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They were known to be in use in the Tion Cluster as early as 25,100 BBY which means they were contemporary to the Corellian and Duros hyperspace cannon. The Tionese developed their hyperdrive technology from knowledge gained by Rakata castoffs of the Cluster. This limited hyperdrive made use of this "lighthouse network" consisted by fixed-position beacons.
Beacons recorded local hyperspace data, which was then downloaded by visiting spacecraft. Each beacon was a massive supercomputer in space that kept accurate data on routes to a limited number of other beacons, providing practical limitations on hyperspace jumps in both distance and direction. A local network might require as many as twenty jump beacons, with an individual beacon transmitting astrogational information from a ship to the rest of the network.
The beacons were maintained and patrolled by the Republic Spacelane Bureau. Reliability of available data was only about 80%. Beacons were moored in open space between systems to avoid the effects of gravitation.
Around the time of the Mandalorian Wars, the beacons became redundant with the introduction of navicomputers, which were then capable of storing millions of hyperspace routes or of restricted (e.g., military or political) navigational data, although certain sectors with notoriously difficult navigational routes, like the Tapani sector, continued to utilize hyperspace beacons well into the Imperial Era.
There were rumors that ancient beacons were used in Hutt Space to guide their slave ships.
Behind the scenesEdit
Hyperspace beacons featured prominently in the Tales of the Jedi series, and were apparently necessary for all hyperspace travel during the events of the Great Sith War. However, by the time of the Knights of the Old Republic comics and computer games, hyperspace-capable craft contained autonomous navigation computers or were assisted by astromech droids.