2017 Flying Circus

The Space Shuttle

The Flying Circus climaxes with a flight of our model U.S. Space Shuttle. Now that NASA's shuttle fleet has been retired, our reenactment is a great way to remember those spectacular launches.

Over the years, a GCRCC member has developed a number of shuttle models. The body is molded fiberglass attached to the wing and rocket engine assembly. Early models were first carried aloft piggyback on a large airplane.

Now, it is launched from a 12 foot long guided rail tower, flies as a radio controlled rocket the moment it leaves the launch rail and then continues as a radio controlled glider until landing. The most difficult portion of the flight is the transition from the directional control of the launch pad to sufficient speed for control by the flight surfaces. If the wind is pushing the shuttle off course in the first 50 to 100 feet the pilot is already instinctively putting in corrections. Because the shuttle is accelerating rapidly the corrections may become too great and cause an erratic early flight. In one test flight the corrections were so violent that the fuselage was fractured just ahead of the wing.

The shuttle used a "J" size reloadable aluminum motor case measuring about 2 inches in diameter by 13 inches long producing up to 60 pounds of thrust. The burn time is about 8 seconds. This motor is a "moon burner" which means the propellant is ignited along the length of the core and burns from the center out. This produces the max thrust at about two seconds into the flight. It is classified as a high power rocket and is flown under the supervision of the Tripoli Rocketry Association.

Because each launch costs more than $100 for the reload, practice under power is very limited. This makes the Circus launch just as exciting for club members as it is for the spectators!  A few facts:

Shuttle length 72 inches
Shuttle wing span 47 inches
Launch weight 14.05 lbs
Landing weight 12.70 lbs
Max Thrust 60 lbs
Burn time About 8 seconds
Altitude AGL Up to 800 feet