Hyperspace is an alternate dimension which is used for faster-than-light travel between locations that would otherwise take longer to travel to in normal space. The entire dimension appears as a stormy environment that has a constant red hue.
Transit between normal space and hyperspace occurs through the use of a "Jump point." A Jump point is a large energised vortex that punches a hole between the dimensions and allows objects to pass from one side to the other. To do this requires a huge amount of energy and so most hyperspace travel is achieved via a Jumpgate, though Starships that can meet the energy requirements can generate their own Jump points with use of on-board Jump Engines.
Jump points are strictly one way. An outgoing jump point for a ship that is about to enter hyperspace is light orange in color, and incoming jump points for ships re-entering normal space are blue. If one jump point is opened inside of another, the staggering release of energy would almost instantly cause an enormous explosion. During the Earth-Minbari War, Earthforce briefly experimented with the offensive applications of this tactic though quickly dubbing it the "Bonehead Maneuver", as none of the Earthforce ships were able to clear the blast radius before being destroyed.
Jump points do however have other tactical uses in warfare. A notable Minbari tactic is to lure an enemy fleet or task force into a predetermined location and then open a jump point right in their midst. Any ship that makes contact with the outer edge of the vortex is either instantly destroyed or severely crippled and the remaining ships are caught by surprise and easy targets for the Minbari Cruiser that has just jumped into the middle of them. During the Earth-Minbari War, the Drala Fi used this tactic to devastate the task force lead by the EAS Lexington.
For safety reasons, jump points are normally opened only in deep space, away from any potential navigational hazards though with sufficiently accurate targeting information it is possible to open a jump point within, and safely transit into, a planetary atmosphere. However, due to the massive release of energy involved, doing so in a highly combustible atmosphere will cause a suitably large explosion and shock wave.
Any ship that passed through a jump point needed to fly through it just after it opened and avoid its closing. As the jump point closed, a "backwash" of energy made the opening unstable and dangerous.
Since most of the younger races all based their hyperspace technology off of the ancient Jumpgates left behind by an unknown race, they all bear the same characteristics. However, Shadow vessels and other First Ones have been observed entering and exiting hyperspace without the normal vortex being present. Shadow Vessels appear to "phase" in and out, though the energy readings register on sensors as being consistent with the forming of a normal jump point. The Walkers of Sigma-957 open a very large point which can only be described as being visually similar to arc lightning and has been known to almost completely drain the power from any ship caught in its wake. Other First Ones appear to use some variation of phasing or emerging from a burst of light, except for the Vorlons, who have been consistently observed to use the same vortex technology as the younger races.
The beacon network was set up by the younger races as a way to navigate the perilous and constantly shifting nature of hyperspace and consists of a series of tachyon beams connecting two points - usually jumpgates - together so that ships can follow the beacons from one point to the next and thus navigate to their ultimate destination. Ships that travel off the beacon and lose the lock-on signal are generally lost forever. However, a rescue effort can be made by having a chain of ships maintaining a lock-on signal with each other, with one remaining on the beacon to act as anchor while the others extend out into open hyperspace. Timing is crucial as the longer a ship is off the beacon the further away it will drift and the less likely it is for a rescue chain to locate it. The Thirdspace artifact, discovered in 2261 after having been abandoned in hyperspace over a million years prior, was retrieved using the "chain of ships" technique when it drifted near enough to the beacon network to be noticed. Races and groups with access to more advanced technology need not depend on the beacons at all, for example the techno-mages are the masters of hyperspace navigation and can travel completely off the beacon by amplifying even the weakest signal to usable form. The Vorlons have been observed folding a piece of hyperspace onto itself and creating a "pocket" for their vessels to hide in, allowing huge fleets to travel almost undetected.
Most ships that travel in hyperspace have a built in fail-safe that automatically shuts down the sublight engines if the computer fails to receive a given command during a predetermined period of time. This guards against a ship drifting too far off the beacon in the event that the crew are incapacitated or killed and increases the chances of the ship being found and rescued by a passing vessel.
A hyperspace funnel is a mode of hyperspace travel known to have occasionally been employed by the Shadows. The method had long been only theorised by the younger races and involves the creation of a sort of wormhole in hyperspace, a subsystem or subroute with one beginning point and one end point. The funnel itself can only be accessed by a specifically built type of jumpgate and take an unusually enormous amount of power to open. When a ship enters a funnel, it is forcibly propelled along the pre-determined route, offering no possibility of delay or detour before being thrown out into normal space at the terminus and while in the funnel itself, ships are undetectable to any other ships in local hyperspace. The limitations of funnels mean that they have a very limited utility, but can be useful in creating a pathway for moving ships undetected to a specific place. The Shadows built just such a pathway to access their hidden base of Xha'dam, burying the gateway on a planet known only as K0643. In 2266, after several years of excavation, the gateway was uncovered by the Centauri, unknowingly at the behest of the Drakh, thus allowing them to access the base of their old masters and gain access to the Death Clouds stored there. When the gate opened, the massive discharge of energy and maelstrom of atmospheric disruption killed most of the surviving Centauri workers whose numbers had already dwindled as the buried machine had been quietly killing off stragglers for years.
Hyperspace Travel Syndrome or "HTS" is a common affliction among long range interstellar pilots. Catherine Sakai was known to suffer from this syndrome. It is caused by long term exposure to the conditions of hyperspace in which the view outside the cockpit windows of a space craft gives the pilot the impression that the apparent motion of the craft is not the actual motion as the craft’s instruments would indicate. This combined with the disorienting effects of the constantly flickering and shifting patterns of light and false shadow over time begin to play tricks on the brain, scrambling perceptions of up and down, forward and backward. Some pilots even say it's like being caught in a dream or nightmare from which one could not awaken. Symptoms include nausea, vertigo, panic attacks, and an overwhelming feeling of motionlessness.
It is because of HTS that many passenger ships do not have windows in the passenger compartments, or close them during travel through hyperspace. A pilot, however, cannot risk flying blind given the dangers inherent in hyperspace travel. So it is necessary for a ship’s flight crew to learn to live with the side effects, train their eyes to see past the optical illusions and trust their instruments. Hyperspace has also been found to enhance telepathic power and range, though in the case of humans, this particular ability was kept quiet by Psi Corps - at least until its dissolution - lest the military start posting telepaths on the front lines. Ironically, following the Telepath War and the integration of telepaths back into human society and Earthforce, that is exactly what happened.
Engagements in hyperspace are rare and most often avoided by all parties as such battles have often turned out to be disasters in the past. Aside from the dangers inherent with hyperspace travel, the unpredictable spatial knots and gravitational inclines can cause missiles and even energy weapons to bend off course, either missing the target entirely or even strike a friendly ship. As such, what little fighting in hyperspace does take place is usually one-on-one over a very short range and often strictly hit-and-run strikes. Sometimes using small groups of fighters and/or smaller warships as large fleet engagements are out of the question.
Life in Hyperspace
The existence of creatures living in hyperspace had long been rumored among some species, but never confirmed by Humans until 2267 when the Excalibur encountered a swarm of Fen - a species of huge jellyfish like creatures - en route to the Well of Forever. According to the techno-mage Galen (who was already aware of their existence), they are only barely sentient and generally attracted to bright shiny objects. Though the Fen are not overtly hostile and there are no known accounts of one ever consuming a starship, they may attempt to couple with one.
- To Dream in the City of Sorrows
- JMS post on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated - 7/9/1993 4:22:00 PM
- Matters of Honor
- JMS post on CIS - 3/26/1996 5:11:00 AM
- In the Beginning
- Messages from Earth
- Signs and Portents
- Shadow Dancing
- Mind War
- Into the Fire
- Thirdspace (movie)
- JMS post on AOL - 4/3/1996 6:21:00 PM
- A Distant Star
- The Well of Forever
- The Summoning
- Genius Loci
- Armies of Light and Dark - (p.34-35)
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