As always, I tend to overthink things related to the Star Wars movies. One of these things is the ‘reality’ of space travel- or rather, the dangers involved in it. It is one of the things glossed over in almost all Sci Fi films, but which is a huge threat in real-life space travel- namely: Collisions. I’m not talking about ships hitting other ships or even meteors or asteroids, but the idea of micro-meteors and other tiny bits of matter that could be traveling at incredible speeds. Just one hit by one of these fragments could seriously damage even a large ship. And when you think of a spacefaring culture like the one shown in Star Wars, there would likely be all KINDS of space junk floating around. How is it, then, that ships in the Star Wars universe aren’t just torn to shreds on a regular basis- to say nothing of trying to navigate a battlefield with all kinds of debris flying around.
One could say that the whole issue is simply avoided by ships having ‘shields’ and that these shields deflect any such incoming matter. That's fine. I’m good with that. But what about all those ships out there that don’t have shields. Like TIE fighters, for instance- though there are several other examples (at least in expanded universe continuity). How is it that TIE fighters and other unshielded ships can fly through battle-zones likely FILLED with deadly particles and not get destroyed.
Well, I have a theory- entirely made up, of course, and no doubt riddled with scientific impossibilities, but a theory nonetheless. I am also borrowing bits of pseudo science from Star Trek (and likely other sources I don’t know about).
In any case, Starships in the Star Wars universe are described as having ‘Ion Drives’ as their primary means of sublight propulsion. Like most Star Wars tech, the exact functioning of such devices is purposely vague.
Well, what if these Ion Drives weren’t simply thrusters that propelled a ship, but ‘generators’ as well- something that created an ‘ionized bubble’ around a starship (a-la the ‘warp field’ utilized in the Trek universe). In effect they surround a ship with a field of energy that ‘streamlines’ the ship from bow to stern, perhaps even functioning like a ‘slip-stream’- both pulling and pushing the ship through space. This ion-bubble would divert micro-meteors and other small space debris- instead of hitting the ship, they would just ‘flow around’ it. To me, at least, this is a tidy little way to talk around at least one of the real life hazards of space travel.
It might also explain why some vessels (like the X-Wing) seem to have forward facing ‘intakes’ to their engines. Perhaps these are not intakes, but rather the forward ‘projectors’ of the Ion Drive. I don’t know, but again, it works for me.
And on a slight tangent, I am of the opinion that the ‘solar panels’ on the TIE fighter are NOT solar panels at all, rather they ARE the ‘Twin Ion Engines’ of the craft (not those two little red dots on the back of the cockpit pod). Instead of conventional ‘thrusters’, these engine panels use an ionic charge to both draw and push the fighter through space. The large size of these ‘engine panels’ would certainly help explain the speed of the craft relative to its size.