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X-Wing Rocket Launches, Disintegrates 240

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-surprise-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Remember the 21-foot X-Wing with four rocket engines? It launched yesterday from Plaster City and here's the video showing what many thought inevitable: total destruction in mid-air. From the post: "I can only say two things. The first is: absolutely amazing. And the second: poor Porkins." "
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X-Wing Rocket Launches, Disintegrates

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  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @11:58AM (#20888421) Homepage Journal
    That kid really enjoying the destruction is pretty funny.

    For those who'd like to do something similar but on a much smaller scale, Estes [estesrockets.com] has done a number of smaller model rockets based on the Star Wars movies. A couple decent models are R2-D2 [amazon.com] and my favorite, Vader's TIE fighter [amazon.com]. But I would guess the most appropriate to this discussion would be the X Wing [ebay.com]
  • by ClippySay (930525) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:01PM (#20888437) Journal
    / You look like you're trying to pilot an \
    \ X-Wing. May I help you?                 /
           \     ____
            \   / __ \
             \  O|  |O|
                ||  | |
                ||  | |
                ||    |
                 |___/
  • by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot&jawtheshark,com> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:03PM (#20888451) Homepage Journal
    ....Surprised, I am not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)
      I don't think any of them actually expected it to get very far before it died. They were launching it straight up, unguided... That means it either disintegrates, or comes back down on top of them... I'd have been praying for the disintegration, personally.

      Still, it 'flew' far enough that it was fun to watch. At least it didn't die 2 feet off the ground, like it could have.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075)

        I don't think any of them actually expected it to get very far before it died. They were launching it straight up, unguided... That means it either disintegrates, or comes back down on top of them... I'd have been praying for the disintegration, personally.
        Then again, they were optimistic enough to install a parachute recovery system...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by shawn(at)fsu (447153)
        I think they said on their web page it had some sort of control surfaces(es) or something and that according to it's computer models it would fly. That was the my whole issue with it. Them saying a flying model of an X-wing and when you read a little deeper it "flew" in computer simulations. Modeling and simulation is my profession, and I'll be the first to say just because it does well in simulation might not mean anything esp if you models and simulations are messed up.
        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          Modeling and simulation is my profession, and I'll be the first to say just because it does well in simulation might not mean anything esp if you models and simulations are messed up.

          Indeed, I think the error in their simulation model is glaring and obvious. Doubtless they merely modeled aerodynamic stability and the sim assumed the structure would be perfectly rigid. One look at the construction pics, though, and it's clear that 4 rockets with enough thrust to lift the vehicle were going to twist those flimsy wings right off the body. These guys are model nerds. You'd think that one of them might have enough "intuitive engineering" in 'em to see the error of their approach, but perha

        • I think they said on their web page it had some sort of control surfaces(es) or something and that according to it's computer models it would fly. That was the my whole issue with it. Them saying a flying model of an X-wing and when you read a little deeper it "flew" in computer simulations. Modeling and simulation is my profession, and I'll be the first to say just because it does well in simulation might not mean anything esp if you models and simulations are messed up.

          Yeah, especially when you're talking about variable geometry wings. This X-Wing's s-foils were designed to move into attack position in flight. That simply cannot be healthy. I'm no expert but it looked like the whole thing came apart due to aerodynamic forces, kind of like how the Challenger tore apart after the o-ring failure.

        • by mrmeval (662166)
          Eh, Computational Flow Dynamics is not easy. A friend mumbles to themselves a lot. Fluent is useful but some of the stuff they're doing with water craft defy it as the budget for any external computing power breaks their budget. And Fluent has some limitations but I'm not fluent in Fluent.;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          How's that go?

          "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there always is."

          I thought of this quote when I read the first story on how it "flew" in simulation. The real world can throw an infinite state machine at you, have you modeled it completely?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rei (128717)
        I don't think any of them actually expected it to get very far before it died. They were launching it straight up, unguided..

        They should have left the targeting computer on. Dumb Star Wars nuts.

        Obi-Wan's disembodied voice: "Luke! Use the targeting computer! That's what it's there for!"
        • Wrong tool they used during assembly they did. Metric hydrospanner they used. Imperial hydrospanner they should have used.
  • by nincehelser (935936) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:06PM (#20888469)
    But shreds are not uncommon in high power rocketry.

    I'm sure they'll learn from the failure and build another one until they get it right.

    That's pretty much the whole point of the hobby. If you don't have the occasional spectacular failure, you're probably not innovating enough.
    • If you don't have the occasional spectacular failure, you're probably not innovating enough.

      Or motivated enough. I'm sure the Emperor could find new ways to motivate them though.
    • Well, how's his wife holding out?
    • by taniwha (70410)
      so true (at least in my experience :-) - wasn't really a true shred in the "I didn't mean to go mach and the fins fell off" sense - looked to me more like it wouldn't fly straight (who's surprised?) and once it started to turn the dynamic loading on the wings were too much and it fell apart ....

      I wonder where the CP/CG were ....

  • by kalpol (714519) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:07PM (#20888483) Homepage
    Come on baby....aw hell.
    • by Adambomb (118938)
      Now if only they didn't fly with their inertial dampers on full, then they would have known to pull up more.

      Damnit, I think I need to kick the crap out of myself for that one.
  • by VegeBrain (135543) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:10PM (#20888497)
    I've often been amazed how bad the aerodynamics of Science Fiction are. The X wing is a pretty good example, with those huge laser weapons on the ends of the wings that guarantee flutter problems in the wings. I also find it hilarious that the leading edges of the wings are flat. Then there's the silliness of having 4 engines instead of two. The whole problem is instead of being practical, science fiction spacecraft are just there to look cool. If the rebels can't figure out a few obvious improvements like these then they deserve to be crushed like a bug by the Emperor.
    • by teslar (706653) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:13PM (#20888519)

      I've often been amazed how bad the aerodynamics of Science Fiction are. The X wing is a pretty good example, with those huge laser weapons on the ends of the wings that guarantee flutter problems in the wings. I also find it hilarious that the leading edges of the wings are flat.
      I would have thought that, for obvious reasons, aerodynamics are not a big issue when designing a spacecraft...
      • by djw (3187)

        I would have thought that, for obvious reasons, aerodynamics are not a big issue when designing a spacecraft...
        On the contrary. Any random interstellar particle you do hit is going to have a momentum proportional to the product of your relative velocity (probably huge) and the cosine of the angle of incidence. Hit a dust speck straight on at, say, 1/3 C and you'll probably tear your hull apart. So by having an aerodynamic profile you minimize that cosine.
        • Hit a dust speck straight on at, say, 1/3 C and you'll probably tear your hull apart.

          This takes me back to the original "Waterworld" novelette (Analog, March, 1994, Lee Goodloe & Jerry Oltion), where a speck of dust goes through an interstellar colony ship like a small nuke, taking most of the volatiles with it. The remaining crew finds a melted iceball orbiting a gas giant, and drops a carbon/diamond straw to suck up some juice.
      • aerodynamics are not a big issue when designing a spacecraft...

        Man, I'm really tired of seeing that comment modded up: http://www.dvdactive.com/images/editorial/screenshot/2004/10/launch_copy1.jpg [dvdactive.com]

        We see X-wings in atmo in the movies, but for some reason people feel compelled to ignore that and say "it's a spaceship, aerodynamics don't count" and others see this and instead of modding it down for being obviously wrong or ignoring it, they mod that crap up.

        You guys call yourselves nerds? Dorks, maybe, but nerds would know x-wings can land and take off in atmospheres.

    • by Glytch (4881) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:24PM (#20888609)
      The overall design of the x-wing serves one purpose: to look cool in a movie. Don't overanalyze. Accept it for what it is.
    • by badasscat (563442)
      I've often been amazed how bad the aerodynamics of Science Fiction are. The X wing is a pretty good example, with those huge laser weapons on the ends of the wings that guarantee flutter problems in the wings.

      What, you mean kinda like this [globalaircraft.org]?

      Having huge weapons hanging anywhere off the wing doesn't "guarantee" any problem with aerodynamics. (Before you argue that the other missiles and fuel pods somehow dampen the vibration, the F-16 can fly with sidewinders alone. In fact, you can mount a heavier AIM-120 A
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by caseih (160668)
      Sure but wind tunnel tests of the NCC-1701 refitted Enterprise show that it has remarkable in-air properties, despite it never have been designed to fly through an atmosphere.
    • If the rebels can't figure out a few obvious improvements like these then they deserve to be crushed like a bug by the Emperor.
      Those who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones -- and the same goes for those standing in super-star destroyer control towers, which might as well be glass houses.
  • by no_pets (881013) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:10PM (#20888499)
    ..."The Farce is strong with this one."
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:12PM (#20888507)
    As much as I loved the idea, these people were not engineers or this would never have happened. For all the jokes about "rocket science," reliable rocket design isn't that hard. The forces from the engine are known from the manufacturer, the aerodynamic forces are relatively easy to estimate, checking stability is simple (basic childhood rocketry books tell you how), the forces inside the structure aren't that hard to work out, and the material strengths can be looked up or discovered with a few tests. The point is that engineering lets one design something that just works. Sure, if one really wants to push the envelope on performance (e.g., the highest performance engines on the lightest possible structures), then it becomes necessary to do some testing, but by the time a full-scale model is done, the chances of success should be fairly high (and the risk of failure known).

    With a bit of thought, pencil, paper, and a calculator (or slide rule) these folks could have built an X-Wing that really flew well again and again. But perhaps that wasn't their goal. Sometimes the goal is just to watch stuff blow up.
    • by Tiger4 (840741)
      Common sense ... isn't
    • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch.gmail@com> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:33PM (#20888677) Journal
      "the aerodynamic forces are relatively easy to estimate"

      On a vehicle like the X-wing...which no one's ever done aerodynamic tests on...which has reverse facing wings...and pylons sticking out from them...and is shaped like a rocket with huge wings attached.

      If you can estimate those forces easily and come up with it's coefficient of drag then I would like to subscribe to your newsletter...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 644bd346996 (1012333)
        To get a good first approximation of the aerodynamic characteristics of the X-wing, all you need to do is import the design into X-Plane. It's been done with other research designs, and that's probably all it would have taken to show that it would fall apart.
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        You don't really have to model the whole system at once to see that it would fall apart... Just model the big flimsy cantilevered wing with the giant weapons pod hanging off of the end, and I think you could probably stop there! :)
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:44PM (#20888775) Homepage

      As much as I loved the idea, these people were not engineers or this would never have happened.
      Yeah, that much was obvious, I thought, from the pics linked from the original article. The thing was simply a scale model with rocket engines tacked on. The first thing I thought when I saw the build pics was "baltic birch and aluminum rods? It's going to fall apart." Just an eyeball reckoning of the stress vectors between the body and engine attachment points [gizmodo.com] reveals a half dozen points of guaranteed failure. I think it's funny that they even bothered to put a parachute system in it.
      • by jasen666 (88727)
        What he said.
        I don't think the design is "impossible", but it certainly can't be done with wood. At the least, the base frame and engine attachments should have been welded metal of some type, and the engines much larger to compensate for the weight.
        It still wouldn't fly straight, but it wouldn't disintegrate 10 feet off the ground.
  • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:13PM (#20888517) Homepage
    the kids wearing blue in the forground is clearly rooting for it to crash, you see his left arm raise victorious before the crowd goes ohhhhhh, and he continues to cheer as pieces fall.

    and, if you listen carefully at the very end of the video, the announcer proclaims, "shit" over the loudspeaker

    hilarious.
  • I had a little ~18" x-wing solid fuel rocket. Flew pretty nice, too.
    • Me too. I still have mine. It's a bit beat up but repairable. Good ol' Estes. Not the most practical design but it looks cool. I think I still have the Star Trek Enterprise rocket too. (Pack rat? Who, me?)
  • That was lame. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:20PM (#20888565) Homepage

    That was lame. Even if it hadn't disintegrated early, it was on an arc that would have hit the ground in about five seconds.

    Now if they'd built it as a large R/C model aircraft, it would have been cool. That's been done [rcuniverse.com] in a 24 inch wingspan model, so it's possible to fly that shape.

    • by owlstead (636356)
      I didn't think it was lame. It took off all right, which is a pretty big feat for a hobby project of this size. It was probably the closest thing of an X-wing lift off I could witness during my lifetime. I don't think the kids were rooting for its destruction either. Just looking at the lift off would have been awesome. Of course, the thing tearing apart was a nice desert, if a bit dangerous. Looking at the rocket power left, it would not have flown much further anyway.
  • anyone who's ever built those x-wing rocket models would know this was going to happen- it is the reason they were launched last. simply because at least one of them broke apart and nearly killed someone on the ground.
  • It did very well. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by burni (930725)
    Keeping in mind it was only build from mostly wood and some aluminium, I must say it's interesting that the booster rockets haven't ripped it apart through the start, so from my point
    of view I consider the construction itself as usable for further designs.

    I think I can also come up with a possible solution why the construction collapsed.
    The thrusters aren't to be blamed for this.

    It's the X-shaped twin wing, which is the problem in here, with the increasing velocity the wind forces between the twin win
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:31PM (#20888669) Homepage Journal
    Wedge wasn't doing any good down there anyway.
  • Please... (Score:2, Funny)

    by mecenday (1080691)
    I implore you... please don't put these people in charge of Gundam.
  • by VTMarik (880085) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:38PM (#20888705)
    How long will it be until someone edits in some TIEs and shoots down the X-wing rather than it just disintegrating?
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:46PM (#20888783)
    Preferably one that can lock down stabilizer units when asked to.

    Send inquiries to L. Skywalker, Endor National Hospital.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:55PM (#20888847)
    come on guys, focus on the positive... the chute worked, pity there was nothing left to save...
  • The video was incomplete. Obviously they cut the frames where the X-Wing was hit by a Tie Fighter's laser beams!
  • I can find no other explanation for the disintegration of the X-Wing other than the following. Lucas sensed a disturbance in "The Force". This disturbance is caused by Trademark infringement. When he sensed the disturbance, he crushed the Rebel alliance that dared to go against "The Force". .... suddenly I feel something strange grasping my neck..... Session Terminated.......
  • "Stay on target. Stay on target."
  • "This is not the rocket design you were looking for. Move along, nothing to see here."
  • Fun to laugh and all, but it I'm wondering if the pilot is alright. Seems his chute didn't open up all the way, he break anything?
    • by Chas (5144)
      If you read the original article on it, what was launched was a roughly half-sized model. It had enough cockpit space for a small kid, that's about it.

      It was launched unmanned.
  • They came from... Behind! *BOOM*
  • Lucky ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Assassin bug (835070) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @02:16PM (#20889459) Journal
    for the crowd that the oversized trash can went up!
  • I wasn't there to see it but somehow I sensed (via video) a great disturbance as if many voices suddenly cried out.
  • by Chas (5144)
    Yeah, that's probably what Porkins REALLY said...before Lucas edited the dialog to make it more kid-friendly.
  • are now breathing a sigh of relief. Honestly, I think that this rocket is a sign of success - it flew a lot longer (probably a full 10 seconds longer) than even the most optimistic person would have thought.
  • Anyone got a link to a page with this video that doesn't require me to enable JavaScripting from nine different third-party hosts?

    No, I'm not kidding -- nine external hosts. Who let that happen? Have they caught him yet?

    Schwab

  • by appleguru (1030562) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:24PM (#20890949) Homepage Journal
    Just captured the flash video for those of you who don't like flash/java:

    http://g.appleguru.org/x_wing_flight.mov [appleguru.org]

    (5.7MB, H.264, AAC, .mov)
  • It looked like it lasted maybe 3 seconds in the air, no "deploying of X-wings" going to happen that way. What I was surprised about is that the rocket motors seemed to die just about the time the ship did. For a solid fuel motor I'd have expected them to burn until they were consumed. If they only had 3-4 second burn times that ship didn't look like it was in for a flight much longer than it did. The only difference might be that it landed in pieces rather than landing whole and breaking up on impact.
  • by gregs7726 (725986) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @08:05PM (#20892003)
    I was there to see it take off too. I also took video, might be a little clearer in this vid: http://view.break.com/378238 [break.com] Greg
    • by OmniGeek (72743) on Monday October 08, 2007 @09:48AM (#20898033)
      Seems pretty clear from your (excellent quality) video that one of the wings (near left side from camera POV) bent outward, forcing the bird to arc toward the camera and ripping the rest of it apart.

      It appears that had the airframe survived, the rocket motors would have boosted it to a respectable altitude, based on how far it got.

      I'm shocked to see people standing so close to the launch point that they had to run from the falling debris; this bespeaks an insane lack of safety-consciousness by the operators (especially given their expressed doubts as to its surviving the launch.) They're fortunate no one was maimed.

      With a much stronger wing-root design, they would probably have had a successful flight. The RC model sailplane design approach of a foam wing core, fiberglass cloth skin, and carbon-fiber wing spars might be used to good effect in such a design (lighter weight, more rigid wing). Having the rocket motors on the swings DOES add stress to that region, but that shouldn't be a show-stopper; the stress from drag on the wing (and from any flutter instability) is the major design issue there.

      Neat project, for all its problems. I wonder if they'll try again?
  • 14 ft tall scaled UP model of an Estes FAT BOY rocket. This one did a fine job throughout it's performance envelope, but someone misjudged the wind, so it landed on top of a van, thusly tearing a nice hole in the roof.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4d8J7N5Sts [youtube.com]
    Now when did you get a chance to come home and wifey asks you how was your drive, you can say "oh, had a rocket hit my van"?

    And another one, a Goblin went rogue when it's motor mount tore loose. nice curlicues.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqtNhcODfCk&mode=related&search=Polecat%20Goblin%20rocket [youtube.com]

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