Building a Full (RC) Space Shuttle Model!

by FliteTest | March 24, 2019 | (6) Posted in Projects

Can you launch an RC Space Shuttle on a rocket-powered booster? Here's a project to find out.

In part 1 of this series, we built a space shuttle glider to investigate the principles of lifting body delta wings and then, in part 2, we dropped it from a twin motor science plane to take the project to the next level. In this article, part 3, we're taking it up a notch to prepare for a full-on RC Space Shuttle launch!  Here's a video to explain more. 


Good news! There are free plans available to download both the Shuttle booster and the Shuttle itself. You can find them here. 

Link to plans! 

Also, make sure to view the other articles that covered the first few parts of this RC Space Shuttle Program before reading further (unless you've seen them already).

Part 1 of this series - read the article

Part 2 of this series - read the article


The build started with, predictably, a bit of design work. Before you do anything, it's a good idea to get your thoughts and ideas down on paper. Sketch some ideas and then think theoretically about the scientific principals and do some simple maths. 

Taking the design to Adobe Illustrator, a fully-realized design for the booster was drawn up. This took the form of a simple side view along with numerous formers to show the thickness of the 'fuselage' fuel tank tube and SRB rocket boosters. 

You can learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to design things from Nic Lechner who talked about his design process on a recent Flite Test Podcast episode. Check out this article to find his design series. 

The next thing to do was to print off the plans, stick them together and get on with the actual 'building' part of this build!

Formers were cut from Flite Test foam board after being measured and traced from the plans. 

Next, a box section was assembled to provide the core of the booster with as much strength as possible. 

After this, the box and formers were covered with a skin of card to create a tube. 

A nose cone was made in a similar way to the fuselage, just at a tapered angle. Using actual model rocket components may have been an easier way to build this rocket, but it still ended up being highly acceptable whilst affordable. 

After a coat of paint, the rocket was really looking like a Space Shuttle Booster! 

The paint used was a Rustoleum product. This brand really seems to stick well to both foam and card. 

Large fins attached to the booster are designed to counteract the drag of the shuttle on the opposite side of the rocket whilst providing a low center of pressure essential for a stable flight. 

What's Next?

The next phase of this project is to construct a high-tech launch pad to enable this machine to blast off into the sky. After that, we'll be go for launch. Make sure to check back on in the near future to see more from this series. 

More on Model Rockets

Check out this episode of the Flite Test podcast where we chatted to Joe Barnard from BPS.Space. He's pioneering the next generation of model rockets that work just like the real things - with gimbaling engines and without fins.

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Article by James Whomsley

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jeffreygreen28786 on March 24, 2019
This is really cool
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FastCrash on March 26, 2019
Another fun project to add to my to do list!!
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ray574 on June 30, 2019
I have the Estes model of this, and your booster is wrong. The engine has to be to one side in the booster, the side that the glider is mounted. Then the lift will be closer to center. Good luck
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ray574 on June 30, 2019
Also, the booster fins should be only on each of the outer tubes - this configuration is successful even with the free-flight return of shuttle.
Here's a link to this:
Keep in mind, the weight of the shuttle is "empty" in original, you'll have to add a bit of weight to opposite side of booster to compensate for battery, servos, receiver, etc. Good luck, I hope your next one flies well.
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Building a Full (RC) Space Shuttle Model!