Misjumps are uncommon. They only occur due to specific factors:
1) Jumping from within 100 diameters of a large body (Far Orbit)
2) Use of unrefined fuel
3) Unmaintained drives
4) Battle damage
5) An unskilled crew
Each of these factors increases the chance of a misjump. Jumping within ten diameters of a large body (Close Orbit) always results in a misjump.
Misjumps are usually fatal, or at least result in a vessel that is never seen again. Occasionally one gets lucky and is recovered. There are three noted occasions where ships have survived misjumps to notable effect.
2126 New America colony ship misjumped from an unknown system. After two weeks in jumpspace she arrived at the edges of the outer system of Washington, approximately .1 light years away from the primary. This was barely in survivable maneuver distance for the colony ship.
There is by no means a consensus as to exactly what caused New America’s misjump but there are several theories.
The most commonly accepted idea is that a fast-moving meteoroid large enough to create a gravity well approached the ship as she was entering jumpspace and impinged on the formation of the vessel’s jump field bubble. This is what the ship’s captain apparently believed at the time it happened.
Historian Richard Baxter states a different opinion in his paper on the subject. He believes that the crew of New America made a fatal mathematical error in calculating jump distance. Based on reconstructed logs and quite a bit of guesswork, he concluded that the navigator, or one of his aides, miscalculated the spectral diameter of a star. They may have been within 50 diameters or less of the system primary but believed they were more than 100 diameters. Baxter bases this on eyewitnesses that state the star of the unknown departure system was red (Type M) when the navigator’s log says it was orange (Type K). He believes that it would be a simple matter for the navigator to have looked at the wrong stellar data when plotting his jump vector.
Another historian, Dr. Dena Pelton thinks it may have been the fuel. Again she formed this opinion by looking through the logs. New America had a fuel shuttle which drew atmosphere from gas giants and transferred it to a holding tank. This unrefined slurry usually included methane, ammonia, water ice crystals and other impurities and a refinery processed this into liquid hydrogen for use in the jump drive’s fusion reactor. This is still how frontier refueling is carried out. Pelton’s discovery, however, was that the length of time between the fuel shuttle’s last sortie and the colony ship’s attempt to enter jumpspace would have been insufficient to refine all the fuel in the ship’s tanks. It is possible that an impurity in the fuel caused a brief loss of power to the drive, which could account for the fateful misjump.
It is unlikely that the exact cause will ever be known for sure. All of the above factors may have contributed to the event, but the ultimate results are well known. New America’s drive was badly damaged and could not be properly repaired. The passengers had to abandon ship in the Washington system and founded a colony there.
5322 Intrepid, a scout ship from Washington bound for Quincy also survived a misjump. She was on Washington’s seventh scheduled scout mission after the jump drive’s reinvention and it was the second mission for the ship herself. Intrepid misjumped because she was using unrefined fuel and did not have a fuel refinery, the importance of which was not yet known. She was jolted out of jumpspace at the 100 diameter limit of the gas giant in the previously unexplored Jeferson system.
Intrepid was in jumpspace for six weeks and the crew only survived because the ship had fuel for two successive Jump-1. They used the remainder of their jump fuel to operate the power plant. As it was the crew was nearly starving upon arrival and was fortunate to discover edible native life in Jeferson’s ocean.
Just like New America, _Intrepid_’s jump drive was badly damaged by the misjump. Unlike their ancestors, however, they were able to make emergency repairs over the next few weeks and return home. Their journey took on historical significance as theirs was the first vessel to travel so far from Washington and also because they made first contact with the Thrantix on their return journey.
5434 Bellevue, a tramp merchant barque based out of Grant had the misfortune of being in the Jonson system when it was attacked by a naval squadron from Lincun. _Bellevue_’s captain, Roger Hayes, was content to spend the battle landed on the floating platform that constituted Jonson’s starport. He witnessed the attacker’s defeat of the system squadron and he watched as they took orbit around Jonson and began bombarding the surface and population centers with nuclear weapons.
Thinking quickly, Hayes raised ship and made an escape just as the starport was destroyed. As he broke atmosphere he was intercepted and engaged by a pair of fighters which he managed to defeat despite sustaining damage from a missile strike. More fighters were directed toward him, and he desperately engaged the jump drive from well within the 100 diameter safe limit.
The entire population of Jonson was killed in the bombardment causing outrage among all the powers of the sector. To dodge this, Lincun claimed at first that Grant had destroyed its own colony at Jonson in order to put the blame on their enemy. Lincun’s allies were disgusted at the action, but could hide behind the claim that there were no witnesses and nobody was sure what had happened.
Six weeks after the attack, Bellevue emerged from jumpspace 100 diameters from Grant. She had arrived at her programmed destination, just very late. Two crew members were dead of radiation sickness, another had died from injuries sustained in the battle with the fighters. The captain and three other crew members were in low berths as their power plant fuel had been exhausted two weeks before. Their stories, plus the log and flight recorder information from Bellevue, made a damning case. Despite efforts at censorship, Bellevue’s news made it to Lincun itself. The ensuing public outcry brought down the government. Lincun’s allies could not justify their continued association and soon jumped ship and started asking for peace.
Bellevue’s misjump and recovery led directly to the end of the First Regional War. There is a statue commemorating Bellevue and Roger Hayes in Grant’s Capitol Square.