Record-breaking rocket up for sale

Rocket is up for auction for as little as £35,000. Who would buy it?

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Rocket up for auction

Know anyone who is hard to buy for? Looking for a gift that will stand out? How about a rocket? If you happen to have £35,000-£50,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you could grab a slice of rocket history.

The rocket in question was made in 1991, and was one of the first joint projects between Russian and US rocket engineers after the Cold War. The Kholod is a hypersonic flying laboratory, which reaches about 20 times the top speed of an F1 car. This model held the record for the air speed of an unmanned vehicle for a decade - after achieving a speed of Mach 6.47.

It's one of six experimental scramjets produced by CIAM and NASA, of which only five remain. This one never flew, which is why it's in such great condition. It was part of a collection of rockets owned by the celebrated rocket scientist Alexander Roudakov. It's not only a slice of rocket history, it's also part of the future of air travel, as scramjets are expected to form the basis of high-speed flight in future.

Not terribly practical

The rocket actually travels at 5,000 mph. However, getting it to this speed isn't entirely without its challenges. For a start it weighs 5.5 tonnes and is 11.9 metres long. In addition, for the rocket to actually kick in, it already needs to be travelling at Mach 5. That's why it comes with four solid fuel boosters attached to the side, which are designed to detach after their fuel is burned.

Perhaps the biggest drawback, however, is the fact that the rocket has been fully disabled, and the scramjet technology has all been removed by NASA - which presumably doesn't like the idea of selling off top secret cutting edge technology.

Who would buy it?

It's probably fair to say that impressive though this gift may be, it's not going to be the most practical thing to keep in the house. It's just a handy conversation piece to impress your friends with. If you already have a flash car and a swimming pool, it would be your chance to get one up on your super-rich friends in a way they can never match (unless they track down one of the other four models).

It is being sold on 23 June by Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurt, West Sussex. Auctioneer James Rylands told AOL: "This isn't the sort of thing that anyone needs: it's a 'want' kind of a thing." He says that people passing through the auction house have shown a great deal of interest, and many of the wealthier clients have been surprised that the estimate isn't higher. Rylands says: "We will have to wait and see what it goes for on the day."

The company is no stranger to unusual auctions, as it sold a complete diplodocus skeleton in 2013 and a mammoth in 2014. Rylands says that in terms of practicality, this will be easier to store and display than the skeleton. It's also far cheaper, so he is expecting interest from all sorts of different clients.

For speed and space fans who don't have £35,000-£50,000 and room for a 5.5 tonne rocket, you may be better off with another lot in the same sale. The ISAYEV liquid fuel engine, made in the Soviet Union in 1957, has been converted into a glass-topped table, and has an estimate of between £2,500 and £4,000. These engines are extremely rare, because they were designed to be used just once before they burned up entirely.

It has the added advantage of being less outlandishly expensive, easier to cart around, and more practical to keep at home - while still letting you boast to your friends that you have a rare piece of rocket lying around. Rylands adds: "If you're a real petrol head and you're into engineering, these aren't just museum pieces, they're almost toys for grown ups."

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