Introduction: RC Space Shuttle

About: Hey, my name is James and I like making things - mostly that fly. Check out my youtube page and website!

Ever wanted to build an RC Space Shuttle? Well, now you can: here are some basic free plans.

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The Space Shuttle was a technical marvel of aerospace engineering. The impressive achievement to build a fleet of operation spaceplanes and successfully launch them a total of 133 times is truly a feat of human ingenuity. So, can this highly complex concept be recreated with RC and model rockets? Here's my attempt.

Step 1: Defining the Mission

The Mission

To give you a better idea of what this project is all about, here's what the eventual 'mission' of this shuttle will be: 1. Blast off using solid rocket motors

2. Detach the glider from the boosters at apogee

3. Glide the shuttle down to the earth in a controlled manner using radio control

The first stage of this journey is to build the shuttle and see if it flies, so here's that part!

Step 2: The Design

The first stage of any project is to do some research. I started by searching for and collecting a bunch of technical drawings and other images that would help me to design a space shuttle. The internet is our friend here.

After selecting the best three view I could find, I dropped the file into Adobe Illustrator to start work on a design. If you want to know how to design planes in Adobe Illustrator, here's a podcast with Nic Lechner who created a series on designing RC airplanes.

Step 3: The Build

Starting by cutting out the paper templates, tracing them onto the foam and then cutting out the components, I laid the wing out and place the top fuselage surface atop to get an idea of what the finished shuttle would be like.

Next, I hot glued some formers (around 4cm high each and the width of the fuselage, to create the form of the shuttle body.

To make the nose, I simply score cut and folded the nose faces towards each other to create a point. This way the front of the shuttle is nicely tapered.

Step 4: Flights

Okay, flight time! The best way to experience this is to watch the video, but here's a summary of what happened.

Unfortunately, no one else was about to help test the glider so I had to launch the model without my trusty DX9 transmitter at first. The results didn't go all that well.

However, after figuring out a way to underarm toss the glider into the air and get my hand on the transmitter in time, the Shuttle flew very nicely. Obviously, the stubby wings and boxy construction doesn't make it the most ideal aerodynamic shape for nice long glides, but it still seems to have a rather adequate slope for our purposes.

The next step for this project will be to drop the shuttle glider from a flying RC airplane in much the same way that the real NASA program did with the Space Shuttle and a modified Boeing 747. Exciting times!

Watch out for the next part on the YouTube channel coming soon.