On The Bench 194: Hal Bierman’s Spaceship One

I’ve been commissioned to build a scale mock-up of Space Ship One, an experimental space craft being built for competition in the X-Prize. The completed piece is proposed to go on display with other X-Prize entries at the St. Louis Science Center.

This is a unique situation for me, as I have only built kits or science fiction originals up till now, and you can fudge quite a bit on such things. Space Ship One, although it looks very exotic, is hardly fiction!

The designers at Scaled Composites were kind enough to send me the ship’s basic measurements so I could make an accurate scale conversion on my blueprints (not actually blue, I had them printed up at Kinko’s.)

Materials: PVC for the fuselage mid section. Light weight, easy to work with, easy to drill the wing hinge holes. The wings are plywood. The nose, tail, and engine bell will be turned from ash wood.

The wings were built in what I can best call “filets.” I used a Dremel with a router attachment to cut an axle groove in each filet half, then glued them together to make the full thickness wing.

Along with overall size, a requirement was that this model have articulated wings. The real Space Ship One does this crazy “feathering” of it’s wings to create a high-drag shape that actually reduces the heat of reentry by slowing it down. Once reinsertion into the atmosphere has been achieved, the ship realigns and comes in on a glide return on a standard runway. Launch is achieved with a mother ship, known as The White Knight, which carries SS1 to 50,000 ft and releases it for booster ignition.

More on part 2

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