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In Rogue One, the infiltration squad of the same name used the stolen Zeta-class cargo shuttle, identified as SW-0608, to land on the planet Scarif. While they approached the Shield Gate station, the wing configuration of the ship was changed in landing mode.

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Once the ship passed through the station, the wings were again reset in flight mode.

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Why did they do that? Most likely it's an Imperial procedure, because other ships could be seen doing the very same. But as it has nothing to do with landing, and the Shield Gate is obviously not within the planet's atmosphere, there should be no technical reason to change the configuration.

The movie does not give any hint, so I'm looking at you guys who've read the novelization...

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    It uses less space? I mean, that gate is like the eye of a needle, you don't want 1-2 ships clogging it up. – amflare Jun 9 '17 at 17:54
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Speed Limits

The ship would most likely have to obey some speed limits while transferring through the shield. It changed the configuration of its wings from flight mode to landing mode, so that it could slow down while flying through the ring.

Real life canals (the closest IRL example that compares to this situation) have speed limits for safety reasons, so that a ship does not crash and cause a backup. Although a backup is not likely in the Star Wars situation, a speed limit still makes sense. First, a crash into the shield generator could cause major damage, and second, a ship to ship crash would be undesirable. If you allowed ships to fly through the Shield Gate at whatever speed they wished, there would eventually be a crash.

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    I would also add bridges that go over rivers in towns/cities. when a boat approaches them they slow down because it is a choke point. you may not see what is about to enter the pathway from the other side so slow speeds allow you to adjust for other vehicles and possible idiots. In space there could even be someone outside doing maintenance that loses grip on a panel or something and it starts to float into the pathway. Requiring slow speeds allows accommodation of all parties in the event of an issue and it is easier to say always go slow than go slow unless 'x' or except 'y' when 'z' – Odin1806 Jun 9 '17 at 19:28
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    Speed limits in real life canals also have a lot to do with wakes. The enclosure of the canal walls can be eroded in some cases by high wakes, and the overlapping reflection of high wakes makes for a chaotic surface to navigate, dangerously so for smaller boats sharing the canal with larger boats. – gowenfawr Jun 11 '17 at 15:38
  • Do we have any indication that the ship is slower with the wings folded up in landing mode? I mean, it seems obvious that flight characteristics would change (real space physics notwithstanding), but why would it be slower? – fgysin reinstate Monica Nov 20 '19 at 7:05
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I have to make the comment by @amflare a proper answer, because I think it is the most likely:

With the wings folded up into landing position the shuttle has a much smaller footprint, i.e. uses less space.

The shield gate is, by design, a bottle neck for all traffic - it thus stands to reason that you would make sure that passing ships use the smallest amount of space so that multiple ships can pass in and out at the same time while still respecting large enough safety margins.

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The previous answer with regard to the speed limit is very probable. But considering the shield gate is outside of the atmosphere the wings would have no bearing on flight characteristics. Negating the need to raise the wings in order to slow down .The first part of that answer makes considerable sense as far as space (area) is concerned, as raising the wings clearly makes the lateral cross section of the ship more narrow, inherently lowering the chance of inadvertent contact with another solid object. On the Blu-ray edition chapter 33 approximately 1:28:45 you'll notice Krennic's ship going through the gate but he doesn't bother to have his pilot raise the wings. Maybe there's a reason or maybe the Krennic character just thinks he's above the rules who knows.

  • You have the basis of a decent answer here-that the wings are moved into landing configuration so the ship occupies less space-but this reads too much like a comment on the other answer. You should rewrite this to focus primarily on the space idea. – DavidW Nov 20 '19 at 4:54

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