Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Rocket-Powered 21-Foot Long X-Wing Actually Flies 310

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
An anonymous reader writes to tell us that some crazy California enthusiasts have built a 21-foot long model of an X-Wing. While this might be impressive in its own right, this model actually flies. Powered by four solid-fuel rocket engines the group has high hopes for their launch next week. Let's hope the built-in R2 unit makes it out ok.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Rocket-Powered 21-Foot Long X-Wing Actually Flies

Comments Filter:
  • by darkmayo (251580) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:19PM (#20839747)
    and that this x-wing will end up as a recreation of Porkins last flight.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:20PM (#20839765) Homepage
    ...even an X-wing can fly.
  • Except that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
    X-wings aren't aerodynamical (i.e. not enough lift) - they're meant for zero atmosphere - in which case they wouldn't need wings.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nyago (784496)
      I always assumed the wings were for mounting weapons.
      • Re:Except that (Score:4, Informative)

        by Gregb05 (754217) <bakergoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:25PM (#20839863) Journal
        The wings were for mounting weapons and maneuverability. There's no atmosphere to push on, but the engines are mounted such that it could turn pretty easily.

        Plus it looks kinda neat.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          The wings were for mounting weapons and maneuverability. There's no atmosphere to push on, but the engines are mounted such that it could turn pretty easily.

          I'm pretty sure we've seen X-Wing fighters do atmospheric maneuvering.

          I believe in Empire Strikes Back, they take off from the planet Hoth, and Luke lands on/flies away from Dagobah.

          I'm sure there's more examples, that's just what I can think of off the top of my head.

          Cheers
          • But we've seen the Falcon take off and noone is going to believe it's aerodynamic, either.
            You can make anything fly if you apply enough thrust in one direction, but in order to be aerodynamic it needs to be able to stay up on it's own once you turn the thrust off... at least for a little while... and longer than 32 feet per second squared...
          • Re:Except that (Score:4, Insightful)

            by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @03:43PM (#20842189) Journal

            I'm pretty sure we've seen X-Wing fighters do atmospheric maneuvering.

            Sheesh, we've seen X-Wing fighters do atmospheric maneuvers in hard vacuum. And face it, that's just silly.

            That's why I prefer the other "X-Foil" spaceship [wikipedia.org] in pop SF TV canon. At least Babylon 5 came up with apparently realistic physics for spacecraft movement and a feasible rational for the X-style "wings": maximizing rotational moment available from the thrust of the engines for maximum slew rate.

            Hmmm... I've got a fever, and the only prescription, is a flying scale model of a Starfury Thunderbolt. Yah. Definitely.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PlatyPaul (690601)
          Sorta-right, sorta-wrong. The wings are there because they're S-foils [wikia.com], a term which crops up mostly in the video games (most notably in X-Wing, where you had to press a button to open or close them for combat or hyperspace travel respectively). Since the wings were there, it made sense to mount the weaponry in a distributed setup.

      • "Lock S-foils in attack position"
    • Re:Except that (Score:4, Informative)

      by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:26PM (#20839885) Journal

      Except that we have seen them fly in an atmosphere (Yavin, Hoth, Dagobah, etc.). You could chalk that up to having sufficient thrust to overcoming the need for wings, but even if the wings weren't actually aerodynamic, they would still be affected by aerodynamic forces. Even a sheet of plywood can fly, just not far and not well.

      • by terrymr (316118)
        Flat wings work well for rockets - we call them fins - they generate lift at non-zero angles of attack which has the effect of straightening the flight of the rocket (or making it turn into a strong wind).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        You could chalk that up to having sufficient thrust to overcoming the need for wings, but even if the wings weren't actually aerodynamic, they would still be affected by aerodynamic forces.

        The X-Wing doesn't fly in atmospheres whilst in the X configuration, as any rookie starpilot straight out of training knows. To fly in an atmosphere, the X-Wing must first close it's wings, creating two wings out of the usual four and allowing atmospheric flight.

        Unlike Earth aircraft, which only have a curved upper surf

    • by meringuoid (568297) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:29PM (#20839939)
      they wouldn't need wings

      That's why they don't have wings. They have S-foils.

      And anyway, X-wings are quite capable of atmospheric flight. Just as long as you aren't damn fool enough to land one in a swamp; you'd never get it out.

      • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:32PM (#20839987) Journal

        Always with you it cannot be done...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jedidiah (1196)
        You guys need to turn in your fan club id cards and your back issues of Bantha Tracks.

        The X-Wing doesn't "fly". It hovers. It uses the same hover/propulsion mechanism as a landspeeder or a speeder bike when it's in an atmosphere. It's like the USS Enterprise (any of them, CVN-56 included). It doesn't need to be aerodynamic to "fly". It needs to not burn up in the atmosphere when it's moving through it.

        It's rather like the space shuttle actually...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sootman (158191)
      Yeah, everyone knows they should have used some JATOs and an Impala. [rocketcarstory.com]

      (No, that's not a link to the joke--it's a link to the (very long, very good) story behind the joke. It's absolutely true... maybe. Regardless, it's a great read. If it's fake, it was written by someone good... always reminded me a bit of how Stephen King writes when he's not writing horror. Anyone know for sure?)
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        f it's fake, it was written by someone good... always reminded me a bit of how Stephen King writes when he's not writing horror. Anyone know for sure?

        Not through any personal knowledge, but ... according to Wiki [wikipedia.org] the story has been debunked. This includes the Darwin Awards people who originally gave it credibility.

        Apparently, the first round of Darwin awards were fictional, and this was among them.

        Depending who you believe, it appears unlikely some idiot actually strapped a rocket onto the roof of his car.

        C

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dpilot (134227)
      Keep in mind that the X-wing fighters did classical banked-turns in the dogfights in and around the Death Stars. Not only do you need wings for a banked turn, you need an atmosphere.

      If you assume that the major motive force is all from the main engine(s) you realize that in a turn the engines will be firing essentially away from the center-point of the turn. In other words, the thrust in an atmospheric banked turn is almost (almost because of "forward" thrust) 90 degrees off of a turn in a vacuum. Beyond
      • by jedidiah (1196)
        ...or alternately... you have to train your pilots somewhere, on something.

        It's highly likely that they will be used to atmospheric style controls and aircraft behaivor.

        Luke was a bush pilot.

        In the absense of gravity and atmophere, movement of a craft is not CONSTRAINED by anything. It can do anything you like. This includes moving like a Star Fury or moving like an F-14.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by dpilot (134227)
          You can train as a bush pilot all you want, but when circumstances change significantly, that training may not be valid. Putting bush pilots into spacecraft with no extra training makes a good movie, but it's even less realistic than putting a frequently-drunk crop-duster played by Randy Quaid into the cockpit of an F16.

          As for being constrained, you're right. But remember that in an atmospheric banked turn, much of the centripetal force is supplied by the wings acting against the atmosphere. In space, the
    • X-wings aren't aerodynamical (i.e. not enough lift) - they're meant for zero atmosphere - in which case they wouldn't need wings.

      I would think putting the wings that far behind what should be the center of gravity, not to mention the square backend that would add a lot of additional drag.

      That being said, I have seen some serious designs for spaceships (i.e. from scientists, not scifi geeks) that do have fins -- they're radiators rather than aerodynamic control surfaces. The funny thing about realistic spacecraft is that heat disposal is a real problem. Vacuum may be cold but there's no mass to use in conductive cooling, you can only

  • Does it fly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tulmad (25666) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:21PM (#20839781)
    I keep seeing this story in various places. They all say "this model actually flies." The thing is, afaict, it's only ever "flown" in simulation. I don't mean to be mean, but you can't really say an aircraft flies until it actually gets up off the ground.
    • by ch-chuck (9622) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:49PM (#20840235) Homepage
      I used to hang out with model airplane enthusiasts and after watching flying snoopy doghouses, flying witches on brooms, flying lawn mowers, flying pizza pans, carpets, flags, picnic baskets, etc, people would just say, "You can make a brick fly if you put a big enough engine on it".

    • by dmatos (232892)
      Strap four M-class solid rocket boosters to a filing cabinet and I can pretty much guarantee it will "fly." For certain values of "flying," that is.
    • I don't mean to be mean, but you can't really say an aircraft flies until it actually gets up off the ground.

      I don't mean to be mean, but that is still an insufficient criterion. A ton of bricks will get up off the ground given sufficient amount of explosives underneath but a ton of bricks an "aircraft" does not make.

      • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @02:02PM (#20840529)
        "The Vogon ships hung in the air in exactly the same way that bricks don't"
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 2short (466733)

        The builders of this have not called it an "aircraft". It is a rocket. I see little reason to doubt that it will get off the ground in some fashion, as building it obviously required quite a bit more technical sophistication than the simple thrust to weight comparison need to ensure liftoff. One of the builders quite straightforwardly rates structural failure during flight "likely".

        Don't worry about being mean by suggesting that this is some overly geeky guys presenting their geeky thing as more than it i
    • by Tribbin (565963)
      "until it actually gets up off the ground"

      Or a cliff
  • "Actually Flies" ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MDMurphy (208495) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:21PM (#20839787)
    The headline is the same from Gizmodo. It's really an X-wing model he PLANS to fly. Check back next week for the success or failure.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Yes, ignore the fact that the aeronautics industry uses the same verbage for untested vehicles. Be sure to find some perceived flaw it what someone else is doing so you can feel better about your do nothing go nowhere life.
  • Good thing for R2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@@@optonline...net> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:22PM (#20839817) Journal

    Even with the aluminum rods, however, there's the possibility of structural damage. We asked Andy about how he expected the flight to go: "it's likely we will have a structural failure in the wings, but we are hoping it will hold."

    "R2, that stabilizer has broken free again... see if you can't lock it down...

    While I applaud the effort, I have a bad feeling about this. If one of the four solid rocket motors fails to ignite or ignites early/late, you're going to have a 22 foot (or more) long pile of scrap wood and aluminum.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jmdc (1152611)
      The actual quote is "R2, that stabilizer's broken loose again ..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by veganboyjosh (896761)
      The actual quote is "I've got a bad feeling about this..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I wonder if they will try to "rail" launch it? The rails will guide if for the first 10 ft or so, giving all engines time to kick in. One would presume with a project this size, there is a bunch of amateur rocketeers in the mix to pick apart the launch. Either it flies which would be pretty cool, or it blows up, or crashes into the ground. Either way a pretty cool You-Tube video (I'm hoping for the fire ball, more entertaining :)
    • I wish the team all the best and I definitely want to see the video's of the flight but I have to agree that the end will probably not be happy.

      Obviously from RTFA some of these people know what they are doing (some of them are from Polecat Aerospace [polecataerospace.com] so perhaps the effort has a good chance of paying off. Regardless of it flying or not this would be a great advertising piece or lawn ornament!

      --
      Check out a great indi-band's music and help a girl win a guitar:Art Of Dying [worst-decision.com]. More info in my journal entry [slashdot.org]

    • by geekoid (135745)
      Exactly the same logic that would ens all progress.
      Don't do it, it might break!
    • by bkr1_2k (237627)
      That's most likely what they're going to have anyway. But they'll also have several minutes of video before they see that happen. The builder even says they expect the wings will shear off during flight, but hopes they won't.

      This is going to be a very messy project, that hopefully nobody who isn't involved will be anywhere close to when it all comes crashing down.
  • by codepunk (167897) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:29PM (#20839931)
    Hey if you strap enough propellant on a pig it will fly. Nice work but the word "flies" is a real stretch
    of the imagination.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grassy_knoll (412409)
      I'd pay money to see that.

      Especially if there was a BBQ afterwords ( during? ).
    • Hey if you strap enough propellant on a pig it will fly. Nice work but the word "flies" is a real stretch
      of the imagination.

      That's what they said about the F-4 Phantom. It's not the most aerodynamic plane in the world but with those big engines, they say it never so much took flight as bullied its way into the air.

      The fighter I always liked was the late variant FW-190, specially intended as a bomber interceptor by the Luftwaffe in WWII. In order to give it enough performance at altitude, they replaced the existing engine with the model used on one of the medium bombers! I can just imagine the scene where the engineers are putti

  • by EvilSpudBoy (1159091) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:31PM (#20839963)

    All we need is for the empire to think there is a rebel base here, and they will send the death star to blow up Earth. In which case that thing better fly and it better have one hell of a pilot.

  • Update (Score:3, Funny)

    by Diginosis (1132933) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:34PM (#20840017)
    "We are greatly saddened today when we learned that while testing the rocket powered X-Wing fighter, a rocket powered bionic arm developed by the US military came out of nowhere and punched a hole through the engine compartment. Jek Porkins Jr., the pilot of the craft was quoted as last saying, 'NO, I'm all ri-- Aah!' as the plane plummeted to an unknown location."

    -X-Wing fighter engineering staff
  • call me when they do this with a b-wing... without recreating a giant, metal, rocket-powered helicopter seed.
  • No fly, jump good!
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:38PM (#20840081) Homepage
    From my extensive model rocketry background getting multiple rockets to fire all at once is incredibly hard. getting 4 of them to fire at once spread out that far apart will be a nightmare. clustered together one misfire or late fire will not affect the trajectory too much, that far apart it will affect the trajectory dramatically, one not firing on one side will spin it out of control as soon as it leaves the launch rod. one late firing will turn it really hard at the end of the burn.

    I hope they are completely ok with it pinwheeling out of control along the ground as the chances of that happening are higher than most suspect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fmobus (831767)

      well, you could have some sort of release mechanism holding the plane, so that it just releases the plane when all four rockets have ignited. For example, have someone with a trigger mechanism observe the ignition and release the plane as soon as all rockets are on.

      Of course, you'd have to build a structure strong enough to support the force of multiple rockets, but that's beyond me. And you'd still have to consider one rocket ending sooner than others. Nothing is perfect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by advocate_one (662832)
      I would expect there to be an even greater likelihood of one motor burning out before the others...
    • by zerocool^ (112121)

      How about "Light all four rockets, THEN release whatever mechanism is keeping it earth-bound".

    • Nuclear weapons need their multiple explosive charges to detonate at exactly the same time. So, just get a thytatron and use exploding wire detonaters like a nuke charge. Ebay has several thytatrons available, including some large Russian models.
    • From my extensive model rocketry background getting multiple rockets to fire all at once is incredibly hard. getting 4 of them to fire at once spread out that far apart will be a nightmare. clustered together one misfire or late fire will not affect the trajectory too much, that far apart it will affect the trajectory dramatically, one not firing on one side will spin it out of control as soon as it leaves the launch rod. one late firing will turn it really hard at the end of the burn.

      Are you talking little Estes rockets or something bigger? Yeah, the ignition system on the Estes were weak but shit, it was just two twists of wire with some sort of matchhead compound at the end. Just shove that up the engine nozzle and hope it works. Want to cluster the engines? Twist the ends together and try to make a full circuit. Of course that's going to be problematic.

      With the costs involved in a project like this, I'm sure they took the ignition system into account. At least, I hope they would.

  • by icebones (707368) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:44PM (#20840155) Homepage
    Fromm the ammount of wood they used, I wonder if this one might actually float if it landed in a swamp
  • They would have modded a jet pack into a radio controlled R2-D2. Sure, it would only fly for about 30 seconds, but it'd be hella more impressive.
  • by MeditationSensation (1121241) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:56PM (#20840387) Homepage
    laser weapons that make sound in the vacuum of space?
    • by geekoid (135745)
      No, but it does have an on board computer that detects when lasers are firing and sends it to the pilots audio.
  • This can't possibly end well. Dude might want to make sure his life insurance is current...
  • I'd like to know if it can steer, and if it can land in such a way that it can fly again.
    • It's a model rocket - a big, complex, expensive model rocket. It will go straight up (provided it stays intact) and return via parachute. I think the X-wing actuation is just a fun gimmick. These guys size stuff for safe recovery all the time. Barring an actual equipment failure, which does occur occasionally, it should be recovered and be able to fly again.
  • "lost tiree, lost dutch,...

    .. lost all sense of dignity, proportion and pride".

    For gawds sake it was only a film. this is almost as tragic as the people who turn their homes into "fully functional" Star Trek starship cabins.

    I like StarWars as much as the next person, but have some pride and dignity. These people are clearly smart, motivated engineers - is this really the best they could do with their time? If you are that interested then why no go the whole hog and build a little mini UAV or enter o
    • by JustNiz (692889)
      >> is this really the best they could do with their time?

      Dude loosen up. Ya know, not everything you do has to be for some practical purpose. In fact things that are the most fun tend to be the most pointless.
  • There are a couple of fundamental issues with the Xwing shape for conventional flight (i.e. with aerodynamics ).
    The nose is so long and so far forward of the wings that it will just want to continually nose dive itself in the ground. One option might be to fit canards to the nose to provide some lift at the front but of course that would not be true to the movie.
    The wings themselves can't provide any lift because they have no camber. Even if they were made with some camber, the wings not being horizontal to
  • I don't see any control surfaces. There's no fundamental reason you couldn't build a rocket or jet propelled aircraft looking like that. Tailless aircraft [desktopaero.com] have been built, although they have to be actively stabilized. But with no control surfaces at all, it's not going to be good for much except a launch in some random upward direction.

    It would have been much cooler as a large maneuverable aircraft model. Fly-bys would look great. Something like this F-14 Tomcat model. [youtube.com]

    • by Arcturax (454188)
      You can lift anything off the ground if you tack enough rocket power onto it. It will either go out of control and smash into the ground, or it will fly until it runs out and then plummet. They even say they will be using parachutes to recover it, and that is assuming it doesn't power dive into the dirt.
  • Was it really necessary to tag this both "nerdgasm" and "blastoff"???

  • by hellfire (86129)
    So many possible obligatories... so little time.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @03:03PM (#20841597) Journal
    I presume they'll be using Aerotech, but I'm curious what impulse level they're planning. At the take off weight, this is going to need some serious thrust. I'm not a high-power guy but a casual BAR (born-again rocketeer); I build and fly black-powder based models with my 5 year old, and just got my first composite mid-power kit airborne last week. Back in my day, mid/high power didn't even exist, as far as I know - the Estes D was the "big one". Those are little engines nowadays.

    As for those asking "Why?" the answer is simple - because they can. Model rocketry is fun, and a bit of a show-off hobby (like many others). I don't have the spare change to go out and drop 4 figures on a big rocket, and then several hundred per flight on the propulsion. All depends on your priorities and what makes your nipples hard.

    I hope it flies well and has a safe recovery. It's neat to see the hobby get some legs; it's one of those applied-science areas that kids can get involved in that's also a lot of fun.

    • by The Queen (56621)
      I was all for letting this story go without comment out of the spirit of geeky fun and sci-fi fandom, that was, until you mentioned the possibility of these guys getting hard nipples. *shudder*
  • Who What Where (Score:4, Informative)

    by SaksRussel (1166941) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @08:12PM (#20845475)
    The X-Wing fighter will be launched (weather permitting) on Sat. October 6 at Plaster City, CA near El Centro. The rocket will be powered by 4 "M" class solid rocket motors. Each year Tripoli San Diego and DART rocket clubs hold their annual 4-day event called Plaster Blaster. This year it is titled Plaster Wars in honor of the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars movie. Andy Woerner of What's Up Hobbies usually builds a wild and outrageous project for the event. With this years theme, he decided to build the X-Wing fighter. Another group is bringing a 9-10' (estimated from the picture) Y-Wing fighter and other attendees are encouraged to bring other Star Wars inspired rockets. If you are in or near southern California and want to come see this, visit plasterblaster.com for information, directions and saftey notices. There is no cost to come and watch. If you would like to launch your own rockets (A-M class), there is a flyers fee to cover the cost of permits and porta-potties. Several vendors will also be on site for all of your rocket buying impulses. You must have a certification card to buy H class and above propellent kits. This is really a fun event for all ages and the price is right. Chances are good that local news teams will be on hand to cover the event. Tech: Getting all of the motors to light is one of Andy's specialties and I've never seen him fail in it. It could happen, but the chances are small. There is no guidance system on hobby rockets as it is against the law. The X-Wing will be launched a fair distance from the flight line for safety and announcements will be made well in advance of the launch so everybody will pay attention. I have never seen anybody injured at a rocket launch in over 5 years that I have been back in the hobby. It is very safe.

What this country needs is a good five cent microcomputer.

Working...