Star Wars Aerodynamics

CFD showing aerodynamics of a Star Wars X-wring

Science fiction is not always known for hewing to scientific fact, so it will probably come as little surprise that Star Wars’ ships have terrible aerodynamics. But it’s nevertheless fun to see EC Henry’s analysis of drag coefficients of various Rebel and Imperial ships and just how poorly they fare against our own designs.

Drag coefficients really only give a tiny piece of the story, though. We don’t know what speed Henry is testing the ships at, and we get no information about properties like lift or lift-to-drag ratio, which can be even more important than just the drag when it comes to evaluating an aircraft.

There are some intriguing hints about other aerodynamic properties in the clips of flow around an X-wing and TIE fighter, though. Notice that the wake of both ships meanders back and forth. This is an indication of vortex shedding, and it means that both spacecraft would tend to be buffeted from side-to-side when flying in an atmosphere. Either the ships would need some kind of active control to counter those forces, or pilots would need iron constitutions to operate under those conditions! (Video and image credit: EC Henry)

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