Hyperspace and Hydrogen Fuel
What is Hyperspace?
Hyperspace is the name given to the range of dimensions that exist beneath the standard plane of our own existence. These dimensions are separate and distinct and are, essentially, mirrors of our own plane but in a more compressed spatial topography.
In order to visualise hyperspace and its relation to our own plane, or ‘real space’, scientists came up with the so-called rainbow diagram:
This simple representation shows the relation between real space (shown in blue) and the various levels of hyperspace.
Most of the normal rules of physics apply in the hyperspace realm with a few exceptions. The speed of light is not constant, and distance is a variant. That is to say that these constants do not match up to the real space equivalents.
Structures and ships can exist in these planes. Stars and planets could theoretically exist, but none have thus far been observed. Of all the races thus far encountered in the galaxy, the Thargoids have shown most familiarity with hyperspace. Their ships can remain in hyperspace indefinitely, and even their remote ships can function without trouble in the region.
The main draw of hyperspace is the very fact that distances are exponentially compressed compared to the real world equivalents, coupled with the fact that travel in hyperspace is not subject to Einstein’s relativistic consequences. Basically this means that travel can be accomplished in much faster times than in real space. The amount of difference depends on how deep into the hyperspace realm the ships in question can travel.
As shown in diagram 1 above, the scientific community has agreed on some ‘banding’ within the hyperspace realm. This banding represents the time-space compression levels between that level of hyperspace and real space. A vessel travelling from point to point in the yellow band will reach its destination much faster than a vessel travelling in the green band.
For many decades, hyperspace travel was only possible in the yellow band, using fuel synthesised from hydrogen. With the advent of the Thargoid war and the capture of Thargoid drive technology, methods were found to travel in the red band, at the same level as the Thargoid fleets. Penetration of the red band of hyperspace brought about interstellar travel that took only a few minutes as opposed to the many days that the yellow band took. The price for this was that the egress into hyperspace had to be precisely monitored. As hyperdrive and computer technology improved, however, this became insignificant as most of the control was given over to the automatic navigation systems. There still remained dangers, however, as the fuel required to breach this deep level was volatile and dangerous to organic matter.
Hyperspace is reached by initiating a dimensional breach from real space into the hyperspace realm. To do this, a four-dimensional explosion is required.
The most effective element for achieving this is hydrogen. It has the benefit of being an abundant resource and has many volatile properties. It also can easily be modified by catalytic reaction.
There are two types of hyperspace fuel in use by the major powers of the galaxy. The most widely used is standard Hydrogen Fuel, marketed under a wide variety of names by a large number of manufacturers. The other is known as Quirium, and is used exclusively by members of the Galactic Co-operative of Worlds and related bodies.
Hydrogen Fuel was first synthesised at the end of the 21st century, but was in a very crude form. It was synthesised by splicing a neutron from a helium atom and attaching it to a hydrogen atom in a compression chamber. This neutron was then bombarded with heavy concentrations of lithium ions. This succeeded in imparting an unstable charge to the neutron: this charge fluctuated between the poles at higher frequencies the longer the bombarding continued. The neutron would begin to vibrate as it tried to detach from the atom only to be pulled back in as the polarity flipped. With nowhere to go, the neutron tunnelled its own path into a separate dimension: the hyperspace realm, eventually dragging the rest of the atom with it.
When this process was refined, it was found that a string of these atoms, synthetically bonded to each other covalently, could open a gateway. The first hydrogen string to be opened was in 2102, followed the following year by plans for a sensor platform to be drawn into the gateway. Two H-fuel assemblies were attached, one to open the entry gate and one to theoretically open a second gate for exit. The fuel assemblies held the hydrogen and a lithium cannon, and the reaction would be initiated in a reaction chamber before the catalysed mix was fired out in front of the platform. The reaction was successful, and the platform disappeared. Twenty three minutes later, the platform was detected near Jupiter’s orbital path. A journey that should have taken a good few weeks had taken the platform only a few minutes. For many weeks, scientists investigated the data that the platform had brought back, and the samples of organic and inorganic matter were analysed – the findings were that the journey had had no ill effects on the samples and that the hyperspace realm was not much different from real space.
Earth’s governing bodies gave the green light for active use of this technology, and in 2107 the first manned hyperspace flight was launched. It took three astronauts three minutes to travel from Mars to Jupiter orbitspace, where they arrived safely. Unfortunately, the second reaction chamber malfunctioned, and the crew made the journey back to the Mars orbital platform under conventional power. This did not matter, however, as the technology had been tested, and medical examination pronounced that the journey had not yielded any physical trauma.
As the decades and centuries have passed, Hydrogen Fuel has not changed much. The processes were refined through the 21st century and the tunnelling effect of the h-fuel strengthened to allow vessels to penetrate into the yellow level instead of the green level that the original experiments achieved. This means that the journeys became exponentially quicker. Unfortunately, the fuel could not be refined any further, and no similar results could be achieved by bombarding the particles with different ions. As a result, the fuel used now by the Galactic Federation and others is still largely the same product.
One race, however, managed to go beyond this level: the Thargoids.
The latter half of the 29th century saw the start of mankind’s most horrific war – the war against the Thargoids. Although this conflict has cost thousand if not millions of lives, it has gained the galaxy one singular benefit.
In 2851, the year that GalCop declared war on the Thargoids, scientists were already poring over recovered technology from their vast invasion ships. These studies showed that Thargoid hyperspace technology was similar to that in use by GalCop but with a significant edge. In late 2850, the GalCop scientific community received salvaged wreckage from a Thargoid ship – including a largely intact hyperdrive reaction chamber.
Tests detected hydrogen and lithium particles within, as well as large quantities of nickel and mercury. An investigative team was formed to see if this was useful, headed by one of the most renowned scientists in hyperspace physics. Dr. Quirahn Falayn, a native of Diso, and her team soon determined that the Thargoid system used a very different reaction chamber. The basic catalytic reaction of hydrogen and lithium was the same, but the atoms were bonded to a nickel atom and suspended in a mercury gas. The heat given off by the reaction of the hydrogen intensified the magnetic fields of the mercury and nickel, giving an added ‘push’ to the penetration of the neutrons into the hyperspace realm.
Many months passed after this discovery, whilst Dr. Falayn tried to calculate the correct ratio of elements needed to achieve the reaction. Finally, in 2354, under intense pressure from the military to complete the research, Dr. Falayn finally announced that tests had been successful. It is a credit to her integrity that Dr. Falayn refused to be rushed on the research, citing that she would rather ensure that the technology was safe than have the lives of countless hyperspace deaths on her conscience.
The new fuel and drive were successful, and distributed to the military immediately. The development team christened the new fuel Quirium after their leader, and it soon found its way into the civil markets, as soon as the new hyperdrive technology was able to be fitted to ships. The drive assembly was bigger than the older drives, due to the need for a larger, shielded reaction chamber. The shielding was now necessary due to the highly radioactive nature of the mercury and nickel isotopes used. This brought much concern from health and safety agencies, but this died out as it became apparent that drives did not leak and that all radiation was contained in the drive sector.
In modern times, the nickel and mercury are stored on the ship as the safer, non-radioactive isotopes and are converted to those needed for the reaction in a separate catalytic chamber within the drive sector. The nickel/mercury storage canisters are cheap to fill and are often filled as part of the purchase of hydrogen fuel. Fortunately, the amounts of each required for each Quirium reaction are very small.
Travel in Hyperspace
The use of each of these different fuels has a particular effect on the hyperspace journey and its duration. H-fuel only penetrated to the upper yellow band of the hyperspace realm, meaning that a journey of a couple of light years in normal space will only take around two days of flight.
With Quirium fuel, however, the journey is taken into the red band, the trip is again reduced, this time to only a few minutes of real time. The actual space itself is still as stable and inhabitable as the upper levels, but it is the reaction strength needed to get there that makes it difficult to attain.
In figure 2, a typical relativistic chart is shown, overlaid on the rainbow diagram we looked at in figure 1. This shows the theoretical relationship between the distances in real space and those in hyperspace. The layers are not to scale, but rather give a rough idea of the relationships.
Note that the red level gives almost instantaneous travel between the two locations. In reality, the actual time taken to travel the distances involved are measured in minutes. A standard hyperdrive can travel 7 Light Years distance, and this is accomplished in something near 10 minutes at the Quirium drives level of hyperspace penetration. It has been theorised that many more layers exist in the hyperspace realm, and the area beyond the red level may be where truly instantaneous travel might be achievable. Scientists have postulated that it may be possible for a vessel beyond the red layer to travel to any point in the universe instantly. Some historians have called this theory infinitely improbable.