Friday, August 13, 2010

Video Del Fuego, Part XXXII

In the beginning, there was Burt Rutan. Burt Rutan knows more about building airplanes than just about any other human alive today. One of his first designs was a kit-built airplane called the VariEze. It was so named because it was easy to build, and easy to fly. It was one of the first airplanes to make extensive use of then-new composite materials. Paradoxically, it really was far easier and cheaper for hobbyists to build airplanes out of styrofoam and fiberglass than out of aluminum. It takes years to learn to weld. You can learn how to lay up fiberglass in a long afternoon.

Time passed.

Then came a company called XCOR Aerospace. They build rocket engines. They looked at an old VariEze and thought, "We can make it better." And so, they did:

This, I think, is just about the smallest rocket-powered airplane you're ever going to see. But it's only the beginning. This was the first prototype for a racing airplane. They intend to build a series of similar craft for their proposed Rocket Racing League. Imagine the Indy 500, fifty yards right overhead.

Yes, there's a reason they do these things out in the Mojave Desert.

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