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Science-Fiction Adventure in the Far Future
The mechanism used to move a starship into jumpspace and thereby take it to a pre-determined destination. Jump drives are rated in terms of the distance they can carry a ship. Jump-1, for example, indicates the ability to travel 1 parsec. Jump numbers range from 1 to 6; higher jump numbers are not possible in ordinary usage, although misjumps can carry ships over greater distances. A standard Imperial jump drive consists of four components: a high-yield fusion power plant, an energy sink of Zuchai Crystals, a jump governor, and a lanthanum-doped hull grid.
The special high-yield fusion power plant within the jump drive provides the energy required to enter jumpspace. The jump drive power plant consumes huge amounts of fuel very quickly in order to charge the energy sinks with high-grade energy. Hull radiators disperse low-grade heat energy.
The energy produced by the jump drive's power plant is stored in an array of high-energy sinks (also termed jump capacitors). Most Imperial ships use a network of Zuchai Crystals for this task. No other known sink construct can retain such high levels of energy without decomposing. However, the crystals will begin to decompose after 2 to 3 hours if not discharged. In extreme cases, they can explosively decompose and do significant damage to the ship.
Zuchai Crystals store a near-perfect "impression" of the energy fed into them. Very little energy is lost from leakage; however, fluctuations in energy input are mirrored in the output when the crystals are drained. Thus both quantity and quality of the charge are important.
When the command is given to jump, energy from the zuchai crystals is directed into the jump governor. This device determines how the lanthanum hull grid is to be powered up. The jump governor incorporates its own computer system and is linked to the main computer for guidance and backup. With utmost precision, the governor applies initial bursts of energy in the proper sequence to the hull grid. About 20% of the power stored in the Zuchai Crystals is used in this way to "warm up" the grid. At this point it is still possible to abort the jump. The next step is the transition phase, and commits the craft to the jump. The jump governor feeds the remaining 80% of the zuchai charge to the hull grid, opening the weave of Jump Space and controlling the vessel's "tumble" into the jumpspace tunnel.
The lanthanum hull grid is built into the ship's hull. It is fairly coarse, spaced about 1 m between grid lines. During jump transition, power is routed to specific portions of the hull as directed by the jump governor. By controlling the surges to within microseconds, the vessel's tumble is controlled, which properly directs the craft through jumpspace.
Due to the delicacy of jump drives, most ships perform routine maintenance operations on their drives after every jump. It is possible to make another jump almost immediately (within an hour) after returning to normal space, but standard procedures require a 16 hour wait to allow for cursory drive checks and some recharging. Most commercial vessels spend a week between jumps, using the time to maneuver to a world, land, unload cargo and load new cargo, and maneuver away from the world for the next jump.
Ref: BOOK-2, 1105; BOOK-5, 1107; MT-SOM, 1120; TNEBOOK, 1201