She’s Star Wars‘ most famous ship and has inspired countless people, but not many know about the creation of the Millennium Falcon. Fortunately we were able to take a dive into the excellent Star Wars Technical Journal (a must-have for fans of the ship and devices from the universe) to figure out just what makes her tick. And creak. And fail to start when it needs to.
And yes, we know the Technical Journal may no longer be canon now that the Expanded Universe has been relegated to “Legends” status, but we’re betting a lot of this stuff will hold up for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
So here are 12 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Millennium Falcon.
12. She’s actually a cargo vessel
If she doesn’t look like a fast ship, that’s by design. The Millennium Falcon is actually a YT-1300 cargo vessel, a Corellian Engineering Corporation freighter that was designed to lug around cargo. It was one of the most popular space vessels ever produced (interesting when you think about how you haven’t seen any others…) and smugglers liked it because it was durable and completely customizable. Han Solo and Chewbacca, of course, took this to the next level by heavily (and illegally) modifying nearly every part of the ship, installing all sorts of unlicensed and highly dangerous components to make for a ship that’s as unassuming as it is powerful.
11. That giant radar dish allows her to sidestep fights
It may look unwieldy, but that massive radar dish jutting out from the top of the Falcon has a purpose. Solo likes to say that he never ran from a fight where the odds weren’t even or better, but the truth is that it was sometimes better to avoid them altogether. That’s the reason he installed this dish. It’s huge for a ship this size and both it and its hardware allows them to spot unfriendly vessels minutes before they knew the Falcon was there, letting them change their course and stay undetected.
Of course, it’s so big it almost made the vessel crash during its flight through the new Death Star, but it seems as if it’s so handy that, if the Force Awakens teasers are any indication, a new, smaller model was built soon after.
10. She’s fast. Really fast.
Yes, yes, we all know that the ship completed the infamous Kessel run with the fastest time ever recorded, certainly Solo’s greatest claim to fame when he first meets up with young Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. That race required ships to deliver loads of substances to moving trade ships, getting all the deliveries in before the vessels crossed into Imperial Space, and the Falcon came in out of nowhere to shatter the record.
That’s mostly because the Falcon’s improved hyperdrive system allows her to go beyond hyperspeed, making for one of the fastest non-Imperial vessels in use, one that’s twice as fast as any Imperial warships. With this increase in speed, Solo and Chewbacca had to implement a much more advanced navicomputer than standard YT-1300s. Say what you want about their hodge-podge of parts but the hyperspeed works really, really well (when it works at all).
9. The Falcon requires a ton of repairs
All of these modifications come at a price. They haven’t been professionally installed and, while Solo and Chewbacca generally have a handle on things, the huge amounts of unlicensed components have made for a ship that’s almost constantly under maintenance.
Solo regards this as worth it- if you want the speed, you have to work for it. After all, the Falcon’s saved his skin on more than a couple of occasions. The one thing she’s really good for is distance, as the four fuel slug tanks installed in the ship’s power core give her extended range and only require a refueling about once a month.
8. Chewbacca requested the holographic game table
The main cargo hold is fitted with a lounge that features a holographic game table, one that was installed at Chewbacca’s request. While his performance in Dejarik (the game they play during the events of A New Hope) against R2D2 might suggest otherwise, Chewbacca was a champion of the game in his home planet of Kashyyyk. Since they were cooped up together more often than not, Chewbacca tried to teach Solo how to play and win but he never was able to handle it.
7. Solo won the Millennium Falcon by tricking Lando Calrissian in a card game
One game that Solo is good at is Sabacc. A popular card game with lots of chances for betting, Solo was so good at Sabacc that he entered the Cloud City Sabacc Tournament and proceeded to best over a hundred competitors. Five qualifiers made it to the final game but they were soon whittled down until Solo was going head-to-head against Lando Calrissian. After losing all his credits in the last hand, Calrissian bet any one of the ships on his lot to Solo. Solo won the hand and took him at his word, picking the Millennium Falcon – Calrissian’s personal ship! – for his prize. Calrissian protested, saying that it wasn’t part of the deal, but Solo pointed out that it was technically on his lot, and Calrissian had to concede.
6. Jedi used to own the Falcon. Maybe.
The Falcon’s ownership history is unknown, mostly because the ship’s identiplate was removed long ago to aid Solo’s smuggling efforts. There’s no documentation to prove anything else but there’s plenty of rumors that claim that the vessel was both owned and used secretly by members of the Jedi before Palpatine came into power. It would be an ironic turn of events that saw it being returned to battle against the Empire years later.
Now, the mystery of ownership is not the case in the Extended Universe, which of course is now considered non-canon. There, a whole history has been mapped out that reveals the ship set records in runs (how, without the modifications?) and was eventually renamed the Stellar Envoy, taking part in the Clone Wars in the hands of the Jedi.
5. She fought the Borg
It’s a crossover no one expected, but when the world was in danger, the Millennium Falcon came to its aid. If you look closely during the attack on the massive Borg cube during Star Trek: First Contact you can see a familiar shape fighting alongside Starfleet. No word on if Solo and Chewbacca where at its helm, however.
It’s very very small but if you zoom in on the screen you can actually see it in several shots. This was the handiwork of one John Knoll, an ILM visual effects supervisor who worked on First Contact after doing the Star Wars special editions and, yes, this is the brand new digital model of the Falcon.
4. She was directly responsible for Firefly
Without the Millennium Falcon, there would be no Firefly. It might seem like an obvious inspiration, being that Joss Whedon’s cult classic show featured a group of ruffians and smugglers flying around space with a cobbled-together ship (here, the Serenity) with plenty of personality. Whedon himself has stated many times that the Falcon was a direct influence on the style of his short-lived show. After all, it basically is Han Solo: The Series, showing what happens when a bunch of smugglers keep getting in over their head.
3. The sound of the ship is just a jet airline
True to the Millennium Falcon’s history the plane it takes its sound effects from is quite unassuming, the McDonnell Douglas DC-9. That plane was manufactured in 1965 as a twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner that only seated 80-135 passengers. Built for medium distance commuter flights it’s hardly the place you’d expect to hear otherworldly sounds coming out of.
The trick? That iconic engine sound is actually two engines in one, with each engine sound played slightly out of sync. That little detail makes a futuristic sound out of what’s otherwise a pretty standard jet engine sound. There’s a reason why one of the few sounds effects you heard in the teaser for The Force Awakens was that of the Falcon’s engine: few others are as instantly recognizable.
2. It’s the most popular Lego set
Star Wars and LEGO go together like nothing else, and it should be no surprise that of all the hundreds of LEGO sets available on Amazon, the Millennium Falcon is #1. This latest version is straight out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and for $149.99 the 1,329 piece kit comes with seven mini-figs (including a little BB-8) and weighs five pounds. It’s definitely the kind of thing you’ll build to display in your home or office.
Note that this isn’t the out-of-print Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon, which was released in 2007. That 5,196 piece monstrosity (the biggest of all time upon its release) is very much out of print and goes for thousands of dollars on secondary markets.
1. The Millennium Falcon was designed last minute after Lucas ate a hamburger
ILM referred to this classic ship as “the Pork Burger” internally because it was said to be based on a half-eaten hamburger.
The original model for the Millennium Falcon was changed at the last minute at George Lucas’ request because he thought it too closely resembled the Eagle Transporter ships used in the Space: 1999. With no time to go, they took influence from one of the strangest of places: one of his next meals. Seriously: the idea came about when Lucas took a bite out of a burger and placed it down next to an olive on a toothpick.
That’s right, that iconic design was inspired by a meal. Who would have thought that one of the most iconic ships of science fiction would come from such an innocuous place? Yet it’s perfect for the ship, which is just as memorable and special as it is junky and plain.
Can you wait to see what else is new about the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Do you know any more insider info on the ship? Let us know in the comments below.