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Glencoe 1/6 Explorer I Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2005 Manufacturer Glencoe
Subject Explorer I Scale 1/6
Kit Number 5901 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $9.98

First Look


In the late 1950s, Dr. Werner von Braun was pushing his dream to reach into space. Working at the US Army's ballistic missile labs, he proposed a design named Orbiter that would put a satellite into orbit. The concept lost out to the US Navy's Vanguard program, but von Braun continued to develop the concept under a program called Jupiter. This program was officially designed as an intermediate range ballistic missile.

When the Russians put Sputnik into orbit in 1957, the space race was kicked into high gear. When the Navy's Vanguard launch vehicle exploded in flight, the Army and von Braun brought forth Juno - a Jupiter with an Explorer I satellite payload.

The launch was successful, the Jupiter pushed the payload to 5,520 mph. At separation, the upper stage containing a variety of solid-fuel rocket motors kicked in and pushed the satellite up to an orbital velocity of 17,680 mph - in 24 seconds!! Now THAT is acceleration!

The Glencoe 1/6 Explorer I kit is an interesting kit. At 1/6 scale, the Explorer wasn't very big - it didn't have to be. It was essentially a sounding rocket that had been mounted atop an ICBM first stage and a huge kick motor for a second stage. The result worked!

While I don't know the origin of this kit, I do know that this is one of many molds rescued and restored by Glencoe. For its age, the kit offers many interesting and innovative features (okay, read this as 'fun').

My example is molded in tan styrene and from the instructions, was one molded as a single tree. The project starts with those two silver-molded styrene box halves in the photo. This is display stand for the Explorer, but it has a hand crank on the side to be able to rotate the missile atop the base. Of course all of the gears go inside the box halves before they are assembled.

The fuselage halves of the Explorer itself are hinged to reveal the interior, so you can pose the rocket open or closed after assembly. The science payload goes into the upper half of the rocket body while the lower half contains the fuel cells for the Explorer's final stage motor.

Only one decal goes on the Explorer - this is the logo for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the other two decals go onto the base to resemble placards.

This is an interesting piece of history in this box on two counts - the subject of the first successful US unmanned satellite, and this highly detailed kit that was definitely ahead of its time. With a suggested retail price of less than $10.00 USD, this is a fun and inexpensive project for the novice and experienced spacecraft modeler alike.

My sincere thanks to Glencoe Models for this review sample!