For the data storage device, see USB flash drive.

A jump drive is one of the speculative inventions in science fiction, a method of traveling faster than light (FTL). Related concepts are hyperdrive, warp drive and interstellar teleporter. The key characteristic of a jump drive (as the term is usually used) is that it allows a starship to be instantaneously teleported between two points. A jump drive is supposed to make a spaceship (or any matter) go from one point in space to another point, which may be several light years away, in a single instant. Like time travel, a jump drive is often taken for granted in science fiction, but very few science fiction works talk about the mechanics behind a jump drive. There are vague indications of the involvement of tachyons and the space-time continuum in some works.

Science fiction literatureEdit

Jump drives were used in many science fiction universes for space vehicle movement, initially suggested in the The Foundation Series of novels by Isaac Asimov from 1942.[1]. They next appear in the Deathworld 2 novel by Harry Harrison in the 1964 trilogy by the same name[2], and Frank Herbert's Dune. The CoDominium series by Jerry Pournelle which begun publication in 1973 features the Alderson jump drive. However, their populararity exploded only over a decade later with the Alliance-Union universe series by C. J. Cherryh from 1976 and the Traveller role playing game by Marc Miller in 1977, although it should be noted that travel by jump drive in Traveller takes approximately one week, regardless of distance travelled.[3]

In the novel The Forever Man (1984) by Gordon R. Dickson, starships use a jump-drive that makes the vehicle omnipresent for an instant before repositioning the ship in a pre-determined location. Several jumps are needed, because farther triangulations require more time to calculate, therefore a journey across the galaxy may take a few centuries to calculate all at once.

In most fictional universes, the total distance per jump is limited and multiple jumps may be needed to reach the final destination. Jump drives often require significant power and many universes require time to "re-energize" the jump drive after a jump, thereby limiting the frequency at which jumps can be executed.

These factors can allow writers to build dramatic tension by showing characters struggling to reach a jump point, or to recharge their drive, before their foes reach them.

The Nights Dawn Trilogy novels by Peter F. Hamilton published in the 1990s, used under the name ZTT (Zero Temporal Transit) Drive has been the latest significant work in science fiction to use the jump drive concept. It is worth noting that momentum is conserved, so a ship might spend days synchronizing its relative velocity with its destination before jumping.

Computer gamesEdit

There are two main variants of jump drives commonly portrayed in computer games. The first requires a ship to travel through normal space to a specific jump point. Once at that point, the jump drive is used to move to another jump point. In some examples, such as the Capsule Drive in the computer game Independence War, the ship can travel to any other jump point. Others, such as the Wing Commander series, only allow transit from one jump point to a corresponding exit point (which may or may not allow travel in the opposite direction). The second variant allows a ship to execute a jump from anywhere in normal space and move directly to any other location. This variant is frequently subject to other limitations such as distance from strong gravity wells. Battletech uses this style of jump drive in its jumpships.

In the re-imagined 2004 TV series Battlestar Galactica, the Galactica, which uses jump drive technology, does not appear to have any restrictions on the use of its jumpdrives. It can be used in the gravity well of a planet (indeed Galactica jumps in and out of a planet's atmosphere in the episode "Exodus, Part II") But long term adverse effects on living matter or ship's structure or engines were unknown but proved to be damaging to the ship's super structure in later episodes. Nonetheless, on the series it is preferred not to Jump too close to a planet, not because of any physical limitations, but because if the coordinates are calculated wrong there is a risk that a ship might Jump too close to the planet and crash into it, or get phased into the planet (a la a teleporter accident on Star Trek, which happened in the episode "Lay Down Your Burdens"). Further, a BSG Jump Drive can theoretically travel anywhere in the galaxy; the limiting factor is not the drive itself, but the finite distance that the navigation computer is able to safely calculate a Jump trajectory; more advanced computers are able to calculate longer range Jumps (i.e. the Cylons have better computers and have an effective Jump range at least 3 times that of the Colonials). The extreme distance that a safe Jump can be plotted is called "the Red Line", and while a vessel might Jump a theoretically infinite distance beyond that, the odds are that the vessel would end up colliding with a star, asteroid, or other space debris.

With appearance of computer games the jump drives have been used in many, including:

  • The Microsoft game "Allegiance" that features jump drive like ripcord technology.
  • Darkstar One, a computer game released June 16, 2006 in the UK.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2004), which specifically references the term FTL
  • Wing Commander series of computer games, movie and novels
  • The FreeSpace computer game series, worth noting here that ships can use their own jump drives to perform FTL travel within a star system, but need to use "Jump Nodes" to travel the vast distances between stars
  • Battletech series of games and novels
  • Heavy Gear series of games
  • The Eve Online MMORPG where it allows ships larger than stargates (capital ships) to pass between solar systems, as well as forge temporary gates.
  • Starlancer PC and Dreamcast video game, which presents a quick yet brief jump to another part of a solar system
  • DarkSpace, an online-only PC game.
  • Mass Effect, an RPGPC and Xbox 360 by Bioware, which also specifically references the term FTL.
  • WALL-E, a 2008 movie. The Axiom uses "Hyperjump" technology to leap through space.
  • The Space-fold Drive of the Macross universe.
  • The jump drive in the X series of video games.
  • Event Horizon (film), where the eponymous ship opened a gate to hell trying to "jump through space"
  • Owlein species (such as plicans) fold space in the novel Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London by Keith Mansfield, in which the term FTL is explicitly used.
  • Halo Wars, an RTS for the Xbox 360 by Ensemble Studios. When preparing to move the UNSC ship Spirit of Fire between star systems, the AI Serina can be heard saying "...trip to Arcadia plotted in. Spinning up FTL drive."


  1. Issac Asimov, Part I, Psychohistorians, Foundation, 1951
  2. Harry Harrison, Deathworld 2, Chapter 3
  3. p.43, Loren K. Wiseman, Book 0, Introduction to Traveller, Game Designer's Workshop, 1981

See alsoEdit

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