July 2011

SpaceX has received tentative approval from NASA to send a Dragon spacecraft to the ISS on November 30th.  This will be after combining two previous planned flights into the single November 30th launch. The plan is for the spacecraft to arrive at the ISS on December 9th. This would be a huge victory for commercial space. Also if the mission is successful SpaceX will beat out competitor Orbital Science who has plans for a 2012 mission.

Dragon Spacecraft with solar array deployed - image credit: SpaceX

More information and Recent articles:

Space News



Estes now has full catalogs posted back to 1969. According to Estes “We have a summer intern who has been patiently scanning old catalogs and has most back through 1970 posted. Wow 40 years and counting. We hope to have all before the end of the summer.”

There are even a couple Centuri catalogs.

Estes Catalog Repository

Great early morning landing of the last shuttle. I feel sad that we are at the end.

Space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) touches down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), completing its 13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, early Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Overall, Atlantis spent 307 days in space and traveled nearly 126 million miles during its 33 flights. Atlantis, the fourth orbiter built, launched on its first mission on Oct. 3, 1985. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Incredible photo from ISS Exp 28 crew of Shuttle heading home (click to enlarge)- photo credit: NASA

Post your comments to the Shuttle Tribute Wall

…also on Rocketry Blog today – Updated Sounding Rocket page

There are some interesting rules changes for the upcoming 2012 T.A.R.C. If this analysis is accurate the teams will need to build lighter. There is also a limit to total impulse that would require “F” motors. This analysis is from Heavenly Hobbies which does a great job of breaking down and comparing the rules between 2011 and 2012.

Click image to go to Heavenly Hobbies analysis

My favorite little rocket company just released 5 new rockets for NARAM-53.

Moon Glo™


Aerobee 150™


Baby Orion™

President Barack Obama talks with the crews of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station during a phone call in the Oval Office, July 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

During the Obama conference with STS-135 and the ISS crew:

STS 135 brought a flag up from the STS-1 flight and presented it to the ISS crew.

“We’ll present the flag to the space station crew and it will hopefully maintain a position of honor until the next vehicle launched from US soil brings US astronauts up to dock with the space station,” STS-135 commander Chris Ferguson told the president.

“And I understand this is going to be sort of like a capture the flag moment for commercial space flight, so good luck to whoever grabs that flag,” Obama said.

“That’s an excellent point sir,” Ferguson replied. “We sure hope to see some of our commercial partners climbing on board really soon. I know there’s a lot of competition out there, there’s a lot of people are fervently working towards this goal to be the first one to send a commercial astronaut into orbit.”

Soon after the SPACEX posted this Tweet on Twitter:

Youtube link to Pres. Obama’s call to the ISS

Another great video in the Sagan Series

Capture of Flight Deck

Here is a great interactive 360 degree panorama of the Shuttle Flight deck:

360 Panorama

Black Brant V on launchpad

This morning a dual sounding rocket launch took place at Wallops island. The launch was of a Black Brant V and a Terrier Improved Orion launched 15 seconds apart. The two sounding rockets will be flying to approximately 98 miles.

According to NASA-
“The project is studying neutral and charged particles in the ionosphere and how each affects the way the other moves resulting in currents in the region. The variations matter because all of our communications and GPS satellites send signals through the ionosphere. A disturbed ionosphere translates to disturbed signals, so scientists want to know just what causes the ionosphere to behave in specific ways. “

Here is more on the science goals

To find out more about sounding rockets visit my Sounding Rocket Page

PDF on Terrier-Improved Orion
Info on Black Brant V

Space shuttle Atlantis is seen through the window of a Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) as it launches from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on the STS-135 mission, Friday, July 8, 2011 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Atlantis launched on the final flight of the shuttle program on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. The STS-135 crew will deliver the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module containing supplies and spare parts for the space station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Dick Clark)

Does the story end?

Shuttle at twilight - image credit:NASA

The final flight of the Shuttle program is upon us. It’s time to stop and reflect on the last 30 years of flights and what it has meant to the space program. Over at NASA they have created a shuttle memorial page where many key people reflect on the program and what it meant to them.
Shuttle Memories
The American public seems slightly ambivalent to the Shuttle program however a CBS affiliate in Miami did a  recent poll that shows the Majority of the public feel the Shuttle program was worth the cost.
Was it worth the cost?
What is the future of the US space program? Does it fizzle out here without a means to place men in orbit. In Part 1 of this posting I mentioned that from 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz mission until 1981 with the first Shuttle mission the US did not put a man in space. This was the longest drought period for NASA. Unless something changes we may break that record. Will commercial space come to our rescue in this country? Will companies like SpaceX come through and launch men in orbit within a reasonable amount of time or will these dreams fade away in the inherent complexity of manned flight?
Already our limits are showing. This last Shuttle flight will only have 4 astonauts instead of 7. Why? Because this is the last operational shuttle and the only way to mount a rescue if something goes wrong is to use Russia’s Soyuz which has a limit of 2 passengers and pilot and would require two flights to resue.

As I posted in Part 2 of this article modelers have excellent resources to commemorate and honor the Shuttle Program. Build models, support rocketry, and fly rockets. The best method for getting the US space program jump started again is to pay forward. Get the kids interested in rocketry and aerospace. Ignite their imaginations. Provide our tomorrows with bright new minds.

Dr. Zooch Shuttle launching (see part 2)

Here are a few photo journals of the Shuttle Program:

Time Magazine’s Photo History of the Shuttle

The Atlantic’s History of the Shuttle

A Shuttle Modelers Reference

My Atlantis Paper Model

Paper Printable Models:

AXM Paper Space Scale Models has models for all the Shuttle Missions. These are great models and fun to put together. It’s totally amazing that you can go here a pick any mission and print and build the model from that mission.
These are high quality models and I have gotten many “oohs” and “aaahs” over the models I have built from this collection.

AXM Shuttle Models Link
My build article for the Atlantis

Delta 7 Studios:
Columbia Memorial Shuttle

These and other Shuttle Paper Models Links can be found on my Ultimate Paper Rocket Guide

Model Rocket Kits:

Estes #1284 Space Shuttle (no longer available)

Estes Space Shuttle #1284

Estes #1385 Space Shuttle Columbia (no longer available)

Estes Space Shuttle Columbia #1385

Dr. Zooch’s Space Shuttle
 Link   (click on Space Shuttle in Menu)

Classic Kits from early Shuttle design derivatives:

Quest Space Shuttle Intrepid
Kit Link

Semroc Space Shuttle – The Centuri Space Shuttle was introduced in
Catalog #711 in 1971 as a late addition.
Kit Link

SST Shuttle-1 – The SST Shuttle-I was introduced in the 1971 Centuri catalog. At the time, NASA was busy with several concepts that could place several tons in earth orbit and return to land at a conventional airstrip and reuse the craft in a short time. This model was based on one of those proposals.
Kit Link

Classic Plans:

Estes Orbital Transport -K-42
Early space shuttle concept similar to SST shuttle
OOP – Click here for Plans

Estes Space Shuttle Design Contest
Click here for plans


Nice little animated gif from George Gassaway

George Gassaway has many wonderful site pages and reference materials for the Space Shuttle Model Rocketeer.
George Gassaway’s Shuttle Models

George’s Shuttle Model CD

Scale Shuttle Drawings at George Gassaway’s site

1977 Scale Drawings

NASA Shuttle Reference Guide  (statistics – basics -reports)

Part 1 here

Join me tomorrow for part 3

The Beginning and Stats:

Early Space Shuttle Concepts

In October 1968 NASA begin studies  in Space Shuttle designs. Many initial designs were overly complex and NASA set a baseline design as the DC-3

DC-3 Shuttle concept

For details in the Shuttle design process read this great article over at Wikipedia

It was 1972 and the Apollo program would be wrapping up with Apollo 17 in December of that year. The 92nd Congress on May 19th of 1972 announces 3.4 billion budget for NASA which includes $227.9 million to a new Shuttle Program.
Fast forward to April 12th 1981…
It has been six years since NASA put a man in orbit. After the Apollo program and SkyLab, Americans are eager for a manned launch.On that day in 1981 there was a lot of anxiety. This was the first manned maiden launch of a spacecraft NASA had ever attempted. All other spacecraft had gone through extensive unmanned testing but the Shuttle was different. Two brave astronauts climbed aboard the spacecraft that day, John.W. Young and Robert L.Crippen. The anxiety and excitement was palatable that day.

Over the 30 years of Shuttle flights there have been 134 total flights of the Shuttle.(after the Atlantis final flight it will be 135)

Shuttle Flight Flight Days Orbits
Columbia  28 300d 17h 46m 42s 4808
Challenger  10 62d 07h 56m 15s 995
Discovery  39 365d 12h 53m 34s 5830
Atlantis 32 293d 18h 29m 37s 4648
Endeavour  25 296d 02h 18m 35s 4677
Total 134 1316d 19h 24m 43s 20958

In those 134 flights there have been two trajedies. These were dark days for the American public and NASA but with 132 other successful flights the program has been a big success.

Challenger and Columbia disasters:

In Jan 1986 STS-51-L Challenger blew up after launch losing both the vehicle and crew.
Video here
On February 1st of 2003 STS-107 Columbia was destroyed during re-entry losing both vehicle and crew.
Video here

PART 2 – A Shuttle Modelers Reference

Falcon 9 second stage engine test.

A 60-second long test firing of the Falcon 9 Flight 3 second stage, conducted at the SpaceX Test Facility in McGregor. Texas. The Merlin Vacuum second stage engine generates 92,500 lb of force in vacuum, and operates with a vacuum specific impulse of 342 seconds — the highest efficiency ever for an American hydrocarbon rocket engine. In flight the engine ignites about 3 minutes after launch, delivering the Dragon spacecraft to orbit about 6 minutes later.” -SpaceX


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