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Real-Life TIE Fighters are Flying Through Space Right Now

Think of the iconic scream of a Star Wars TIE fighter. You can almost hear it, right? Those tell-tale engine sounds aren’t only found in a galaxy far, far away: TIE fighters are real—and NASA is flying them around right now.

In my latest Because Science, I’m breaking down Twin Ion Engine fighter science. Specifically, the engines that give the TIE fighter their names. Ion engines—or thrusters—have been around for decades, made as an alternative to larger, chemical-based rockets. They generate a relatively small amount of thrust, it’s true, but the engines can run for months or even years, accelerating all the while. At top speed, an ion engine could get you to Mars in just five weeks.

But do ion engines make for good space dog fights? Well…unless the Empire has some very advanced tech that can harness the tiny accelerations that ion engines provide, it could take a TIE fighters days to get up to Falcon-chasing speed. I find that lack of thrust disturbing.

December is Star Wars month on Because Science, and we’ve still got (at least) one more to go! Next week we take a slightly less sciencey look at lightsabers and defend the design of Kylo Ren’s infamous blade. Yeah, I’m going there.

Check out my last video on why Han Solo is actually a time traveler, subscribe to this playlist to stay current with the show, buy a Because Science shirt, and follow me on Twitter to give me a suggestion for the next episode!

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