Jeff Foust has some excellent commentary on yesterday’s second anniversary of SpaceShipOne’s first commercial spaceflight.
Meanwhile, I’ve been learning about the world’s first homebuilt spaceship’s roots in model airplanes. Burt Rutan, the ship’s designer, has spoken of finding his best workers for SpaceShipTwo from among the ranks of model airplane builders rather from the traditional aerospace industry, and no wonder.
SpaceShipOne can trace a direct line of ancestry from the model airplanes Rutan built as a grade-schooler in the 1950s. In fact the very name of Rutan’s company, Scaled Composites, comes from the concept of building scale models of bigger airplanes out of composites made of fiberglass and other high-strength cloth and glue–materials dedicated amateurs used to build Rutan’s first airplane designs in their garages.
No, as Jeff sadly points out in his commentary, you still can’t fly an X Prize class ship into space. But you can fly its tiny cousins, and a hell of a lot more cheaply.
Check out Dan Kreigh’s WildRC.com for some eye-popping videos of these little machines whirling around in the Scaled hangar in Mojave California, and then if you’re inspired, pick one up for just a couple hundred bucks.
Kreigh is a structural analyst at Scaled. Along with other work on SpaceShipOne, he designed and applied the spray-of-stars pattern on the spaceship’s nose. And he builds and sells radio controlled model airplanes of the same carbon fiber construction as the spaceship itself. Kreigh reports, however, that the one-of-a-kind model of SpaceShipOne pictured above is not for sale.