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Just re-watching the Thunderbirds launch sequence, I was reminded of a question which I distinctly remember asking in the '60s but to which I don't remember ever getting a decent answer: how were the Thunderbirds fuelled?

The best answer I can remember would have been in the Thunderbirds annual, but I no longer have that, and in any case it would probably have been a bit "hand-wavy" at best, aimed as it was at kids.

If it makes a difference, I'm particularly interested in the original puppet series, or anything which would similarly have had Gerry Anderson's stamp of approval, rather than any other films or books.

  • I recall in one of my many books reference to a fuel source. I'll look it up and get back to you. Of course what @Richard says is right, but there's something more specific. – Often Right Jul 21 '14 at 4:07
  • There's extensive mention of an Atomic Reactor as a power source in all four vehicles. – Valorum Jul 21 '14 at 6:06
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(Sorry to prove you wrong Richard, but I've got the cross-sections book your mention above and that's not quite right.)

According to Classic Thunderbirds: Secret Files (The Inside Story of International Rescue (Chris Bentley, Stephen Cole and Graham Beathman) the power sources are as follows:

  • Thunderbirds 1-4: 'Atomic fusion reactor(s)'
  • Thunderbird 5: 'Atomic batteries'
  • The Mole:
    • The Mole (Drilling part): 'Nuclear-fusion powered electric motors'
    • Trolley: '1,000 bhp high-compression dual-turbine engine'
  • FAB 1 (engine): 'Modified Rolls-Royce gas turbine [and Vortex] aquajet for water travel'
  • FAB 2 (the yacht seen on 'The Man from MI-5'): '2 gas turbines driving magneto-hydro-dynamic aquajets'

And just if you're interested:

  • Sun Probe used 'toxeriene' as fuel for the rockets and had an ion drive
  • From Thunderbirds (2004) all craft used a 'Hackenbacker series 3000 fusion reactor' except Thunderbird 4 which used a 'hydrogen fuel cell power plant' (FAB 1 used a miniature version of the reactor)

Although I can't see any official endorsement on the book itself by Mr Anderson (RIP), it is published by Carlton, so that should add to its canon status (as a major Thunderbirds fan myself I rely on it regularly in Thunderbirds matters).

And regarding my above comment that annual I was referring to was the official 1992 Thunderbirds Annual (is this the one you mentioned above?) It also refers to the craft having atomic generators for power source in the short story Missile Alert and the thing I was thinking of was silver nitroglobe, used to cool the atomic generators.

  • Surely the fusion reactors are there to provide the electrical energy for the various systems. I'm fairly sure that the OP is asking about fuel sources used to lift the ships, not what they use to power the headlamps :-) – Valorum Jul 21 '14 at 7:29
  • Also, can you link to some decent scans of Thunderbirds 2, 3, 4 and 5? I couldn't find them anywhere on the internet. – Valorum Jul 21 '14 at 7:31
  • @Richard although there are of course engines in each of the craft I still think they're powered via the atomic reactors (I get this primarily from the 2004 movies where that was the case as there is no other evidence of other fuel from sources I've seen at least). I'll try to scan the images in from my book and post them with the question sometime today ;) – Often Right Jul 22 '14 at 0:12
  • My reading was that a gas turbine must use gas. – Valorum Jul 22 '14 at 7:49
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    @N_Soong Are you sure? Because I was under the impression each craft was powered by the extra salty tears of Steelers fans. – Major Stackings Dec 18 '15 at 21:34
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According to Wikipedia, the various Thunderbird machines used a range of different fuel sources. The article has quoted heavily from the "Supermarionation cross-sections" books which are considered canon (or at least semi-canon) due to the involvement of the original show writers.

In short:

  • Thunderbird 1 uses "variable-cycle gas turbine engines" and "booster rockets"

  • Thunderbirds 2 uses "gas turbines" for lift.

  • Thunderbird 3 uses a mixture of "rocket motors" to get into orbit and an "ionic engine" for orbital thrust.

  • Thunderbird 4 uses "electrically-driven impellers" for thrust.

It follows that...:

  • TBird 1 uses Jet Fuel and Rocket Fuel.
  • TBird 2 uses Jet Fuel
  • TBird 3 uses Rocket fuel and an Atomic Reactor
  • TBird 4 uses an Atomic Reactor to power its impellers.

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Images courtesy of user @N.Soong

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