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3-Stage Ferry Rocket--1955

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I am old enough to have seen the original March 9, 1955, Tomorrowland episode "Man in Space" on Disneyland.  This was the show hosted in part by Wernher Von Braun to introduce the elements of space hardware needed to put us in space and to then build in orbit the rockets needed for both Moon and Mars missions.  The key launch vehicle was the 3-Stage Ferry Rocket, which actually was in four stages.  The delta-wing glider could return through the atmosphere after a deceleration burn, leaving the single-motor third stage in orbit to be recycled into one of the future ships to be built.  The delta wing shape was recommended by the Disney artists who thought it looked more modern (and easier to animate) than Von Braun's earlier design with huge wings that he had proposed back in 1952 in his Collier's magazine articles illustrated by Chesley Bonnestell.

Strombecker produced a kit of the rocket, no doubt a scaled down version of the Disney studio model, and I had to have one and build it.  I was in high school then.  The model survived for many years, but it was destroyed in a house fire.  In 1993, Glencoe Models reissued the kit and, again, I had to have one.  I took this simple kit and decided to make it hard.

The Glencoe kit included the bland smooth-sided octogon base, but I remembered (or thought I did) that Strombecker had included either decals or paper panels for the sides of the octogon to give the impression of structure.  I wanted structure, so I made my own with Evergreen H-columns, C-channels, and square strips.  The service gantry was a long tapered pole with a single elevator guide on the back.  Neither Strombecker or Glencoe did the service platforms correctly; the Disney model had cantilevered flat walkways with simple open pipe railings to keep people from falling over the edge.  The kit's platform walkways have solid sides, so I added some PE model ship railings for added visual interest (and safety).  The elevator itself is a simple open basket riding up and down the pole.

The decal sheet had markings for several combinations of the ship.  Use the XR-1 or -2 or -3 markings for the passenger glider.  The CR-1 or -2 or -3 markings are for a wingless dry cargo stage that would stay in orbit and get reused there.  The Scale Master Invisa-Clear Decals were 25 years old and took forever (10 minutes or so) to release from the backing paper, and two of the images shattered and could not be saved.

Enjoy this revisit to the past that was two years before Sputnik  I and the beginning of the real age of man in space.












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Vey nice job on an ancient simplistic kit. I, too, remember that show fondly. Always favored the Tomorrow Land episodes above all others. 

Nice touch with the railings. Looking at them, just think how huge this thing would have been in real life. I would have given a Saturn V a run for its money!

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  • 2 months later...

Terrific build. well done.

When I see these"future retro" models it reminds me of a bunch of Nats ago (Atlanta, maybe?) SFX guru Mat Irvine, did a talk on Space As It Should Have Been.

Showing all the elaborate rockets that should have become real. 😉

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