Between all the holiday interruptions and playing with my new Elegoo Mars 2 Pro 3D printer, I’ve been working on the decals for the X-15 models. In the process of researching the markings for these birds, I found that the particular flight of X-15-3 that I’m modeling did not have the ventral rudder installed. In fact there were more flights made without the ventral rudder the there were with it. The ventral and dorsal rudders were one piece wedges that moved in unison with each other. It seems that at high angles of attack the ventral rudder was actually destabilizing. So for many flights it was not installed.
Since I had already assembled X-15-3 and in fact I had primed it as well, I need to do some surgery to remove it. I used my knife with a sharp #11 blade and slowly started making cuts at the panel line (which was also a glue line) to remove it. It took a few careful strokes before it finally came off nice and clean.
Now the air brake actuator that was originally mostly hidden was exposed for all to see. This means that I need to add some more details. I did a bit of extra sculpting on the installed actuator to clean it up a bit. I then started on scratch building a main hydraulic piston. I used the same diameter styrene rods that I used on X-15-1. I made the small rod longer than necessary and I’ll trim it off after fitting it.
I then turned my attention to the air brakes. The opening in the installed kit part ends far too soon. Not a problem with the rudder attached, but with the rudder gone you can easily see that the air brake vanes appear too short. I remedied this by carving more of the part off until I had a depth that I could live with. Then I laid the piston in place and noted where to trim the small rod. I angled the back of the larger rod to match the carving that I had done and trimmed the small rod to the proper length and slightly thinned it where it would attach to the air brake actuator hub. It was all glued in with some Tenax 7R.
It ended up not looking too bad. Now back to prime it again and get it ready for paint.
More decal work to do, more to come. Thanks for looking.
I’m building X-15-1 in its landed configuration with the air brakes open. That meant that I needed to fill the open area under the dorsal fin.
Next, I needed to scratch build the air brake actuator parts since the air brakes will be open and the mechanism will be much more visible. I started by cutting the components from rods and sheet stock. The main hydraulic ram was made from .035 rod with the piston end from .020 rod. The actuators were cut from .015 rod and they were connected to a hub piece cut from .005 sheet. I then cut the “V” shaped rocker from .005 sheet stock.
I first glued the hydraulic ram parts together and attached them to the hub and then glued that assembly to the back of the open air brake part. I did cut a tiny part out of the back of the air brake to give the ram a place to rest.
I then added the actuator parts to connect the hub to the air brake plates.
I then glued the air brakes and ventral and dorsal fins to the fuselage. Once they were glued in I added the “V” shaped rocker and the air brakes were done.
With that completed I glued in the XLR-11 engines.
X-15-1 with its XLR-11 engines had different fuel and oxidizer vent ports than when the XLR-99 engine was installed. These were a much simpler part which looked like a simple pipe.
I used .035 tube to represent the XLR-11 fuel and oxidizer jettison ports. At this point I also added the landing gear skids and nose wheel. I also glued on the antennas.
Finally, I glued on the pitot tube and the long needle probe.
With that X-15-1 and X-15-3 are ready for primer and paint prep.
I started work on the added details for X-15-3. The Rarefied Wake Flow experiment was housed in an experiment box at the back of the dorsal fin.
The kit includes the experiment box but it represents a different experiment that was not flown on X-15-3.
The first thing I did was sand off the molded on details so I could add my details and use the experiment box. I used sections of .060 and .040 strip stock and a small rectangle of .005 sheet stock to represent the part of the experiment that protruded from the back of the experiment box.
I then glued on the dorsal fin and the experiment box. In the picture the ventral fin has not been glued on yet and the model is being held upside down.
The ventral fin can be built either with the air brakes open or closed. This is done with two different parts. For X-15-3 in flight I wanted to have them in the closed position. The closed air brakes are a bit thick so I sanded them a bit thinner. The kit supplies a back part of the air brake section for posing them in the closed position. This means that the air brakes are actually a bit shorter so the end plate can be glued on to give them their final length. If you look at the picture of the ventral fin and the end plate, you can see that the end plate has a “V” shaped detail that is supposed to represent part of the air brake actuator system. One problem is if you use that part, the “V” is actually upside down. The open end of the “V” should be facing the fuselage, it does not. Beside that, I really think that I can scratch a part will look better.
The first thing I did was to add some length to the air brakes by adding some .010 square strip stock. I then sanded them fairly smooth.
I took some .010 sheet stock and cut out a few shapes and glued them together. I then glued that into the ventral fin between the air brakes. It is not the most accurate depiction of the actuators, but it is better than the kit part and from a normal viewing distance doesn’t look that bad.
I then glued the ventral fin on the X-15-3 fuselage and moved on to the rest of the model.
I then added the kit parts for the fuel and oxidizer vent ports and some scratch antennas that I cut from .005 sheet stock. I also added the ball nose and pitot tube kit parts.
With that X-15-3 is assembled and ready for primer and paint prep. Now on to finish X-15-1.
I haven’t posted in a while. It’s not that I haven’t been working on anything. I have been working on this build since October, but I’ve been busy on other things that have gotten in the way of writing posts. I now have made some time to get back to posting my progress.
The latest build from the stash is the Dragon 1/144 X-15 1+1 kit. I bought it about 8 years ago, so I guess now is a good time to build it. The kit allows for two versions of the X-15 to be built from the one kit. I’ll be building the pair as X-15-1 (56-6670) and X-15-3 (56-6672). The X-15-1 will represent the first powered flight (flight 1-2-7) and will be built in landed configuration. The X-15-3 will represent one of the research flights (flight 3-22-36) that carried the Rarefied Wake Flow experiment (it was unsuccessful).
The kit does not contain tail numbers for X-15-3, only ship 1 and 2. I will have to create some decals for that. I’ll also have to produce some other decals for items that were on the ships but are not on the decal sheet. One in particular for X-15-3 is a hand painted design that says “Little Joe the II” with a pair of dice. That was on the #3 ship for a few missions as a tip of the hat to the crew chief who was also the crew chief for the X-1E.
I plan on building these planes mostly out of the box. The fit of the parts is hit and miss. Some of the parts fit nice and snug, but other are loose and sloppy. It has some reasonable detail considering the small scale, but I think there are a few items that I can add without much trouble.
Let’s get into the build.
The nose of the model contains some very shallow depressions representing the RCS thrusters in the nose. I used a straight pin to slightly deepen the holes to make them more visible. I also added the nose part for the long instrument boom for X-15-1.
I next checked out the business end parts. The XLR-11’s are represented, but they are shallow and do not represent the nozzles very well. The nozzles don’t stick out far enough but I really don’t have a good way to add extensions. I did drill out the nozzles to give them a bit of depth for a more realistic look.
Then I turned my attention to the XLR-99 nozzle. It’s not bad and has some molded in details, but I felt it would look better if I drilled out the turbopump exhaust.
I then moved on to the cockpit. It is very basic and has little detail. But when you see the size of the windows on the X-15 and consider the scale of the model, there really isn’t much that will be seen. The kit has no provision to build the model with an open canopy without some major surgery. The kit is designed only with a closed cockpit in mind.
I used my references and picked some representative colors for the cockpit tub, instrument panel and seat. You have to slide the cockpit tub into the model from the open end of the fuselage. The way Dragon made the fuselage parts as an tube shape prevents seams running down the center line that would have to be dealt with. But that presents its own problems with getting the cockpit tub in place. Sliding the cockpit tub in from the open end is a bit tricky and really needs the seat to not be installed until the tub is glued into place. Once the cockpit was in place, I glued the cockpit canopy on with Future Floor Finish and then masked the windows off. You can tell how little of the cockpit is going to be visible in the pic below. Everything that is clear will be painted, only the masked off windows will remain clear.
Next came some filling of areas of the fuselage that are not going to be used in this build. Since X-15-1 was going to be built in the landed configuration I filled the mount hole with putty.
After some checking I needed to drill the mount hole in X-15-3 out a bit at an angle so the mound rod can be inserted at an angle rather than straight up. This will allow me to put it on the stand with a bit of a nose up direction.
I then glued the rear fuselage to the forward sections of both ships. I then sanded the bottom of X-15-1 smooth and started work on X-15-3 and its flight surfaces. The wings fit reasonably well if a bit loose, but the horizontal stabilizers were very sloppy and required work to make sure a good anhedral was maintained. Two small holes on either side of the ventral fin will not be used. They are for attaching the ground handling rig which will not be used in my build.
At this point I decided to concentrate on X-15-3 and it’s details before continuing the work on X-15-1. The build will continue in the next post.
When I posted the last update I was at the stage where I needed to scratch build the S-I retrorockets. I used a short section of 0.125 inch styrene rod about an inch longer than I needed. I chucked that in my Dremel tool and used it like a lathe. I used my #11 X-acto knife to shape the forward section of the retrorockets. They have a rather odd shape. It starts out like a cone and then has something like a button on the end. Once I had the shape right I removed it from the Dremel and cut off the excess. They were then painted white with the bottom black. The below pictures show the before and after.
Now that I had them completed I needed to get my decals printed. I ended up printing three sets. I felt like I needed extras in case I screwed something up and to give me some extra white decals in case I needed to double them up to cover the black. Here is one of the sets.
After I printed that one I realized that I did not print enough of the blowout covers for the interstage. There are eight blowout covers not four. So the next set I printed I had extras. I also found out that my decal paper is getting old and sometimes the thermal ink doesn’t stick as is should. Time for an order of new paper from Tango Papa. I was able to get enough good decals with the paper I had so work can continue.
Before installing the retrorockets or the S-I engine nozzles, I decided to apply the decals. It is a bit simpler to put on the decals without the retrorockets. The trickiest part of applying the decals was the S-IV and the interstage. All those details made getting the decals on an interesting task. I found the best way was to cut the decals into sections that would go between any protrusions. The checkerboard decal also required a few careful snips to fit around the hydrogen vent pipe standoffs. The black/white stripe decals that went at the base of the S-IV also required cutting into sections. It took a few hours to get them on in decent shape. I did have to do a bit of touch up with black paint in a few places. Also the curved decals that went around the S-IV upper interstage confirmed my cone calculations were correct. They went on smoothly and look quite nice. Once all the decals were put on I installed the S-I retrorockets and gave it a coat of clear. When that had dried I then sprayed on a clear flat. Here are some photos of the completed decals.
After the decals went on I installed the engine nozzles. The inside of the bells were painted with Tamiya smoke.
Here is a view of my Saturn I family. The only one I need to add is SA-10 the last S-I Block II. That will give me a model of each significantly different version.
Now I guess it is time to get back to the Millennium Falcon and start weathering it. I’ve put if off long enough.