The Empire is well pleased

You may have heard about the 21-foot long half-scale model of the X-Wing that was built to actually fly, using solid fuel rockets. It was launched yesterday. The results were caught on video, and it is spectacular. There were lots of kids watching this thing, the announcer does the countdown, it lifts off on beautiful columns of flame and smoke, gets about 50 feet in the air … and did the announcer just say “Holy shit!” over the loudspeakers?

The kids are thrilled. We shall enlist them in the Empire’s legions.


  1. B. Dias says

    I hate to be such a huge nerd, but the X-Wings were the staple craft of the rebels. So, the Empire shouldn’t be pleased.

    Which I guess is a good thing.

  2. Daniel Oke says


    A real nerd would know that an X-Wing is a Rebel craft, not an Imperial one.

    I condemn you to eternal viewings of Phantom Menace!

  3. Geral says

    That was truly something when it was actually flying. And it looked exactly like out of the movies when it fell apart.

    I’d like to see a replica actually take off similar to that of a jet instead of a pure rocket launch, maybe it’d have a better chance of gliding. With 4 rockets under it, thats a lot of stress especially when it starts to reach its arc.

    One day…

  4. kevinj says

    at #4

    for it being a rebel craft, i would guess thats why the empire would be pleased at it going bang

  5. Jeff says

    I thought he said, “Oh shit!”.

    The reason that the kids would be conscripted into the Empire’s legions is because they were cheering as a Rebel craft exploded.

  6. says

    I wonder how nobody noticed that two rockets like that is notoriously unstable. One rocket goes faster than the other and rips the ship apart. Your average enthusiasts aren’t going to get around the problem.

  7. says

    Uhh, what? Your “average enthusiasts” use multiple motors all the time. Its not a problem, so long as you can get them all lit at the same time, which isn’t *that* hard.

    The ship was ripped apart because of aerodynamic forces. It may have been a bit underpowered, which caused it to arc over and the increased AOA ripped the wings off.

  8. E-lad says

    Shit Happens in various manners related to your worldview.

    Taoism Shit happens
    Hare Krishna Shit Happens, Rama Rama Ding Ding
    Confucianism shit happens, is it really shit?
    Hinduism This shit happened before
    Zen What really is the sound of shit happening?
    Protestantism Shit happens, but as long as you’re sorry, it’s OK
    Calvinism Shit happens because you don’t work hard enough
    Episcopalianism If shit happens, hold a procession
    Lutheranism Shit won’t happen if I work harder. Shit happens, but as long as you’re sorry, it’s OK
    Anglicanism It’s true, shit does happen – but only to Lutherans
    Catholicism If shit happens, I must have deserved it
    Charismatic Catholicism Shit is happening because you deserve it, but we love you anyway
    Judaism Why does shit always happen to us?g the deal?
    Reform Judaism Got any laxatives?
    Islam If shit happens, take a hostage
    Nation of Islam Don’t take no shit!
    New Age For $300, we can help you get in touch with your inner shit
    Wicca If shit happened once, it will happen twice more
    Jehovah’s Witnesses Knock Knock, “Shit Happens”
    Secular Humanism Shit evolves
    Darwinism Survival of the shittiest
    Christian Science When shit happens, don’t call a doctor-pray
    Atheism I don’t believe this shit
    Religion from an Atheist’s point of view I haven’t smelt, seen, touched, or tasted it. But it’s shit
    Agnosticism You can’t prove any of this shit
    Rastafarianism Let´s smoke this shit!
    Mormonism If shit happens, shun it
    Energizer Bunny Shit happens and keeps going and going and going and …
    Baptist You are shitting all wrong, and you’ll be punished for it
    Southern Baptist Shit will happen. Praise the lord
    Iraqi Baathist Oh shit!
    Voodoo Shit doesn’t just happen — somebody dumped it on you
    Televangelism Your tax-deductible donation could make this shit stop happening
    Unitarianism It’s not the shit that matters. It’s the process
    Orthodox Saint Sergius found his faith in deep shit
    Greek Orthodox Shit happens, usually in three’s
    EST I am at cause that shit will not happen
    Fundamentalism There’s no shit in the Bible
    Twelve Step Shit happens one day at a time
    Amish This modern shit is worthless
    Shintoism You inherit the shit of your ancestors
    Moonies Only happy shit really happens
    Stoicism This shit is good for me
    Zoroastrianism Shit happens half the time
    Bahaism Why do you keep shitting on us?
    Mysticism This is really weird shit
    Paganism Shit happens for a variety of reasons
    Rajhneesh Give us your shit and put on this orange shit
    Rosicrucianism What is this AMORC shit?
    Satanism Sneppah tihs
    Witchcraft Mix this shit together and it will happen
    Scientology If you leave us, bad shit will happen to you
    Shamanism Whoaa…Holy Shit!
    Sikhism Leave our shit alone
    Sureshism You are all pieces of shit

  9. a says

    A better result than having it get far enough up to drop a couple hundred lbs. of baltic birch on that little crowd.

    Still this reminds me of my childhood aeronautical engineering projects, which were guided almost exculsively by what looked cool.

  10. says

    A lot of people on Slashdot were expressing disappointment that it didn’t do better. Disappointment? That was awesome! I’m not sure what people were expected, but what happened was realistically one of the best outcomes this could’ve had. I mean, it actually flew, for dozens of feet, and it didn’t injure anyone!

  11. True Bob says

    That was a thing of beauty. Usually, multiple motors are clustered really close* together, minimizing the effect of timing issues. Pointing them through CG helps, too. Having 4 motors that far apart is pretty chancy. So great try, lovely flight, excellent breakup.

    Any volunteers to ride the full scale version? ;)

    *WRT diameter

  12. Stogoe says

    Its not a problem, so long as you can get them all lit at the same time, which isn’t *that* hard.

    Even the Mythbusters can’t reliably get multiple engines to fire simultaneously.

  13. daenku32 says

    Aw well. Maybe next time we’ll have something to take down the Bush administration. The rebel forces will rise!

  14. Brain Hertz says

    My thought was that it was hopelessly underpowered… there wasn’t sufficient acceleration for it to reach a velocity at which it might have been stabilized. So, shortly after firing, the thing veered sideways and then the off-axis aerodynamic forces caused it to break up.

    Shame, really. For all of the effort that went into building it, it would have been nice to get a few more seconds of flight than that…

  15. says

    COOL! That is exactly what most of the rockects that we (of the Milne Model Rocket Club and the Stanwix Street Space Exploration Society) did. Except that one that never came down, as far as we could tell.

  16. says

    It’s a good thing the solid rocket boosters didn’t have more fuel in them. Once the vehicle disintegrated, the components went off in every direction. Those bystanders would have discovered they were too close.

  17. CalGeorge says


    Oh, barf. Lee Siegel strikes again:

    Militant atheists are wrong

    A flurry of literary attacks on God may also be closing the book on imagination.
    By Lee Siegel
    October 7, 2007
    Voltaire famously quipped that if God didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. American publishers would enthusiastically agree because God, it turns out, is a consistent moneymaker — especially, these days, for those who want to attack him.
    The anti-God books have appeared in the wake of two developments: the rise of Islamic fundamentalism overseas and the religious right’s enormous influence on President Bush’s policies here at home. But as responses, the secular jeremiads don’t make a whole lot of sense.

    [blah blah blah]

  18. says

    Even the Mythbusters can’t reliably get multiple engines to fire simultaneously.

    Mythbusters also tried to use an Estes solar ignitor to light a hybrid, and fired it inside their shop. That they couldn’t do it isn’t really indicative of what people who actually know what they are doing can do. Multiple motors firing at once is not a problem.

    A few years ago, at the same launch, someone launched a rocket with 32 motors firing at once. They all lit. But the mythbusters can’t do it! OMG!

  19. says

    The Mythbusters spent hours driving two identical cars around in circles to see whether you use more fuel with the air conditioner on or with the windows open. Identical, that is, except for the color: one was dark grey, as I recall, and one was white, completely invalidating the experiment, which was performed in full sunshine, as the white car would reflect the sun’s heat better.

  20. says

    First rule of rocketry – with enough thrust, any brick will fly.
    Second rule of rocketry – make sure your brick can withstand high thrust.

  21. Brain Hertz says

    First rule of rocketry – with enough thrust, any brick will fly.
    Second rule of rocketry – make sure your brick can withstand high thrust.

    Third rule of rocketry:

    It is possible to make a pig fly, just as long as you provide sufficient thrust. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea, though.

  22. Brain Hertz says

    @ CalGeorge #24:

    Euuwww. That’s one messed up piece of thinking. My favorite:

    When our anti-religionists attack the mechanism of religious faith by demanding that our beliefs be underpinned by science, statistics and cold logic, they are, in effect, attacking our right to believe in unseen, unprovable things at all.

    The horror!

    Yes, I know, there’s some context around this where the author argues that such faith should be considered in the same category as art and so on (go and read it, if you can afford the brain cells) but it’s not exactly original and I’m not buying it. That quote pretty much sums up the whole thing.

    Aside from that, why do supporters of religion have to constantly equate arguments against religion as “attacks” on the right to hold such views?

  23. MikeM says

    Science at work, man. You gotta love it.

    If the geeks who only play video games only knew how much cooler the real thing is… Think we should tell ’em?

  24. AtomicWarBaby says

    My daughter-in-law & son are taking my 4 yr. old grand daughter to see the “Creation Museum” in Cincinnati. So, having found this out on the anniversary of Sputnik’s launch, & having her tell me “you can’t be a Christian” if you don’t believe the “creationist” fundamentalist kind of view of the world; well, I’m pretty bummed out.

    Having made my own parents’ existence rather “exciting” during my 60’s College years, I guess this is my Karma coming back to bite me in my existential butt!

    I just find myself wondering how the heck I ended up with a son who believes this stuff too. I asked her, didn’t you have Science classes in High School? She said, “Yes, but I didn’t believe a word of it.”

    I live in the “Bible Belt” & one Church’s sign says” “God said it, Jesus did it, I believe it, That settles it.”

    I wonder how many others are facing trying to relate & deal with family members who are fundamentalists, who believe they have the absolute truth?

  25. John C. Randolph says


    I’m so sorry to hear that your son married an idiot. Let’s hope the kids realize their mom is nuts at an early age; many do.


  26. Bill Dauphin says

    For all you armchair failure analysts, here’s a link to a link to some clearer video.

    Interestingly, I was chatting with a friend about this Saturday morning (we’d both seen the preflight pix), before the flight:

    ME: Yeah, I saw it. Very cool, but what’s up with those moving wings.

    FRIEND: It’s for realism, just like having an R2 onboard.
    ME: Yeah, but it’s extra complexity….


    I’m convinced, after seeing the video, that the movable wings were involved in the breakup, either as the root cause or a contributing cause. I agree that the model was underpowered, but I suspect it would’ve hung together and gotten at least high enough to safely deploy its chutes if the wings had had robust, fixed mountings.

    I didn’t realize from the initial pix that the motors were mounted on the moving wings. I don’t really have a problem with the separated thrust lines — it does increase risk, but it’s within the state of the art — but reacting all that thrust though some sort of hinged mechanism seems like an idea better left on the drawing board.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not an engineer, and I don’t even play one on TV; I am, however, a sport rocketeer.)

  27. Carlie says

    AtomicWarBaby – me. My entire family, both sides. I’m also married to one, and it’s his whole family, too.

  28. Stephen Wells says

    Why not ask the creationist daughter-in-law, “Here’s a physics textbook and a Bible. Which one actually describes how the car, which you’re using to get to the museum, works?”

  29. says

    Amateur rocket launchings are a lot more fun to watch in general than I would have suspected. I accompanied my wife on a “Rocketry for Educators” outing, where we got to make simple little rockets – to our credit, every single one of our rockets launched :) – but the real fun was not just seeing what the heck other people had come up, but what happened at launch.

    One rocket exploded spectacularly into little blue shreds, albeit without a fireball. Another rocket was basically a giant, giant badminton bird with motors as another way to get around the parachute deployment problem. It had feathers and all (ostrich, maybe?), and all the feathers singed and smoked spectacularly on the way up and back down.

  30. says

    Porkins didn’t have an artoo unit in his ship.

    Apparently Luke’s midi-chlorian count wasn’t so high after all.

    As for Imperial tech … here’s one thing visitors to my office are greeted by. And yes, that is a Defender on the end.

  31. Graeme Elliott says

    @ #14

    PZ, I think more of an evil cackle is called for (Emperor style). Do you have a white cat to stroke at the same time?