In the universe of Star Wars, many ships (excluding the X-Wing - the large circles on the front are retro thrust nozzles) appear to lack forward-facing thrusters or retro thrusters.

TIE Fighter breakdown

The TIE fighter has 2 engines, both which face backwards. So, what slows it down?

I read on Wookiepedia that they turn using etheric rudders, and read on a chat forum (I do not remember which) that they can use etheric friction to slow down, but I couldn't find any references to this. Do they perhaps use special repulsors to slow down? In this question many people answered that they use special repulsors to control their flight and direction, so perhaps could the same technology be used to slow them down?

So, how do Star Wars ships slow down?

EDIT: To clarify, I want answers based on the Star Wars universe, not real-life physics. I am also willing to accept answers based on the Star Wars Extended Universe (now named Star Wars: Legends).

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    Related, not dupe; How do the star fighters in Star Wars fly with no side thrusters?. – Valorum Dec 29 '16 at 10:00
  • @Valorum do all ships have these? e.g darth vader's tie fighter doesn't appear to have them (img.lum.dolimg.com/v1/images/…). If they do, then it does answer my question. – Restioson Dec 29 '16 at 10:04
  • @Valorum ah, I understand. I will do so. Thanks :) – Restioson Dec 29 '16 at 10:16
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    I see I'm not the only one who read the Popular Mechanics article (but laziness got the better of me :) Good Q – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 29 '16 at 19:08
  • @DVK-in-Florida I actually thought of this question after playing a spaceship-sim called Space Engineers in which you have to have thrusters in every direction (6 directions like the faces of a cube), and after watching Rogue One – Restioson Dec 30 '16 at 12:12

Ships in the Star Wars universe travel through a property known as "ether" which acts as a dragging force. This explains a considerable number of issues including why ships have a top speed, how explosions can be heard in space, why there's no overt worries about relativistic effects, why ships need to burn fuel constantly to maintain their speed, how tight turns are made and why TIE-Fighters don't need retro-thrusters.

Pablo Hidalgo (Head of the Lucasfilm's Star Wars Story Group) spoke to this in a recent tweet

PH: If you need to, you could say the interstellar medium in Star Wars does have an ether, which would explain such pulpy things as sound, concussion rings, visible drag, and such odd tech callouts as "an etheric rudder" from Heir to the Empire. Only if you ⋆really⋆ need to, though.

Like if it helps you sleep at night and whatnot.

  • Thanks for finally putting this question to rest :) – Restioson Jan 1 '18 at 12:51
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    @Restioson - Honestly, I've know the answer for a while. I just needed a better source than Wookieepedia and a bunch of Legends novels. – Valorum Jan 1 '18 at 13:12
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    Never thought we'd be turning to Twitter for a reputable source, haha – Restioson Jan 1 '18 at 13:14

Short answer: Nothing. Star Wars is scientifically inaccurate, you just have to accept that. I view Star Wars as a fantasy story rather than a science fiction story because it has nothing to do with science.

If you want to stop in space you have to apply the same impulse towards the opposite direction to slow down. Which means if you have one main engine in the back of the ship: You have to turn your ship around. If you don't want to do that you have to have an engine just as powerful as your back engine in the front or have a weaker engine burn much longer than your main engine.

The fact alone that the engines are constantly running is a flaw because in reality this would keep accelerating the ships indefinitely.

There are many, many other flaws such as space stations and ships not having any orbital velocity, sound in space (!), X-Wings having to put their wings together in order to be faster (reduce drag in space? :D ), laser/light sabres neither consisting of lasers/light nor being sabres, parsecs being a measure of time rather than a distance (just because a parallax second has "second" in it, doesn't mean it's a measure of time) etc.

Edit: For those who downvote this answer because in one referenced answer there is a description saying an X-wing has reverse thrust: That's irrelevant for this question because:

  1. Bigger ships dont have that and the question isn't about X-Wings alone
  2. You NEVER see an X-Wing use reversed thrust in ANY of the movies.
  3. It is also stated that repulsorlifts are responsible for maneuvering but if they were they would have to have nearly as much thrust than the actual engines which makes absolutely no sense.
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    Regarding Ellesdil's arguments: I was referring to the flight patterns X-Wings and other craft show in Star Wars. They behave like fighter jets on earth and you see no difference in flight patterns between them flying in space or on the surface of a planet. E.g. in "reality" a dogfight in space wouldn't look like it does in Star Wars since the chased craft could simply turn around on the spot. – Broco Jan 11 '17 at 11:23
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    @TheLethalCoder Did you even read my comment? I told you that the craft in Star Wars mostly use ION engines and with ION thrusters there is no "if its lit up it doesn't mean it's producing thrust", it is exactly that. Ionized and accelerated gas = emitting light + producing thrust. But maybe NASA, Newton and Einstein are wrong and you're right, who knows. nasa.gov/centers/glenn/technology/Ion_Propulsion1.html – Broco Jan 11 '17 at 14:22
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    Sad to see a perfect honest answer get donwvotes just because it relies on logic instead of citing some silly Phlebotinum from some canon/demi-canon source. Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan and love the franchising but if one needs a canon citation please add it to the tag and explicit it. – jean Jan 11 '17 at 15:14
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    @Broco I was looking for a canon answer based on star wars physics, not real life physics. I understand the confusion, though. I've edited my question to reflect this. – Restioson Jan 13 '17 at 6:04
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    @jean I felt it was quite obvious to provide an answer relative to Star Wars, not to real life physics. I have edited my question, though – Restioson Jan 15 '17 at 9:32

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