Estes Model Rockets produces small version of SpaceShip
By ANN Senior Contributing Editor Kevin O'Brien
Right now only a handful of people have been inside Space Ship
One, and even fewer of them -- Brian Binney, Peter
Siebold and Mike Melvill -- have flown it under power.
A similar spacecraft -- a fleet of them, actually -- may be
conducting tourist flights for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin
Galactic operation in just a few years. Sir Richard, Burt Rutan,
Paul Allen and all the others involved in the project dream of
bringing space flight to the public. At least in the beginning,
they're going to have to start with the guys who sit in Virgin
Atlantic's Upper Class seats when they travel.
What if you're burning up with SpaceShip Fever, and can't wait
years, or spend the price of a house?
Well, brother, come on down! Estes Model Rockets are going to
hook you up!
The "Top Secret" (SpaceShip One) X-Prize Model Rocket is what
model rocketeers call "sport scale," which I read as "looks good if
you don't get too picky." It's about 1:17 scale. The manufacturer
rates the building difficulty as Skill Level 2. The skill levels
are numbered from the bottom up, so the plain English translation
of that is: "it's pretty easy."
The model is made with the traditional construction of paper
tube and balsawood fins, and builds up to be about 13 inches long.
The examples that we have seen were decorated in the livery of the
June 21 first flight.
Unfortunately, you don't get the innovative feathering mode, the
brilliant ingenuity of which struck Mike Melvill speechless when he
tried to describe it, or the glide to the landing. Your rocket
returns to Earth under the 12 inch canopy of a parachute. Don't
expect to achieve the altitude of the real Space Ship One... can
you imagine building this with your space-happy son or daughter and
then consoling the kid after it rockets 337,500 feet into the air
and lands God-knows-where? Absolute ceiling on the model is a more
modest 400 feet.
The best part is that with all the R&D done for you by Burt
Rutan and Estes, the model SpaceShip One will not set you back the
estimated $25 million that project partner Paul Allen has spent, or
even the approximately $200,000 it will initially cost to ride in
the successor ships of Virgin Galactic. The list price on the model
is a very reasonable $16.69.
What if you are a partisan of another X-Prize team? Well,
perhaps Estes has a model for you, too. X-Prize related rockets
that will be available in the months to come include the "Lucky
Seven," "Gauchito," "Canadian Arrow," "Rubicon," "Cosmos Mariner,"
"Thunderstar," and "Vanguard Eagle." They will all be classified at
Skill Level 1 or 2, and illustrate the broad range of solutions
that innovative space engineers have proposed for the X-Prize