Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rotary Space Ship, Totally Cool Toy

This is a monocopter. Monocopters are flyng devices or helicopter rotor heads that have only one wing or blade and are typically counterbalanced by one or more sources of thrust, like a propeller drive, jet, or rocket motor.

I found this pic on Dick's Rocket Dungeon a few months ago..
Dick Stafford and I searched the web extensively in hopes of finding a better pic and/or more info. It's called; Rotary Space Ship and was made by Brown Mfg. Co. of Clinton MO. It was probably produced in the 1950's or very early  '60's. It's certainly not the first monocopter, since Pappin did build his monster, but it may well be the 1st rocket powered monocopter.  

My research turned up a few pertinent facts. #1; Brown Mfg had  a sister company called Zenith Fireworks. Brown Mfg is long gone, but Zenith Specialties is still in business today. #2; Orville Carlisle [the inventor of Model Rocketry] contracted Brown/Zenith to make the first mass-produced model rocket motors for a while.  When Dick and I first discussed it, he thought the RSS might be powered by fireworks rockets with the fins or sticks removed.  That may well be the case depending on time of manufacture, but I rather think that it was powered by either Carlisle's Roc-a-Chute model rocket motors, or a custom motor made for the job.  Given the relatively high weight, and a crap airfoil, the
RSS probably needed a fair bit of power.  This would be a perfect use for a classic Moonburner rocket motor.

Except for the wooden wheels the RSS appears to be all metal.  I think the wing really is made out of a BBQ spatula. Sure looks it.  Obviously it was meant to rise off the ground, and in a spacious parking lot, it will make a nice landing too.  It has a centrifugal wing
pitch mechanism with spring return. As rpm increases during takeoff, centrifugal force makes the wing slide outward, causing it to rotate into up pitch for ascent. Later, as the rpm slows, the spring retracts the wing, causing it to rotate back into descent pitch for a smooth transition to autorotation for a gentle landing.

Judging from the size of the box, I'll betcha the axle mount is meant to pivot so the assembled toy fits back in the box for storage and safe transport. It may not be a kit at all, considering the construction methods.

One last thing; if this were produced today, the CPSC would have a bigger cow than the NAR.  Lack of takeoff guidance is one thing, metal parts are another, but if that wing were to hit somebody...


  1. That's a great find!
    We would have flown the crap out of ours, then modded them.

  2. Damm straight on both counts.
    I want to build one, but the pitch mechanism is too vague to accurately reproduce, AND, metal worker that I am, I'm still more likely to build one that's all composite [and has an airfoil].
    Mod, mod, mod...