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X-Wings, Hammerheads, and Vipers, oh, my!

The space industry, both public and private, seems to attract sci-fi fans, myself included, and the center of attention, at least in the US, tends to be the ships we travel in.

Look at the Apollo LEM, though. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in any sci-fi show or movie, yet we know that it’s what a spaceship really looks like, since it really is a spaceship. Granted, those were back in the 60’s and 70’s, and we had the Space Shuttle recently, which looks more like an airplane than what Hollywood imagines us voyaging to the stars in.

Have you ever taken the time, though, to look at videos of how the Apollo craft and the Shuttles moved as they traveled?

If so, you may have wondered how Hollywood’s spaceships compare to reality.

Most don’t quite convey the physics accurately, but surprisingly, some have come close to getting it right. Remember that in space, a moving object will proceed in a straight line forever unless some force acts on it.

ViperMost, if not all, of us are familiar with Battlestar Galactica, specifically with the 2003 – 2007 reimagining. The show’s most iconic ships, Colonial Vipers, were shown to move fairly realistically, without actions like banking that aren’t necessary in a vacuum. When the pilot turns the ship, it tends to move only in a way necessary to achieve the new direction.

HammrheadBack in the mid-1990’s, there was a mostly overlooked sci-fi series called Space: Above and Beyond, about a squadron of USMC fighter pilots, set in the year 2063. The spacecraft they flew, SA-43s, were commonly referred to as “Hammerheads” and, like Battlestar Galactica’s Vipers, were shown to be relatively faithful to physics in their flight, changing course by way of things like flat rotation without most of the motion that a fighter plane in an atmosphere must exhibit.

x-wingAnd then there are X-Wings, quite possibly the most well-known space fighter of all time. Sadly, though, from a physics standpoint, they, and really all the spaceships in the Star Wars universe, are also among the most unrealistic in terms of flight characteristics. While nobody would deny that they’re just plain cool, wide banking turns and vertical loops would be both unnecessary and unrealistic outside of an atmosphere, as there would be nothing to provide resistance for the ship as it moved about during a dogfight.

It must be noted here that all of the above names and titles are the property of their parent companies.

So as spaceflight continues to develop, hopefully with the continued puropse of exploration, what sorts of ideas do you have for spacecraft design? Are you more interested in small short-range craft with a crew of only one or two? Or does the idea of a larger ship with a crew of a few dozen or maybe even a few hundred appeal to you?

What sort of vessel does your imagination use to get around?

Dream.

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