How do flight-capable ships control their pitch, yaw and roll in atmospheric conditions and in space? Is there a difference whether the crafts are flight-capable in atmosphere only, space-only or both? What about size - does it differ between, for example, a small personal craft, a large capital ship & a massive battle station?

Edit: Not a dupe. First, I'm not asking how Corellian Corvettes control flight. I'm asking how flight-capable ships in Star Wars control flight in general. Second, I'm not asking how pilots control their ships. I'm asking how the ships work. Third, I'm looking for in-universe answers.

Also, I edited my original question to clarify the context & scope.

  • Through a combination of engine thrusters and gravity repulsors I would expect.
    – Valorum
    Jun 7, 2016 at 12:11
  • Most of the fight seens treat space as if it is in an atmosphere under gravity and ignore the actual 3-D methods of fighting in space. Jun 7, 2016 at 12:30
  • Based on how Falcon was flying (or rather crashing) in Episode VII: poorly. Very poorly. Jun 7, 2016 at 14:40
  • That's why our ships are giant triangles.
    – Mazura
    Jun 7, 2016 at 23:19

4 Answers 4


Ailerons, just like real planes. In space they use [technical jargon*].

Incom T-47 Airspeeder:

Snowspeeder model


Snowspeeder in flight

I don't think they had atmospheres in mind when they designed her:

*For what it's worth: (Wookieepedia links)

A repulsor coil was an integral component in the building of a repulsorlift engine. The repulsor coil was the component that produced the anti-gravitational field. The repulsor coil used a radioactive outburst to excite the electrons on the ground, disrupting the polarized magnetic thereby manipulating gravity. The effect of this gravity manipulation can be modified a great deal. Repulsor technology can therefore be utilized in everything from capital ships to door systems. –starwars.fandom.com

Atmospheric thrusters were an augmentation to the basic repulsorlift and ion drive that most starships used when flying in the atmosphere of a planet. They provided extra speed and performance and helped make the starship more competitive with a dedicated airspeeder. –starwars.fandom.com

See also, ion drive, lateral thrusters, vertical thrusters, trim thrusters, and attitude thrusters.

As to the atmospheric reentry of capital vessels, we have this offering from Revenge of the Sith: "Open all hatches, extend all flaps and drive fins." courtesy of @ewanm89:

  • I always assumed they were more like air brakes, rather than ailerons.
    – Kwola-T
    Jun 7, 2016 at 21:34
  • Or are they the same thing...? Sounds like a question for aviation stack exchange
    – Kwola-T
    Jun 7, 2016 at 21:35
  • 2
    This is an airspeeder, not a starship.
    – Valorum
    Jun 7, 2016 at 21:49
  • @Valorum - How do starships control their aerodynamics in Star Wars? would make for a strange question.
    – Mazura
    Jun 7, 2016 at 22:02
  • 2
    Revenge of the Sith: "Open all hatches, extend all flaps and drive fins." youtube.com/watch?v=EwEECZjnPEM
    – ewanm89
    Jun 8, 2016 at 9:09

They have special repulsors on all sides of the ships which lift it and move it in any direction desired. The thrusters in the back are for moving foward in a fast speeds while the repulsors adjust the angle and direction. A ship in Star Wars could be capable of floating upsidedown and moving sideways if it wanted to. Using air and wind with wings and flaps are primitive things that require an atmosphere and thrust/constant movement. An airplane doesnt have the freedom to stop and move as it so wishes unless it has vtol capabilities and even then i couldnt just flip upsidedown, roll or fly into space. Real airplanes and rockets are so stupid and primitive, nothing like starships.

  • I wouldn't call wings primitive: they're efficient, easy to make, and useful if you just happen to have an atmosphere handy. Extensive use of thrusters for aircraft that fly near the surface of a planet would be kind of silly.
    – Molag Bal
    Jun 7, 2016 at 18:11
  • 1
    Welcome to SFF! Do you have any canon sources to back your answer up? Take our tour to see what kind of answer we are looking for.
    – Skooba
    Jun 7, 2016 at 18:21

Some starfighters use etheric rudders to maneuver in space. It seems to be mainly handwavium, so there aren't many resources on this technology, but Wookieepedia does have an entry: etheric rudder (Legends). There is some info there about which ships use these rudders.

  • This is a link to a "legends" page. You might want to make it clear.
    – Valorum
    Jan 7, 2017 at 20:23
  • @Valorum oh sorry, didn't see that. I'll add that. Thanks!
    – Restioson
    Jan 8, 2017 at 6:32

Just in case someone is still reading after all this time....

The answer is twofold. Non-shielded, atmospheric capable ships use any possible combination (design specific) of repulser-lifts, main thrusters, (vectored and/or) maneuvering thrusters. In other-words...they use brute force for flying.

Shielded ships are not only capable of vastly higher speeds in atmosphere, but also far exceed non-shielded ship maneuverability. As stated throughout the saga, shields themselves are adjustable for angle, strength, direction, and even shape.

A ship traveling at supersonic speeds in atmosphere, has angled and shaped its shields in such a way as to negate the simple design factor limitations of its physical shape. In short...a perfectly square cube ship equipped with sufficient shields and thrust could streak through atmosphere with no more resistance than an SR-71.

That isn't all they do in atmosphere either....

Any shape utilized would be what's called a "laminar flow". Picture it similar to a football in shape. Points on both ends with the circumference or mass of the ship filling out the larger center. With lift provided independently of shape, the actual shape of the shields can also be adjusted to behave as any given control surface.

Think of a modern B-2 stealth bomber. Flying wing.. no vertical stabilizers...yet still, it's aerodynamically stable, and still capable of pitch/yaw/roll.

Shields can abate exterior heat and friction. They can act as an infinitely adjustable control surface, and an air brake.

  • 2
    Welcome to SciFi.SE! It's okay to answer old questions as long as you're bringing something new to the table, which I believe you are.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 8, 2020 at 19:58
  • It would be helpful if you could justify any of these statements with evidence
    – Valorum
    Jul 8, 2020 at 20:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.