Faster-than-light technology, usually abbreviated as “FTL”, enables ships to travel interstellar distances within reasonable time frames, without the drawback of extreme time dilation. FTL travel is often referred to as “jumping”, as the ships seem to jump between two points almost instantaneously.
Practical FTL travel takes place by passing through a traversible wormhole at sub-light speeds.
Creating and stabilizing these wormholes requires huge amounts of energy, so they are only powered for brief durations, typically by large stations known as “jump gates” or massive generators aboard ships known as “jump drives”.
Additionally, careful calculation must be done before initiating the jump to ensure the correct destination, accounting for the physics of the wormhole itself while also mitigating quantum stresses that could tear a ship apart while passing through the wormhole. Special navigation computers can shorten this time to minutes rather than months.
Because this is achieved by manipulating spacetime, rather than locally traveling faster then the speed of light, it is more properly referred to as apparent or effective FTL in scientific terms.
Jump gates are large installations in space, capable of creating a wormhole between large struts that extend from the station’s core. Ships are able to pass through this jump gate relatively safely, with no special equipment, power draw, or risk to the ship or its occupants.
Utilizing a similar technology to gates, jump drives are typically only mounted on larger ships, as they require a huge amount of energy and are themselves quite massive.
Jump drives require the use of capacitors that project a Casimir field around the ship, which can damage materials and even cause sickness in living beings. Frequent, repeated exposure to the effects of a jump drive is best avoided.
Additionally, powering a jump drive while it is operational draws most available energy away from other ship systems.