Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Working on Team Redstone...

My rocket ADD kicked in again, flaring up due to my seeing a lot of photos of models of Mercury Redstones, Gemini Titans, and Saturns recently. The 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 is coming up, so I reckon I should spend some time building replicas of the manned vehicles of the past - other projects are simply going to have to be put on hold. The U.S. journey into space started with vehicles based on the Redstone missile, so that will be the starting point. Specifically, the Jupiter-C that put the first U.S. satellite into space, Explorer 1.

Several years back, I wanted to try my hand at plastic model conversion (PMC), which is as it sounds. You find an appropriate model and add modifications such as body tubes, launch lugs, and ballast. The goal is for it to put in a stable flight, which is kinda tricky for some subjects. PMC is one of those "NASCAR-like" NAR competitions - people keep their heads down and lots of plastic parts litter the launch area. Given the prospects of disaster and my limited skills, I chose an easy subject - the Glencoe (formerly Hawk) Jupiter-C. Only cost about $15, and the instructions for the conversion were laid out 49 years ago by the G. Harry Stine himself (See the article by the Old Rocketeer here). I almost finished the model, with just the antennas left to be glued on, but got so disappointed in my poor assembly that I put it up on a shelf (I suck at plastic models, even though I built many as a boy. They looked awful - just like my rockets).

It sat on the shelf for years...

Converted Glencoe Jupiter- awaiting paint (Click to enlarge).
However, my Redstone mania this weekend actually gave me the impetus to pull it down off the shelf for an inspection. I was missing one of the antennas (which I could cannibalize from an unopened kit), and it looked like the application of a little Squadron putty could seal the cracks and joints caused by my poor assembly. This I did, and the model is now ready for paint. Now if I can only find the decals (may have to cannibalize them from the other kit as well).

So much for the Jupiter-C. Now on to my next subject, the Mercury Redstone. I have 4 of these kits in the stash - 2 of the 1921 genre and 2 of the 2167 "Liberty Bell" variety. It was easier to get at the Liberty Bell kits, so I picked one of those - a Hobby Lobby sale from way back.  I was kinda disappointed upon opening the bag - the lower tube with the fin slots was crushed, along with the coupler that joins the lower to the upper tubes. Plus, there were no instructions - how is that possible? Shaking my head, I printed off a new set of instructions from the Estes web site and set about fixing the lower tube with some ST-20 couplers (ain't no way I was going to try to cut those slots on a duplicate tube; my fingers are valuable to me). The old coupler was replaced with a new one from eRockets, and I mounted a Semroc EB-20 ejection baffle in the coupler for good measure. Should save me quite a bit of wadding on the flights.

Baffle mounted inside ST-20 coupler (Click to enlarge).
The tube spirals were filled and the tubes primed. I just finished assembling the motor mount and the capsule; still have the tower assembly to go. But first I need to get to the local hobby store and get the appropriate red and black paint. I'm hoping to do that sometime this week.

Two Redstones are not enough, so I also started work on their pappy, the Redstone missile. Recently I purchased a 3D printed Redstone fin can and nose from Boyce Aerospace; I had read excellent reviews about their products and wanted to use their stuff in my first build involving printed parts. The parts I received are most excellent, with nice detail. I would be doing a major happy dance except for one thing:

Pic showing the primed Redstone tubes, the unpainted Mercury capsule, the motor mount
along with the 3D printed Redstone fin can and nose from Boyce Aerospace. A Sky Bird II
(Estes rocket plan #02 from the Design Book) in white base coat is at left; behind it are
a clone of the Centuri Sky Devil in gray primer and an Estes Lancer in white primer (Click
to enlarge).
Like all 3D printed parts, they have rough surfaces - a product of the printing process.

Which means sanding...

LOTS of it...

Did I mention I hate sanding?

The Boyce parts came with instructions for assembling a scale model of the missile, specifying body tube lengths, CG location, and recommended motors. They also kindly provided a link to a YouTube video on how to get a smooth finish on 3d printed components. Guess what?

It shows a lot of sanding...

I am going to build this missile (which is the same scale as the Estes Mercury Redstone), even if I have to sand for a month. I have started with 220 grit on the nose, and will sand more this weekend. Hopefully I can have it done by Thanksgiving.

And that is what I have been doing rocket-wise on these rainy and cold November days.

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