With so many amazing and cutting-edge technologies, could we build a real-life Millennium Falcon? In short, no. But we are getting close.
In the “Star Wars” universe, the Millennium Falcon is heralded as the coolest ship in existence. The cargo ship that Han Solo originally won against Lando Calrissian in the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament, the Millennium Falcon is at the center of some of the series’ most incredible adventures.
With “Solo: A Star Wars Story” hitting theaters May 25, let’s explore some of the most notable technological features of this iconic ship and what would have to happen before we could build it today.
Photos: Tour the Millennium Falcon with these “Star Wars” photos!
The Millennium Falcon’s signature speed comes from its hyperdrive, a propulsion system that propels the ship to the speed of light, though Han Solo has boasted that the ship can travel even faster. The hyperdrive works by using “hypermatter particles” to send the ship into hyperspace, an alternate dimension reached by traveling at or beyond the speed of light. This technique uses wrinkles in the fabric of space-time, or wormholes: pieces of the fabric that bend to connect two otherwise distant points.
Now, even though wormholes are predicted by general relativity theory, they are still just a theoretical phenomenon. So because we can’t prove their existence, we certainly can’t manipulate them for our own purposes. Stephen Hsu, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Oregon, told our sister site Live Science: “You’d need some kind of very exotic matter to stabilize a wormhole, and it’s not clear if such matter exists in the universe.”
Now, there is some excitement in the scientific community around a motor called EmDrive. This is not a hyperdrive or warp drive as some have suggested. But it bounces microwaves around a chamber as a substitute for propellant. Researchers recently put the EmDrive to the test and found that the thrust it produces comes from some kind of electromagnetic interaction that is likely between the motor’s power cables and the Earth’s magnetic field, according to their study. This might not be the end of the EmDrive as a potential future engine, but it’s certainly not a hyperdrive.
Even if we suspend our disbelief and accept the speed of the ship, another question arises: g-forces. According to Wired’s calculations, passengers aboard the Millennium Falcon could experience up to about 12 g’s while traveling at speeds depicted in the movies (although this might not be the case if they’re traveling through hyperspace). This is comparable to being in a gravitational field 12 times greater than what we normally experience on Earth. [“Star Wars” Spaceships from a Galaxy Far, Far Away]
At 1g we can still push blood to the brain, but as g’s increase this becomes more difficult. Twelve g’s is about the maximum fighter jet pilots can experience before passing out, but this assumes they’re wearing g-suits, which squeeze the legs in high-g situations to prevent blood from being pushed down.
So in theory, without high-g suits, the human passengers aboard the Millennium Falcon would pass out when the ship went into high-g spins, even without traveling as fast as Han Solo has boasted he can.
At Chewbacca’s request, a hologram “chess” table was installed on the Millennium Falcon so passengers could play Dejarik, a classic strategy game set in the “Star Wars” universe. But while astronauts aboard the International Space Station won’t be playing Chewie’s favorite game any time soon, hologram technology is making its way into modern spacecraft.
In 2016, after some launch difficulties, two of Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headsets traveled to the space station to help crew members. Also, the innovators behind Voxiebox have created a kind of holochess in an earlier version. You can’t feel the pieces or move them with your hands, but this feature isn’t far away, and researchers have already gotten close.
In one example, reported by Wired, teams from the University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan have created tiny plasma holograms that you can feel with your hands.
Invisible Deflector Shields
Aboard most ships in the “Star Wars” universe, and in all science fiction stories, deflector shields are a basic security measure. Whenever a conflict arises, the deflectors rise and keep the ship intact despite enemy attacks. But is this just a well-worn sci-fi trope? Not quite.
In 2014, ExtremeTech profiled a team of students from the University of Leicester in the UK who considered the possibility of using plasma to build such a deflector. The students became aware of the Earth’s ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that contains plasma.
Currently, we bounce communication signals off the plasma of the ionosphere to send them to different places on Earth. This “invisible shield” around the Earth was the inspiration for this team’s suggestion that plasma could be used and manipulated to deflect electromagnetic radiation, such as that coming from a laser or energy-based weapon, possibly. Such a shield isn’t technically feasible yet, but his general concept of using plasma to deflect radiation is certainly within the realm of possibility.
Also, in 2008, Ruth Bamford of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England and her colleagues studied the possibility of deflecting radiation using a portable magnetic shield. While it’s not quite the battle-ready deflector we’ve seen in Star Wars, it’s definitely a step in that direction.
Quadex Power Core
Grey, circular and suitable for installation on YT-1300 light freighters like the Millennium Falcon, the Quadex power core, the ship’s main power source, is pure fiction.
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Aside from its description as a power source for starships like the Millennium Falcon, the Quadex power core is a pretty mysterious piece of technology. The series never explains how the power core works, so it’s equally possible and impossible for us to build one.
Quad laser cannons
Some of the Millennium Falcon’s most powerful and most widely used weapons, its quad laser cannons, are also relatively feasible. The US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has spent years developing the closest thing we have to a “Star Wars”-style laser cannon. It can fit into a fighter plane, but it’s still powerful enough to fire a 150-kilowatt energy beam.
In addition, researchers have suggested that a coherent amplification network (CAN) laser, a beam created from multiple small lasers, could dispose of space debris surrounding Earth by vaporizing a thin layer of matter from the Earth’s surface. space junk. This would push the debris down, where it would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Laser weapons today can be big, dangerous, and difficult to create, but they are certainly possible.
The technologies aboard the Millennium Falcon are not a constant. The ship is an ever-evolving amalgamation of assorted pieces, stolen, custom, and found. It may seem strange that a highly capable future craft could be assembled in this way, but when you think about current spaceflight advancements, it makes sense.
The Millennium Falcon has much in common with SpaceX’s Dragon, whose reusable design is optimized for efficient and sustainable launches. Similarly, the design of the Millennium Falcon is based on the reuse of found parts.
With long-term space travel, the technology aboard a ship would occasionally break, become obsolete, etc. It may not always be possible to 3D print new items or make repairs with what is already available on a ship. Future space travelers could do as Han Solo has done and reuse found pieces to efficiently survive in the cosmos.
The Millennium Falcon boasts a seemingly endless list of gadgets and capabilities. From its oversized sensor dish to its Gigyrodyne sublight engine, thrust pressure manifold, and sensor-proof smuggling compartments, the technology aboard this ship ranges from highly plausible to entirely fictional.
So humanity is not quite ready to build a Millennium Falcon. Still, many technologies under development could one day make shipboard technology a reality, such as laser cannons and invisible deflector shields. Until then, we can always see Han Solo and company traversing the galaxy in one of the most iconic ships in science fiction.