How Would You Build a Real X-Wing? (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)
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How Would You Build a Real X-Wing? (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)

– Star Wars is arguably
more science fantasy than science fiction, but
the franchise has nonetheless hugely influenced what we
want to see in our sci-fi. We want lightsabers and
blasters wherever possible, and if we ever get armed
spacecraft in our galaxy, we’re probably gonna
compare them to X-Wings. But if we had the means,
how would we build one? (pulsing electronic music) What’s keeping us out of
dogfights like you’d see in the Star Wars movies aren’t
the ship shapes or weapons, necessarily, but the propulsion systems. X-wing engines have a
very specific look, size, and functionality. And that’s what allows
them to fight like they do. So, if we wanted to build our
own spacefighter, what real rocket science would we use? First we should establish
what are the engines we’re looking for. We are gonna be looking at
the T-65 model of X-wing, the most common model, and it
has an engine with a diameter, four of them, about this big,
so any technology that we use is gonna have to scale
relatively small compared to the powerful rocket engines
that we have in use now. Our real X-wing engines,
it’s space, there’s no sound, our real X-wing engines are
also gonna have to generate massive thrust because the
ships themselves are massive, around, according to the
canon, 10 metric tons. Mass isn’t as much of a problem
in space, but it is if you want to go fast, quickly, like
a spacefighter would want to, and it is if you’re constantly
entering and exiting planets’ gravity wells. As they often do. Finally, our propulsion
systems need to look right. That sounds trivial, but the
classic red and blue glow coming out of the back of Star
Wars ships’ engines is just as iconic as anything else. And so– (jet noise)
(screeches) We can use a good old-fashioned
chart to help us determine which real, or at least,
possible propulsion system would work best. All right, now I’m gonna walk out. I saw what happened to Jango. Now we need to survey the
propulsion systems available to us and compare and con– (shrieks) Surprise lightsaber! It’s a different one this
time, you should be surprised! Let’s start with the obvious. Chemical rockets like
we use in the Saturn V or the Falcon 9. Both produce a mountain of
thrust, but to do so, they have to use a lot of very, very heavy fuel. Upwards of 90% of these
vehicles’ weights are just fuel. Now, given the size differences
here between these vehicles and the X-wing, and how much
fuel they would need to take with them to dogfight and
enter and exit atmospheres, chemical propulsion just
really isn’t the way to go. And it doesn’t look right. So, how about something a
little bit more space age? This is a very basic
diagram of an ion engine. It uses electric fields and
how charges are repelled and attracted to each other
to fling out tiny charged particles from the back
of it and create thrust. Now, these engines are definitely real. And they look right. And we’ve actually used
them on space missions, but because the charged particles
they’re throwing out the back of them are so small, have so
little mass, the thrust that they generate is minuscule. It can take days, weeks, months,
or even years to accelerate up to spacefighter speeds. You can put your hand behind
the beam and it’d be fine, for like an hour. I checked. Not exactly what you want
from a nimble spacefighter. And so– (pop)
(rocket sounds) (spacefighter sounds) (lightsaber sounds) We can make our first evaluations. Although chemical rockets
have the thrust that we want, they are way too big, and their
exhaust does not look right. Ion engines, on the other
hand, are small enough, they look right, but they
do not have the thrust that we want. So maybe we should go a
little bit more sci-fi. They cut his head off. They cut Jango’s head off. He had a kid! It’s a kids’ movie! In the 1950s, the design
of a new kind of propulsion system began. So-called Project Orion wanted
to harness the incredible power of nuclear explosions
by throwing nuclear bombs behind spacecraft and
having those spacecraft ride the nuclear bombs! As thrust! (laughs) No, really! Development was ultimately
halted on these so-called nuclear pulse engines because
of the possibility of, you know, clouds of radioactive
fallout all over the place. But in theory, they could
generate a monstrous amount of thrust. Enough to take us to the
nearest star in just a lifetime. However, I think you can tell
that these don’t really look right for an X-wing and they’re too big. Too bad. I think we need to go a bit
outside of what we’ve actually tested and into theoretical
territory in order to stay on target for an X-wing. Nuclear fusion engines are
still out of reach for us, but only just. The simplest set up for a
rocket could be one that has gigantic magnetic fields that
combine a plasma and uses something like microwaves
to heat up the plasma so hot that it actually fuses. And then magnetic nozzles
throw all the fusion products out the back for thrust. More awesome configurations
of the nuclear fusion engine involve instantaneously
collapsing cylinders of metal like lithium around a plasma,
and then flinging that all out the back. The point being, nuclear fusion
engines have something that most all other engine
configurations don’t have. Both high thrust and high
exit velocity from the back, which is important. Chemical rockets like in
the Saturn V, have very high thrust, but very low exit velocity. And ion engines, like you’d
find in a TIE fighter, or one of our spacecraft,
have very low thrust, but very high exit velocity. Not only do nuclear fusion
engines look the part, they, in theory, could be shrunk down. We are working on that right now. And in the Star Wars universe,
they have mastered magnetic confinement in their lightsabers. So, plausible? But if our technology was
advanced enough to make fusion engines, we might wanna consider
another propulsion system that uses the most efficient
fuel source known to science. Antimatter. When identical matter of
opposite charge come into contact with each other, they annihilate
and release an enormous amount of energy in the
form of charged particles and radiation, like gamma
rays, according to Einstein’s E equals mc squared. Now, you could just use magnetic
nozzles to throw all this stuff out the back,
and that would be fine. Or, you could take something
like hydrogen and pump it into the engine and heat it up
using the energy that you’re producing from the matter,
antimatter reactions as reaction mass, and
throw that out the back for even more thrust. Antimatter engines look the part, and in theory they could be very small. Antimatter is so efficient
in its production of energy, that just an M&M’s worth
could take you to Mars. (rocket sounds) Let’s complete the chart. (rocket sounds) (shrieks and makes action sounds) (lightsaber sounds) See how that happened? It’s in the remaster. So, it looks like, using our
criteria, the only two engines that fit the bill for a
realistic X-wing engine are fusion engines and antimatter engines. They each have the thrust,
the size, and the look that we want. Whether the engines for our
spacefighters are configurations of antimatter or fusion engines,
there are many permutations of both and some even combine
the two, is gonna come down to which is the more
attainable breakthrough for us? Nuclear fusion or mass
antimatter production. Right now, the estimated
cost to produce just one gram of antimatter, a paper clip’s
worth, is 62 trillion dollars. And though we have experimental
fusion reactors, we haven’t yet been able to get
out more energy from one than we’ve put in. And so, how would you build a real X-wing? Well, that all hinges on
having the correct propulsion system and at least for now,
it seems like humanity’s best bet is to focus on nuclear fusion engines. At least until antimatter
production gets a bit cheaper. Both antimatter engines and
fusion engines, though, have the thrust, the look, and
the efficiency we would need to create the first real starfighter. And both configurations make
way more sense than the ion engines that Star Wars gives
all of their spacecraft. But then again, it is not that
hard to give a slightly more scientific answer in a universe that also includes midichlorians, is it? Because Science–(blaster sound) (scream) Told ya. Ya gotta shoot first. – [Kyle] I told ya! (funky electronic music) A really interesting
thing about a lightsaber if it was real, is that because
the blade here would just be contained plasma, plasma
is a gas inside of a magnetic field, it wouldn’t weigh anything. Or next to nothing, just a few grams. So, if you’ve ever held a
lightsaber, they have heft to them, a replica lightsaber. Because this plastic bit is heavy. But if this was a real
lightsaber, it would only weigh as much as the hilt. And if you were swinging
around, it would feel like you just have a remote control
in your hand that you could move around hyper-quick
and not slow like a sword. (lightsaber sounds) Thank you so much for watching, Jerry. If you want more of me,
check out Muskwatch (sings) with me and Dan Casey,
or go to and sign up and you can get
this show two days earlier than anyone else. And you can get the S.P.A.A.C.E. Program, which is a bit more premium. And thanks to Ultra Sabers
for Rey’s lightsaber here. It’s pretty cool, and
it ups my surprise game. And, oh, my hand! Just kidding. Nerd. (electronic and mechanical sounds)

100 thoughts on “How Would You Build a Real X-Wing? (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)

  1. Have you ever seen macross or robotech? They have a great space fighter the super vf-1, it has mulgi directional thrusters and lots of nozzels for manouvering, its legs can do a quick stop manouvre. the vf-1 and the b5 starfury are my most favourite designs because they look so realistic.

  2. If I could design my very own starship, I'd build a Borg Cube — not because I like the Borg, but because a cube is the most sensible shape for a spacecraft that can move in 3 dimensions. Just stick a bigass engine in the center of each face of the cube — no need to rotate the spacecraft before you can accelerate or decelerate in any given direction.

  3. 6:41 – Yes, antimatter is hugely powerful and extremely efficient, but you can never power-down the engine, because you need to constantly generate a containment field to store the antimatter safely. Fusion is safer because hydrogen can just sit in a plain old metal tank until you need it.

  4. 7:15 – If you built ANY engine that used a high-intensity energy source to energize reaction-mass, you should use Xenon, not hydrogen. Xenon is the heaviest element that is easily stored in a liquid or solid form, meaning it can absorb the most thermal energy per atom and transfer the most kinetic energy per atom. (also known as "specific thrust".) That's why ion thrusters all use xenon, even though they can't refuel from ambient hydrogen in space — the specific thrust is so much better that a non-refillable canister of xenon makes better propellant than freely available hydrogen would.

  5. I'm a bit late to the party, but swords are not slow 10:03.
    Swords are generally very light, like 1-2 Kg. and their center of mass is mostly pretty close to the guard.
    A heavier weapon is harder to wield. Swords have to either cut or thrust, neither of these benefits from being massive.
    Maybe you were thinking about fantasy swords?

    Blunt weapons can be more massive because they need to crush. Especially when against armor. A bit like fighting lobsters 🙂

  6. Not a word about thrust axis? A 'star fighter' needs to have more than just rear thrust to pull off the maneuvering you see in the films. They would actually need much larger Y and Z axis engines, as you are not only moving the same mass, you also need to overcome part of the momentum generated from the current direction of travel.

  7. As of July 2018, the National debt of the United States is worth about the same as 0.25 gram of anti-matter.

  8. The question I have is: Why must the gas expelled in a propulsion system be vented into the void and lost? Why can't it be captured and used again ? Because the thrust does not come from the venting process but the push at the opposite end of the venting process you could vent into a larger container or use a collection system to direct the gas back to a storage chamber without impacting the push from what is expanding or pressurised gas.

  9. Hello, fascinating stuff, just discovered this channel.
    But I would like to point out there is at least one other MAJOR factor preventing dogfights and space fighters like Star Wars and X-Wings:

    Space is a vacuum, and therefore has no air. This may not seem like a problem, but in order to replicate dogfighting of the 20th century and as depicted in the movies, the fighter craft rely upon friction in the air and the use of flaps to influence their turns, ascents, descents, etc. But in space, there is no friction, and so any craft with an engine in one direction and flaps like traditional fighters will simply keep going in one direction with no way of stopping, the flaps being useless in anything other than atmosphere.

    A fighter spacecraft, or indeed any space craft, requires forms of propulsion for at least 6 distinct directions, lest the craft be stranded or unable to stop. These directions would be the traditional forwards, backwards, starboard, port, up, and down. While this could still technically work and eliminate the need for wings, these types of dogfights would be much slower with much wider angle turns to alter movement in any direction, and at this point it makes more sense to have essentially a mobile space turret with weapons able to track in every direction, turning space battles into more of the historic dreadnought or sailing ship eras where a ship gets packed with as much artillery as possible and is sent off to inflict as much damage as possible, while smaller and faster ships are at a permanent disadvantage since the enemy has no element of surprise. A good site for reference and where I got a lot of my own info.

  10. A major flaw about this video – pretty much just talks about the engines. There's a lot more to think about when building an X-wing fighter (or other vessels that serve similar purpose)

    I guess this video should be called "How Would You Build a Real X-wing? Part 1: The Engines".

    I'd certainly like to see other parts, too. What else would there be? The cabin (comfort, controls), other thrusters (for slowing down, moving sideways, turning the fighter around), shooters, well sealed door and probably quite a few more. I guess the last part would include putting it all together and the summary of what was needed.

  11. So would something like the WH40k Atmospheric Incinerator Torpedo be possible?

  12. Bruh, just strap four of the engines the MiG 25 Foxbat or MiG 31 had to it and find a way to feed it oxygen. Small and big enough, has enough thrust, fits the looks in outer space, I guess.

  13. "We are working in that right now."

    I wanna come to your studio and help you and Elon Musk finish working on the fission rocket. Or just to see it.

  14. Since the propulsion system has to rely on theoretical science, why not use gravitational fields for propulsion? Or, if not fields, perhaps the Republic/Empire/Rebellion/Order are using graviton particles? Using gravity for propulsion might enable your craft to have all of the versatility of fighters, and yet propel the pilots to nearby star systems before they die (or run out of fuel).
    Also, X-wing fighters can travel FTL. So, maybe these technically advanced groups are using tachyons? Tachyons, theoretically, have very little (or zero) mass and must always be traveling faster than the speed of light. Can they be used to take our "fighter" craft up to or beyond light speed?

  15. If you have EM-Shielding to hold ongoing AM-Explosions in your engine at bay… with what are those guys shooting on each other (over long distances) killing the shields of Fighters in such an short time?

  16. Ever thought about gravitational propulsion? generating a gravity well you'd be constantly falling which in space would result in a great thrust especially in changing direction. At that stage a propulsion system like you mentioned would be needed just to give the initial push to change direction effectively or would work just like an inertial dampener… just a thought

  17. @Because Science I'm just surprised you haven't done any videos on Babylon 5. Their designs and science is more realistic. Take, for instances, their Starfury fighters. With 8 engines arrayed 4 forward and 4 back, with the right combination of them firing one can turn in place pretty quickly. 😀

  18. Glad you brought up fusion engines – because that's what the X-Wing series (not to mention every single other novel and source book printed pre-Disney) list the X-Wing as canonically having.

  19. Nuclear fusion is being made by energy companies like prototypes and antimatter idea is way too expensive but in the future it will get less expensive

  20. X-wing's can fly into orbit, travel across the galaxy, land on a planet, be submerged in a swamp, take off again and go fight in a space war. They are the most unbelievable ship in scifi (that I know of)

  21. NASA has expressed interest in the design of the Star Furies from Babylon 5 TV series because they have the best design for actually working in space for real.

  22. Hang on a sec. I thought, with matter-antimatter annihilation, that the overwhelming bulk of the energy comes out as gamma rays. Which are extremely penetrating. How would you contain that energy without having to apply more energy than you can get from the reaction?

  23. What about the F302s in Stargate…. forgot how Colonel Carter explain how the engine works… but it seems plausible and within our own level of technologies….something about inertia dampening systems…

  24. Funny, Michio Kaku's version of a starfighter he made in a Discovery show looks a bit like an Xwing. Uses antimatter engines.

  25. Is a Galactic Empire possible?

    I always thought the idea of Star Wars galactic empire as being a bit farfetched, what with the distance between stars and how long it would take to make a ruling and see it become effective. You’d never even know about a rebellion on one side of the galaxy until hundreds of millennia had past.

    Until I was thinking about the original Battlestar Galactica, and how it referred to their home system of Cyrannus as a galaxy, but later books referred to it as a Star Cluster. Looking into clusters I found they were extremely dense, but then I found something even more extreme, the Ultra Compact Dwarf Galaxy, or UCD.

    A UCD can be 200 light years across and contain 100 Million stars, according to Wikipedia ( I’m not great at maths so lets make this galaxy “flat”. Its area is 200*200, or 40,000 LY squared. Divided by 100,000,000 for the stars, and we have one star every 0.0004 LY, multiplied by 9,800,000,000,000 for kilometres and we have 3.92 Billion KM.

    Another site said 10,000 stars would exist in the space between Sol and Proxima Centauri in a UCD. So, 4.3*9,800,000,000,000 is 42.14 Trillion KM, divided by 10,000 is one star per 4.214 Billion KM. The distance from the sun to Pluto is 4.44 Billion KM, so these UCD’s have a nearby star within less distance than the reaches of our own Solar System.

    So, assuming we can “jump to lightspeed” that’s quite an amount stars one can rule in short time. The FFG Star Wars game says a trip across the galaxy takes one to three weeks. Let’s go with three. At light speed that’s 300,000*60*60*24*7*3 KM, or 544.32 Billion KM, divided by roughly 4 Billion for the number of stars you’ll pass, and it’s 136.08, and cubed for three dimensions of space, and you have over 2.5 million stars, not to mention the planets, moons, asteroids and habitats they contain.

    So, I think a galactic empire could be possible, if we set it in a UCD.

  26. All you have to do is mix the F4U-Corsair, The F-18, and the U-2, all highly capable military planes and you have it! (Please note that the U-2 has been flying into the edge of our atmosphere since the 1950's.)

  27. Why not a fission/ion engine? Use radioactive fuel which produces heavy ions as it decays, which can be electromagnetically accelerated out the back of the ship creating significantly more thrust than a conventional ion engine. You could even use this as a way to dispose of spent fuel, using the nuclear power plant to power ship systems and expelling spent fuel ions for propulsion.

  28. Or some combination of Ions and working fusion technology. Get a bit more cream from the Ions, which will probably be visible then. Just to be lore friendly.

  29. Not that we have any way of knowing for certain but I read some speculative piece about lightsabers– so long ago I have no idea where– that suggested that, while weightless, some rotational forces in the plasma containment field would make handling one feel like handling a chainsaw… but instead of the rotation being along one flat axis, you'd have to imagine a ring of blades arranged radially around a void in the middle. The nerd writing it suggested Jedi/Sith needed to use the force to enhance their strength to manage the wonky effect it would have on wielding the thing, but whatevs, not like we have any way to know for sure 😛

  30. 4:40 The Coca-Cola corporation was contracted to help design nuclear pulse drives because the nuclear devices used would be cylindrical, and since Coca-Cola already manufactured drink machines…

    5:20 We've tested Nuclear Thermal drives.

  31. I have a better idea. Build space craft to work best in space, and don't engage in a bunch of silly impractical nonsense to try and make space vehicles move like WWII fighters?

  32. This video was a bait, I thought it gonna be about how a real design similar to a space-fighter would look like, maneveur engines etc. and this guy was just alking about current and future realistic space propulsion systems with a lot of not funny jokes

  33. An x wing is obviously a design born from airplane intuition with jet engines and wings and aerodynamic turning. Not terribly intelligent for space.
    UFOs tell you how they will look. Because of course it's field propulsion. Jets or rockets will of course never take us anywhere. Space is too vast for such archaics.
    With field coupling, energy is paid and motion is achieved. No moving parts, no sound. And they move rather well. Like 10 kilometers up in a second from standstill.

  34. You left out the part about anti matter reactions requiring a dilithium crystal, as it is the only material that doesn’t react with anti matter and can withstand the power of the reaction. Not to mention the storage cells that contain the anti matter and the reaction chambers and pipe line. Bottom line; the Enterprise is the only ship big enough to contain the entire reaction assembly.

  35. X-Wings also have hyperdrives. Which of our existing/near-future technologies is analogous to that?

  36. The velocity of the gas in the ion engine is too small but can we change it with a particular accelerator?

  37. 10,000 kg is nothing. That's like 1/3 the maximum takeoff weight of an F-35. (and the Lightning is considered a light fighter.) I would also point out that the max canon acceleration of an X-wing is 3,700 Gs (as in non-survivable regardless of whatever space magic you're using.) which would be kind of overkill in a manned starfighter. Fusion is probably a good choice for power, since the reactor could provide the plasma to fuel a VASIMR thruster, which can set it's specific impulse to whatever is needed at the time, so you can optimize efficiency when cruising, and optimize thrust when in combat.

  38. Isn't the X-Wing's design more suited for atmospheric combat rather than space combat? I heard somewhere that an airplane is not the shape you want for a propper space fairing vehicle.

  39. When he mentioned anti-matter engines, I immediately thought of the matter/anti-matter engines of the Enterprise in Star Trek.

  40. Please please please keep making your show, Its my favorite show on earth! This show is cool, funny, educational, and fun.

  41. A more realistic X Wing that we could build under known physics would more than likely be akin to a StarFury from Babylon 5.

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