Archive for December 16th, 2011


If you build it, they will come…

December 16, 2011

SpaceX flying model (1:288 scale) of the Falcon 9/Dragon

It would be interesting to know how many of the folks who work at SpaceX flew model rockets when they were kids. I did, but that was in the heyday of model rocketry, in the 1960s and early 1970s. My son did, with me, when he was in elementary and middle school.

However it worked back then, the folks at SpaceX have a 1:288 flying model of the Falcon 9/Dragon that will be available soon from Amazon. (The image above is of the prototype; the production model will have clear plastic fins that are removable for display. This is a brilliant move, if not in marketing, certainly for inspiration of America’s youth. They also understand the short attention span of kids today. No painting is required on the model and it looks like assembly should be quick. This is the time of short assembly flying models, and they understood that. (Today you can buy a remote-controlled airplane or helicopter for under $ 30 that is almost ready to fly right out of the box. Thanks to our Chinese overlords for that bit of manufacturing savvy.)

In February, should everything go well, there should be a flurry of news reports about the first commercial spacecraft to dock at the ISS. That will generate a lot of free publicity for SpaceX. The time is right for kids to be reminded that going into space isn’t just something from an old history book, or from an EFX-laden movie. Real people are building real hardware to go into space. Even Newt gets it – more on that in a later post!

Of course, if the Dragon flight to the ISS is a dismal failure, things could be different. I admire the courage and confidence of Elon Musk and the SpaceX team to roll two test flights into one and go for it. That’s something that NASA almost always did not do, even in the Gemini and Apollo days.

The real deal, getting ready for launch in February

So I applaud SpaceX for promoting space exploration with the flying model. I’ve not flown one in a decade, though I still have all mine and a stock of Estes rocket motors, which may or may not be good anymore. I may have to drag them out and see if I can still get one stuck in a tree as reliably as I used to do!