Ease of build - lots of parts to glue together and the fit on some of them is finicky. Requires you to cut and notch dowel stock. Semroc lists as a skill level 2- Intermediate. Ok I guess as long as you've built a fair number of kits. There's nothing overly hard about the build.
Finishing - Lots of balsa to fill. My paint pattern was more involved than the stock one. Need to keep the finish sort of light anyhow for boost and glide performance.
Flight/Recovery - Ehhh.. My maiden flight ended up with a power prang, you need to be careful on where the wind is coming from in relation to the model. I would stick with Estes C's over the Quest "long burn" C's in this kit. You also have to make sure you adjust the larger glider's elevons before each flight as they are just paper.
Overall - coolnes factor, high. frustration factor, medium. This is actually the 2nd one of these that I've built (1st was a clone many years ago using Estes parts) so I'll probbaly not build another for quite a while.
I've built 2. One the Semroc kit, one was a clone from a guy-Blast from the past.
I don't think the build is hard. Nothing unusual except the power pod. It does have a bunch of lumber to seal. Care must be taken with the "orbiter" elevators. Neither glider is going to win any duration contest, but they do glide.
I have flown the clone, The Semroc kit is ready to go. It can be a finicky launch. Bend up the elevators on the "Booster" before launch. The motor is above the C/G so it imparts a nose down moment on launch, you need to counter this with the elevators. Winds need to be paid attention to on launch.
Don't launch alone, you have 3 things to recover.
Like the Mach 10 this is a rocket with a high cool factor, but can put in an interesting flight.
Wayne Kellner deserves an award for his design of the Orbital Transport. It's a bear to build because of the sheer amount of lumber involved, and said lumber can make finishing tricky, but if you take your time with the build it is very rewarding and guaranteed for some applause at launch events. My glider has a tendency to simply hang in the air...it's pretty cool!
The Semroc Space Shuttle isn't as hard to build....the hardest part for me was getting all the dowel/launch lug interlocking portion done right.
Flights are interesting....mine is prone to swoop and swirl a bit during powered ascent (I've had better luck with a B6-2 as opposed to a C6-3), but the glides are a different story. The upper glider flies beautifully, which is strange because looking at it, you'd think it would drop like a rock. The larger ship glides well IF you have adjusted the elevons correctly just prior to launch.
Both are excellent kits. Overall, I'd give the nod to the Orbital Transport, but that's only because it has been a favorite of mine since the 70's.
I'd love to see Semroc provide an upscale version of the Space Shuttle....that would be interesting..
I just finished my OT and flew it for the first time. I wouldn't mind having something similar to complement it. I also see that Estes is going to re-release the SST Shuttle later this year. Would that be a better option?
I just had another great flight with my Blast from the Past Space Shuttle at NERRF 5. It's a little wiggly going up on a C6-3, but both gliders again had very good flight times. BFTPR used vacuum-formed nose cones that weigh nothing and really make the gliders fly beautifully - I lost an original booster a couple of years ago because it flew into a creek at NERRF 2.
A tip from BFTPR: bend the elevators on the booster up all the way before launch; the pressure from liftoff will push them back and they'll flex back up for glide. Make sure you flex them a few times before the first flight to take the stiffness out of them.
I would suggest hollowing out the balsa nose cones on the Semroc version, particularly the booster. Any weight you can cut down will improve glide times. You can hollow out the orbiter's cone and put a cardstock disk at the base to deflect the ejection charge.
If you can find any, the perfect engine for this is the C5-3, now OOP. That initial high thrust really keeps it stable going up.
The Space Shuttle is a real crowd pleaser, but, yes, have a few pairs of eyes watching with three parts coming down.