The lure of alien spaceship technology has captivated us for generations, fueled by depictions of advanced extraterrestrial spaceships in movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, or Avatar.
As we continue our advancement of our own technological capabilities, one question always persists: How close are we to the alien spaceships portrayed in movies?
Well, in this article, we’ll compare our current technology to a specific alien spaceship from a well-known film and attempt to estimate when we might achieve similar technology.
Setting the Comparison
For our comparison, we’ll pick a well-known alien spaceship example from cinema – the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars franchise.
This alien spaceship was a legendary ship under the ownership of smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca.
It had an aged appearance and was equipped with high-tech engines, weapons, and shields, including a hyperdrive engine among the fastest in the entire galaxy.
Its basic shape was defined by two convex saucers welded together, a pair of front-facing mandibles, and an outrigger-style, side-mounted cockpit with trans-parosteal viewports.
The Falcon Heavy is a heavy-lift launch vehicle designed by SpaceX to carry payloads to various orbits, including geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and interplanetary destinations.
With its three reusable boosters, the Falcon Heavy boasts impressive lifting capacity, able to carry up to 64 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO).
1. Engine Systems & Hyperdrive
The Millennium Falcon’s engines and hyperdrive are the pinnacle of its technology.
The Millennium Falcon used Girodyne SRB42 engines that allowed the ship to fly at a maximum speed of 1,200 kilometers per hour in the atmosphere and 3,000 G in space, which is a unit of acceleration.
Our top rocket, the Falcon Heavy, can reach a top speed of around 28,000 kilometers per hour in the atmosphere and 39,000 kilometers per hour in space.
However, the Millennium Falcon’s engine system has a much longer duration, as the Falcon Heavy’s engines only run for about 6.5 minutes while the Millenium Falcon can run for days at a time.
The Millennium Falcon was also equipped with a Class 0.5 hyperdrive.
The hyperdrive allows spacecraft to achieve faster-than-light (FTL) travel, enabling them to traverse vast distances across space in significantly shorter periods than would be possible with conventional propulsion methods.
So, the Millennium Falcon can travel between star systems in a matter of hours or days, whereas such journeys would take years or even centuries using conventional methods.
The hyperdrive works by creating a hyperspace tunnel or “jump,” effectively bypassing the normal limitations of space and time.
While the hyperdrive would not work in our universe, another form of FTL travel has been theorized: The Alcubierre Drive or Warp Drive.
It involves creating a “warp bubble” around a spacecraft, within which space contracts in front of the craft and expands behind it.
This manipulation of spacetime allows the craft to move through space without violating the laws of relativity.
However, the concept relies on “exotic matter” with negative energy density to warp spacetime, and the existence of such matter is purely theoretical. Sadly, an Alcubierre Drive will most likely not be built for many centuries.
2. Shields and Defenses: Protective Technologies
The Millenium Falcon has three deflector shield generators which protect it from laser fire and other hazards.
The shield generators work by creating an energy field around the Millennium Falcon, forming a protective barrier that absorbs or deflects incoming energy-based attacks.
In modern physics, there isn’t a direct equivalent to this deflector shield technology.
The concept of Electromagnetic Field Manipulation might draw loose comparisons to the idea of protective barriers or shielding.
The idea of creating localized electromagnetic fields to protect against energy-based attacks could loosely relate to the concept of deflector shields.
Researchers have explored electromagnetic fields for various purposes, such as protecting against radiation in certain scenarios or creating plasma-based barriers.
These applications, while experimental and often focused on specific contexts, can potentially be used to provide protection on the battlefield.
3. Weapons and Offense: Blasters and Beams
The weaponry of the Millennium Falcon includes two CEC AG-2G quad laser cannons with enhanced laser actuators and gas feed systems, which gave them maximum range and damage.
Between the forward mandibles, there were two Arakyd ST2 concussion missile tubes, each of which carried a four-missile magazine.
A BlasTech Ax-108 “Ground Buzzer” blaster cannon mounted near the ventral boarding ramp allowed its crew to defend the ship while on the ground.
Although the Falcon Heavy is not equipped with weaponry, we can compare the Millenium Falcon’s weapons to the weapons of military aircraft.
For modern-day equivalents, the quad laser cannons could be compared to the M134 Minigun, a rapid-firing machine gun used for ground and air defense.
The concussion missile tubes could be compared to the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), a versatile missile system capable of launching multiple types of missiles for various targets.
Finally, the blaster cannon could be compared to the M240B machine gun, a belt-fed weapon commonly used by ground forces for both offensive and defensive purposes.
However, our weaponry is not designed for the conditions of space. So, these weapons may not work in space because of the lack of oxygen for the combustion process.
However, the weapons should be able to be repurposed for space usage once necessary.
4. Power Source and AI Technology
The Falcon’s main source of power is a Quadex power core. It is the primary energy source that provides the necessary power to the propulsion systems, weapons, shields, life support, and other essential functions.
The Falcon’s main computer is made of three droid brains which identified themselves as the Millennium Collective.
These droid brains contribute to the ship’s advanced navigation, systems management, data processing, and decision-making capabilities.
The integration of these droid brains allows for efficient multitasking and complex problem-solving, enhancing the ship’s overall operational efficiency.
The Falcon Heavy has multiple power sources depending on the system.
The power of the propulsion systems is derived from the chemical reactions of propellants, liquid oxygen, and rocket-grade kerosene.
The electronics aboard are powered by batteries stored on the rocket before takeoff.
In terms of AI and computer technology, the Falcon Heavy is guided by sophisticated onboard computer systems that handle navigation, trajectory calculations, and critical mission operations.
While not sentient like the droid-brained systems in science fiction, these advanced computers play a pivotal role in ensuring accurate flight paths, optimal staging, and precision landing of the boosters.
Estimating When We Can Build Our Own Millenium Falcon
Predicting when we’ll reach alien spaceship-level technology like the Millennium Falcon is tricky.
Experts point to potential advancements in propulsion, energy generation, and AI over the next century, but certain technologies like the hyperdrive still fall into the realm of distant science fiction and may take hundreds of years to develop.
Overall, we are still centuries away from being able to develop technology on par with the Millennium Falcon.
Ultimately, our technology has advanced tremendously over the past century, and the gap between fantasy and reality remains wide.
The Millennium Falcon serves as the ultimate dream for future spaceships, inspiring us to continue our pursuit of aerospace technology breakthroughs.
While we might not reach the stars at lightspeed anytime soon, the future of spaceship technology is still looking bright.
Hello, fellow aerospace enthusiasts! I’m Matthew, a high school student at Portola High School and the creator of The Aero Blog. My journey with aerospace started as a childhood fascination and has grown into a full-blown passion that I am thrilled to share with you through this blog.