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An FTL, or "Faster Than Light", drive is a fictional propulsion technology from the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica television series that allows space ships to achieve superluminal travel. They are fuelled by a refined version of the fictional ore tylium.[1]

The verb jump is commonly used to describe the process of travelling via FTL drive. Dialogue states that the drive itself is "spooled up" prior to use.[2][3]

The term FTL is commonly used in the original Battlestar Galactica film and television series. The term "light speed" is rarely if ever used, even though within the context of the storyline, the Galactica and its fleet frequently move at sub-light speeds. The term FTL is also commonly used when the show is being discussed by outside parties.[4]

Physics Edit

The exact nature of the FTL drives remains unexplained in the show; what information exists has been extrapolated from visual behavior and on-screen dialogue.

Little time appears to pass on a ship during a jump and objects within a ship do not appear to exhibit the signs of momentum/inertia associated with acceleration/deceleration.[5] Nausea is a noticeable side effect noted in some humans, for example Specialist Cally.[2]

According to producer interviews in the season one DVD release of the series, the special effects director indicated that the FTL is a dimensional transport effect, where the ships instantaneously teleport from one place to another. Other methods of faster-than-light travel were under consideration for production, however to keep things simple and focused on the story as well as staying within budget restraints, producers David Eick and Ronald D. Moore chose the straightforward dimensional jump effect over more complex ideas. The term "FTL" is used to describe this dimensional transition is somewhat misleading as the ships do not technically move faster than light, but rather instantaneously relocate to a new position in space without a change in speed. The fact remains, however, that they get to their destination faster than light would.

During the events of "Islanded in a Stream of Stars", Boomer, who has abducted Hera and is on her way to the Cylon Colony states that it will take as many as a dozen FTL jumps to reach her destination from their current position (presumably in between Galactica's location and that of the Colony. This statement is consistent with the perceived physics of the hyperspace jumps used for faster than light travel as described in the Foundation series of novels by Isaac Asimov.

Navigation Edit

Owing to difficulties navigating while using an FTL drive, ships wishing to make an FTL jump must calculate their speed, trajectory and jump duration prior to activating their FTL drive. Failure to do so can lead to ships jumping into poorly charted areas where sub-light navigation is difficult, or into dangerous areas such as those containing asteroid fields, gravity wells, or even inside a planet's atmosphere.[6]

A ship making a properly calculated jump can arrive safely in planetary orbit, or alongside other ships or spaceborne objects. Ships using the same calculations can also safely jump together. Non-calculated jumps (known as a "blind jump") are possible, as is risked by Admiral Cain aboard Pegasus during the Cylon sneak attack of the Scorpian Shipyards in the season two episode "Pegasus".[7]. In "Razor", Cain's risky jump was shown in one of Kendra Shaw's flashbacks – the ship jumped away just after undocking to the fleetyard complex while under attack by Cylon Raiders.

Because little is known about the physics of the FTL drive, it is not clear whether ships must plot a course around large physical objects, such as suns and gas giants, or if they have to adjust their course to take local gravitational variations into account, although the Galactica is shown in episode "Exodus" to be capable of making a successful jump while traveling through the atmosphere at immense speeds towards the surface of the planet New Caprica.[8]

Jump co-ordinates must be constantly updated to allow for changes in a ship's position, and for stellar drift.[5]

Limitations Edit

In order to initiate a jump, the crew must first initiate an automated start-up procedure, known as "spooling" the FTL drive, which can take several minutes to complete. This step is done just before a planned jump, presumably because it is impractical or impossible to keep the FTL drive in a "spooled up" state of readiness for an extended period of time.

Cylon ships are capable of more accurate jumps than Colonial ships[6], and they can also make longer jumps than Colonial craft of a similar size.[9] In "Lay Down Your Burdens", a Cylon Heavy Raider needs only ten jumps to Caprica, in comparison to the Galactica which needs over 200. However the fact that the Colonial fleet's jump range is limited to the least capable ship's FTL system may mean that the Galactica itself is capable of longer distanced jumps than indicated thus far.

Also, a raptor group guided by a Cylon jump computer is able to quickly reach Caprica, indicating that, at least for military vessels, navigational accuracy issues, rather than the effective range of the jump drive, may be the primary limiting factor.

The safe limit of FTL travel for the Twelve Colonies is known as the "Red Line". A ship jumping beyond this line risks running into unknown navigational hazards, or going off course due to compound errors in its jump calculation.[10]

Jump drives distort local space in a small area when they are activated. Jumping while too close to another vessel causes severe damage. This shockwave ignores the strength of the material in question, as seen when Boomers raptor jumped next to the battlestar and seriously damages Galactica's port forward bow armour. Colonel Tigh states that if the jump had taken place inside Galactica, the ship would have been torn apart. However in the series finale raptors jump from within Galactica's unused flight pod to a short distance away and only damage the flight pod itself. This is probably because the flight pod was open and away from the ship's hull that time. [11]

In the second half of Season 4, Galactica begins showing signs of metal fatigue and other problems associated with irreparable battle damage and sheer old age. Chief Tyrol advises Admiral Adama to avoid jumping the ship, implying that Jumping puts physical stress on a ship. [12] This physical strain is seen when the Galactica makes its final jump in the series finale and the ship breaks her back and nearly comes apart possibly with an increased effect of jumping without retracting flight pods.[11]

Cylon technology Edit

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The Cylon FTL technology operated within the series is stated to be much more advanced than that operated by the Colonials; this superiority in FTL technology enables them to make much more accurate jumps of a longer range.[6] This advantage may lie primarily in the Cylon's jump computers. Using a captured unit, a squad of Galactica's Raptors were able to jump back to Caprica on a rescue mission in relatively few jumps[6]. It is unclear whether this superior computing technology is solely responsible for the Cylon's greater range, or if there is an additional advantage in drive technology itself.

Much like Colonial FTL technology the Cylons also make use of refined tylium ore as their fuel source.[1]

See alsoEdit

References Edit

External links Edit

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