered and derived from. However while the cores were reverse engineered it was not done with complete success. Reverse-engineered cores appeared to be less powerful than the originals and were termed Short Jump cores as a result. Therefore the only known Far Jump drive remained in the possession of the Bentusi.
Unlike a standard hyperdrive, a Far Jump drive has the power to "far jump," meaning it can cover tremendous distances in a single jump. Because of their immense power and the mystery of their origin the cores responsible for far jumping adopted a mythos around them and some went so far as to believe they were divine gifts to sentience by the Kushan god Sajuuk, He Whose Hand Shapes What Is. This belief was only strengthened by discoveries of ancient texts proclaiming that whoever wielded three such cores in unison would be able to make unparalleled manipulation of hyperspace.
Furthermore a Far Jump drive also allowed its user important military value. The Bentusi monopoly on Far Jumping allowed them for millennia to practically control the entire galaxy. However, younger races, dissatisfied with Bentusi rule banded together to defeat the Bentusi and the power of Far Jump proved not to be enough to bring the Bentusi victory. Vastly outnumbered the Bentusi could not be everywhere at once and eventually surrendered.
The next time far jumping proved important was during the War of Sajuuk when the Hiigaran Empire managed to recover the second of the Trinity, allowing them to strike into the heart of one of their rivals, the Taiidan Empire, destroying their homeworld. The fact that the Hiigarans lost was not due to the lack of power that the far jump gave them, far from it. Rather it was a combination of the brilliance of the Taiidan Colonel Riesstiu and the fact that the similarly far jump capable Bentusi aided him that led to the Taiidan's victory.
So dangerous was the Core in fact that the Galactic Council demanded that the Kushan leaders of Hiigara hand it over to Bentusi custody as part of the peace agreement. The Kushan however did not comply with this part of the treaty and managed to smuggle the hyperdrive away with them into exile on Kharak. This proved vital to their success three thousand years later when they attempted to return to their homeworld during the Homeworld War. Upon their safe return the far jump technology in their possession allowed them to maintain a solid defense against enemies as they tried desperately to rebuild their civilization.
More than a century later it had even allowed them to build up a fairly sizable empire, with which they had begun to exert control influence despite their low population of a few hundred million in a galaxy of countless worlds. Like the Bentusi the Hiigarans managed to maintain a power base simply because of their technological superiority.
But like the Bentusi they would soon face challengers. When the Vaygr crusades under Makaan discovered the last of the three Progenitor cores it was only a matter of time before they attacked the Hiigarans. Vastly outnumbering the Hiigarans the Vaygr under Makaan led a swift strike into Hiigara System. With three major factors on their side: numbers, Makaan's brilliant strategies, and speed the Vaygr were in control of most Hiigaran worlds within days.
In order to defeat the Vaygr the Hiigarans were forced to try and fulfill the prophecy of the Trinity, that if all three cores could be united the power of Sajuuk himself would be unlocked. With the help of the Bentusi and the discovery of new Progenitor technologies the Hiigarans found themselves involved in a race against Makaan to acquire Sajuuk's power. They already had the Second Core. From the Bentusi they acquired the First. And when they destroyed Makaan's flagship at Balcora they acquired the Third. The only thing left was to unleash Sajuuk's power.
This was demonstrated when the Progenitor flagship Sajuuk and its core Trinity managed to jump itself and the entire Hiigaran fleet out of Balcora, a massive black hole cluster at the centre of the galaxy that prevents any and all hyperspace travel. Furthermore the combined power of the Sajuuk unleashed an even greater technological marvel, the Eye of Aarran, a powerful network of hyperspace gates linking the entire galaxy together in one enormous hyperspace superhighway.
It is possible for a hyperdrive to malfunction, particularly and usually when the navicomputer fails. A navicomputer failing can result in two things: a misjump or a premature exit from hyperspace. This was the case when the Mothership made a misjump during the Exodus and emerged some distance away from its rendezvous point with the Khar-Selim. However, this was not due to some colossal failure on the navicomputer's part but due partially to the inexperience of the Kushan crew and also largely due to a hyperdrive's natural inaccuracy. Another example of a navicomputer failure is when a hyperspace inhibitor tricks a hyperdrive navicomputer into exiting from hyperspace under the illusion that there is a dangerous gravity well in the vicinity.
In the Homeworld backstory it is specifically stated that the hyperdrive of the Kushan Mothership was successfully reverse-engineered from the Khar-Toba wreckage, it was retconned in the Homeworld 2 backstory which indicated that Hyperdrive on the Mothership was in fact a the one from Khar-Toba. Here are the quotes involved (text bolded to emphasize point):
- "Toward the lower after portion of the ship lies the large shielded area containing the Hyperdrive Module. This is a direct copy of the one found under the sands of Khar-Toba but expanded twelve-fold to accommodate a vessel of the Mothership's mass." — Homeworld Historical and Technical Briefing
- "Many races managed to reverse engineer the Short Jump technology provided by the Bentusi, and some even developed improvements and refinements upon the original designs. Yet even the finest of scientists granted that Far Jumping would require a level of power exponentially greater than that currently available. (...) The blueprints of the core were integrated and expanded upon, or so the Hiigarans presumed. In fact, the core itself remained at the heart of the Mothership's drive. It was merely the containment unit that had been expanded to account for the stresses of sending a Mothership class vessel through hyperspace." — History of Hiigara: Prelude to the End Times
Homeworld Revised Historical Briefings And Artwork released with Homeworld Remastered provides further clarification that a "direct copy" mentioned was in fact a shielded area containing the module, not a module itself. Additional, much weaker modules were created for other ships, while the Khar Toba module was refurbished for the Mothership to allow long range jumps.
- "Toward the lower after portion of the ship lies the large shielded area containing the Hyperdrive Module. This is a direct copy of the one found under the sands of Khar-Toba but expanded twelve-fold to accommodate a vessel of the Mothership's mass. (...) Although it is clear that original module is astronomically powerful, our scientists have been unable to reactivate it to mare than 6% of its estimated power. The artificial hyperspace cores we have built for other starships are only a tiny fraction as powerful as the original Khar Toba module. The refurbished Khar Toba module is projected to have a range of 2500 light years for a single waveform event, and in order to trigger the drive we must charge the module with all the energy required for such stunning distance. (...) The enormous Hyperspace Module under refurbishment in orbit." — Homeworld Historical and Technical Briefing
- Homeworld Historical and Technical Briefing
- Homeworld: Cataclysm
- Homeworld 2
- Homeworld 2 Strategy Guide