While Second Republic technicians were able to travel vast distances using Jumpdrive technology, there were many who felt that reliance on the gates was too risky for the survival of the interstellar human civilization.

While Second Republic technicians were able to travel vast distances using Jumpdrive technology, there were many who felt that reliance on the gates was too risky for the survival of the interstellar human civilization. These people desired a method of FTL travel that wasn't reliant on the gates, and could be used without any such "mystical" technology. In place of jump drives, they sough to utilize specially constructed electro-magnetic fields to manipulate items from within the fifth dimension. Such manipulations, it was believed, would allow ships to be transported through the universe instantly, by manipulating the ship's location within time and space. Furthermore, such ships would be capable of incredible movement and directional control, able to instantly readjust themselves within 3-dimensional space; a ship could instantly rotate 180 degrees without any loss of momentum using the experimental drive!

However there were limitations. First, the ship could only be transported along its 'worldlines'; the ship could only be transported to places (not times) that it had already been. Jump gates, drives, and keys were still needed to move the Starhopper from one system to the next, adding each system to the hopper's 'worldline'. Once the hopper entered a system, it could move at it's normal, slower-than-light, speed, adding various areas of space to its worldline. However, Starhoppers were believed unable to trade worldline information, meaning that each Starhopper would have to make jumps from system to system on its own, or else 'piggy-backed' on board larger Starhoppers.

Secondly, Starhoppers were massive energy consumers, requiring immense fusion reactors to provide the needed energy to be capable of sustained hops as well as basic functionality. While Second Republic science had plenty of means to optimize fusion reactions, the amount of space and materials needed to power the smallest Starhopper designs were enormous. Roughly 85% of a ship would consist of nothing but fuel and reactor, with the fuel providing only 6 hours of use at an estimated 5 hops during those 6 hours.

Finally there were the horrible distortion effects. After a long-range hop, both ship and crew needed a few minutes to readjust to the universe. Such adjustments, over prolonged periods of time, were suspected of having bizarre and possibly harmful effects on the hopper and its crew. Furthermore, numerous instant rotations ("shunts"), were found to also cause eventual distortions. Distortions varied. In some cases the crew and ship seemed frozen in time, unable to interact with the universe in -any- shape or form; bullets seemed to freeze upon impact with the ship, telepathic probes revealed nothing, and so forth. Other reports indicate the ship and crew would become intangible and transparent, seemingly being pulled out of the space-time continuum altogether. A few even indicated people being effected by multiple, minute distortions at once: an arm becomes transparent, while the legs are locked into space-time, and the person can experience no sensory input. It was soon discovered that these distortions appeared not only during and shortly after hops, but sometimes weeks or even months later.

Scientists were able to eventually develop tools to ease people out of the distortion effects, but at a cost. The distortions seemed to act like carcinogens, harmful substances that accumulated inside the body until a critical mass was acheived and then erupted into full-blown cancer. These distortions worked in a similar manner as the electromagnetic fields would become stored inside the human body, growing in strength until the person's own worldline was disrupted. And while those responsible were well-meaning, the tools which the scientists created to ease people out of these distortions only accelerated the accumulation of these fields; while short relief was found, more long-term harm was caused in exchange.

During the Second Republic five Starhoppers were constructed. Of those five, one spontaneously combusted while in dock (it's crew of six also combusted within the span of three years), two were dismantled for study of the field phenomena, one was believed lost with its seven crew during a temporal distortion, and the last was destroyed during a failed theft attempt by rival corporate powers. The plans for the Starhopper have also been lost over the centuries, leaving nothing but rare references in secretive manuscripts and exaggerated folk tales.