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Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship joins the pantheon of mannequin rockets

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New Shepard model rocket
Estes’ New Shepard model rocket uses standard model-rocket launch equipment, including a single C6-3 or C6-5 engine. (Estes Industries via YouTube)

Rocket fans will soon be able to follow in Jeff Bezos’ footsteps when it comes to ownership of a suborbital New Shepard space vehicle.

Just be warned that everything will be scaled down: The Blue Origin New Shepard model rocket unveiled this week by Estes Industries will be 1/66th scale, and capable of going up 400 feet rather than 62 miles.

At least the price is scaled down as well: Instead of paying out a billion dollars a year to support Blue Origin’s development program for New Shepard as well as the orbital-class New Glenn rocket and advanced projects, buyers will be asked to shell out a mere $69.99.

Estes is partnering with the Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s educational foundation, to offer New Shepard as a STEM teaching tool. A portion of the sales proceeds will go to the club.

“Our hope is that the new Estes New Shepard model sparks the imagination of future space explorers and inspires them to carve out their own role in helping to invent the future of life in space,” Josef Reinke, director of the Club for the Future, said in a news release.

Estes’ pint-sized New Shepard is available for pre-order from Blue Origin’s online store as well as Estes’ website, with delivery anticipated in November.

Each box will include a Club for the Future postcard for kids to draw or write their vision of how they see the future of life in space. The postcards can then be sent to the Club for the Future, which will put them on a New Shepard flight and then return them to the senders with an official-looking “Flown to Space” stamp.

This week’s announcement comes a little more than a month after Bezos and three crewmates took a suborbital ride to space in a New Shepard capsule, and coincides with today’s successful uncrewed flight of a different New Shepard known as the RSS H.G. Wells.

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New Shepard isn’t the first commercial rocket to be turned into a model rocket: A decade ago, Estes sold SpaceShipOne model rockets that paid tribute to that rocket plane’s history-making spaceflights in 2004. And for a while, SpaceX sold model-rocket versions of its workhorse Falcon 9.

Both those kits are now collectors’ items.

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