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1/48 Saturn V Apollo 11 - Flying model

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The rocketry club I belong to, Tulsa Rocketry, started a group project a few months ago.  We decided it would be good for the club to do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.  We decided to build a flying model of the Saturn V.  This has, of course, been done before with some commercial kits and some fantastically large scratch build rockets.  We only had about 8 months to complete the project so we looked at available tube sizes and determined that a 1/48 scale Saturn V would be of a size that would be both doable and impressive.


We started by gathering the tubes.  The S-IC and S-II would be made from Sonotube.  Those are the tubes that people use to pour concrete columns.  We got some 8.25 in diameter tube cut to the length of the S-IC and S-II combined.  The everything above the S-II would be from a phenolic type tube called BlueTube.  We used 5.4 in for the S-IVB and 3.125 for the SM.  The sizes are not exact for the scale but we didn't have time to make custom tubes that could stand up to being hurled several hundred feet into the air.


We designed the rocket to have two different aft structures.  One that would have oversize fins that would be for flights, and the other would be scale detailed for display use.  Most of the detail parts would be 3D printed by a club member.  The transitions and S-IC engine fairings would also be 3D printed.  Internally there are additional tubes to support the rocket motor and provide shoulders to allow the different sections to separate at the appropriate time in flight.  The first separation point is just aft of the S-II forward skirt.  The next point is at just below the Instrument Unit and the final separation point is at the BPC.  The CM and LES come down under a separate parachute to help mitigate any landing damage.


The Sonotube is very rough and required several coats of thick primer and sanding in between to get in shape.  Even so, there are a few lumps here and there.  It will still build into an impressive model.  The BlueTube has some spirals that have to be filled and sanded.  The SM will not be filled and sanded since it will get a wrap of .015 sheet styrene.


Here you see the parts assembled before any detail work has started.



Here is an angle from the rear.


This is also the initial balance test to verify where the center of gravity is.  Note the flight aft skirt goes all the way down to the bottom of the fairings.  The display aft skirt will be shorter as it is on the actual vehicle.


Here we are applying contact cement prior to placing the first of the many wraps that are to go on the rocket.



After letting the contact cement cure for 15 minutes or so it is time to put the first wrap on.  It was a very nerve racking time since you only get one chance to place it.  When the two parts touch, they are connected permanently.


You can also see in this photo how the removable aft skirt works.  Four all-thread ensure a secure connection.  The blue tube sticking out is the motor mount tube.  When the display aft skirt is put on you will not see the motor tube.  Instead you will see 5 3D printed F-1 engines.


Slow and steady does it.  The wraps were made with .005 sheet styrene and strip stock of varying sizes and shapes according to the scale drawings from David Weeks.



Here is the flight aft skirt after primer has been applied.



Here is the aft end after application of more wraps and some of the 3D printed parts.



Here is a photo of someone looking over the scale drawings.  If you look on the left you can see a short piece of tube with a wooden bulkhead attached.  That is the display aft skirt.  It will be detailed out later.



Here are some pictures of the 3D printed parts after they were applied to the S-IC/S-II wraps.






More to come...

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More on the 1/48 Saturn V.


I worked mostly on the upper section of the rocket.  Here you see the part that runs from the Instrument Unit to the top of the Service Module.  At this point the SM has already had the .015 styrene wrap applied.  I then scribed some panel lines into it.



Here you can see some of the details that were added.  Some access covers and the radiators have been put on.  The radiators are half round strips glued to some .005 sheet that was glued to SM.



Here is a closeup of the SM details.  At this point the scimitar antennas have not been applied.



Here is a view of the SLA and SM.  All the SLA and SM details are made from sheet or strip styrene.  One of the scimitar antennas has been added.



Here I've added the umbilical panel on the SM.



More to come...


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More work on the 1/48 Saturn V.  This time I'm working on the S-IVB, S-IVB to S-II transition, and the S-II forward skirt.


But first, here is a shot of the SM after the RCS quads were attached.



The S-IVB forward skirt has been applied.



Next up the S-IVB aft skirt and S-II forward skirt.  Then start attaching all the 3D printed fiddly bits to the S-IVB.



Here is the other side.



The top of the S-IVB was not cut quite square.  So we compensated by attaching the S-IVB forward skirt slightly over the edge for the areas of the tube that were too low.  Then to beef up the .005 wrap that extended above the tube I added a strip of .040 x .060 around the inside of the skirt.  The .060 strip was just about right for the thickness of the tube.  The strip was CA'ed to both the tube and the wrap with Plasti-ZAP glue.  I then sanded the strip stock down to the wrap everywhere it extended above the wrap.  The circled area in the picture is the area that does not have the strip.  The rest of the circumference is covered with the strip stock.  Note, I had to enhance the contrast in the picture to show the part without strip, so that is why it looks a bit odd.



Finally the last two pictures show parts of the S-II forward skirt wrap.




Next up is the S-II to S-IVB interstage.  Hopefully I got the two skirts lined up well enough make the transition look good.


Still lots to finish up before it can fly.  Hopefully we will still meet out July 20th deadline.


Edited by as205
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This is some seriously impressive work! All the more because it's a flight-worthy model! I'm going to love watching this come together.

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18 hours ago, dnl42 said:



This is some seriously impressive work! All the more because it's a flight-worthy model! I'm going to love watching this come together.


I concur with all of you! All the extra details your team is installing, all those stringers, all the 3D items, is gonna be FAN-tab-u-lous!

It's great to see your club working on this. And your contribution to this seems above and beyond ... outstanding effort Randy!



Edited by K2Pete
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You guys are nailing it! Those David Weeks drawings are like gold when it comes time to add all the details. Can't wait to see this thing all painted up!

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Thanks guys.  The club is pretty excited about this one.  After we fly it on July 20, we plan on taking it to the local Maker's Fair to display.  It will have the display aft section on it at that time.


Brien Wood is the other club member that has taken on the S-IC and S-II lower sections of stringers.  He is also doing the 3D printing of the detail parts.  Paul Reed is doing the 3D printing of the F-1 engines, S-IC engine fairings, BPC/LES, and the transitions from the S-II to the S-IVB and from the S-IVB to the SM.  Several other members have been doing most of the internal rocket work.  The rocket has two sets of altimeters that control the recovery they are on 3D printed sleds by Paul.  Hal Ellis has very generously allowed us to use his garage to build and store the rocket as well.


By the way, we did do a test flight in December to be sure our calculations were correct and before any details went on.  It flew quite well.  I'll post the motor and weight details shortly, I don't remember the details just now.


Thanks for viewing.  More to come...

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You guys should move the launch date up to July 16 so you can participate in the worldwide Guiness book of world records attempt to launch the most rockets ever at once. That's when I'll be launching the Saturn V that I'm currently building. You guys can sign up to participate here https://www.rocketcenter.com/apollo50/GlobalLaunch

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update time.  I have finished with my part of the rocket, from the S-II forward skirt to the SM.  It took me about three days to finish putting on the stringers for the S-II to S-IVB interstage.  There are 144 stringers that need to line up with the larger stringers on the S-II forward skirt and the stringers on the S-IVB aft skirt.


First I used a pencil and ruler to mark the transition where each stringer would go.  That way I could be sure that everything was lining up correctly and not going askew.  There were a couple of fudge spots, but after all the stringers went on it is hard to tell where they are.




I also marked where the retro rockets went as well as the personnel access panel.  The access panel was scratch built using .010 sheet styrene and some strip stock cut to length and the ends sanded round.



I used a combination of Plasti-Zap CA and thin CA to attach the stringers.  Each stringer was cut to length one at a time since there were small variations in the positioning of the two skirts.  After cutting it to length, I would then place a small line of Plasti-Zap on each end of the guide line, place the strip and make sure it was applied straight.  Then wait a few seconds for the Plasti-Zap to set.  Then I ran a line of thin CA along the rest of the stringer and carefully made sure the strip was still straight.  To keep my sanity I tackled the stringers one quadrant at a time. and placed a 3D printed retro rocket in the center of the quadrant.  Each quadrant took about 5 hours to complete, not necessarily continuous.


More updates to follow.  Thanks for looking.


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Another update.


Once the stringers were all in place I then went back and added some umbilical panels to the S-II forward skirt.



Here is an overall view of the S-II/S-IVB section complete.



Here are a couple of shots of the S-IVB details that got added. They are all 3D printed by club member Brien, except the umbilical connections.  I scratch built the umbilical connections as well as the small ribbed strip that runs between the Auxiliary Systems Tunnel and one of the telemetry antennas.



Note the LOX Propulsive Vent near the Center on the aft skirt in the photo below. There are a couple of LH2 Propulsive Vents on the forward skirt that have not been applied. We figured that they would not survive a flight, so we are waiting until after the first (maybe only) flight to install them.



At this point we are going to assemble all the pieces and get it painted all white by another member.  We will then mask and add the black and silver to it.


More to come...

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In case anyone is interested, here is a list of all the styrene strip that was applied to create this beast.  All the stringers were applied to .005 sheet stock and then attached with contact cement.  The only exception to that is the S-II/S-IVB interstage.  There was no wrap used there.  The stringers were applied directly to the rocket.


The S-IC aft skirt has 128 3" x 3" hat shaped stringers.  These are represented by 4.6" long .060 x .060 strips.  The S-IC intertank has 108 corrugations with a trapezoidal cross section.  This is represented by .060 x .060 strips 5.125" long.  The forward skirt has 216 2" x 2" hat shaped stringers.  We modeled those with .040 x .040 strips 2.5" long.


The S-II interstage had 216 2" x 2" hat shaped stringers.  We again used .040 x .040 strips 1.8" long.  The S-II aft skirt has 216 2" x 2" hat shaped stringers.  We used .040 x .040 strips this time 1.8" long.  The S-II forward skirt has 288 stringers.  144 of them are 1.3" x 1.625" hat shaped stringers.  Interspersed with those are 144 1" x 1" I beam shaped stringers.  We modeled these stringers with .030 x .040 strips 2.75" long and .020 x .020 strips 1.8" long.


The S-IVB interstage had 144 stringers that were 1.2" x 2.162" hat shaped stringers.  The closest we could come was to use .030 x .040 strips, each of which was about 5" long.  The S-IVB aft skirt has 144 1" x 1.375" hat shaped stringers.  We used .020 x .030 strips 1.75" long.  Finally, the S-IVB forward skirt has 108 .813" x 1.25" hat shaped stringers.  We used .015 x .020 strips 2.5" long to represent those.


Note that all the stringers that have a rectangular cross section had to be attached on the narrow side.   This was aided by some jigs that Brien 3D printed.  They maintained the correct spacing between stringers and greatly sped up the process of making the wraps.  He also produced some cutting jigs that helped cut the stringers to a consistent length.  If we had not had the jigs and had to apply the stringers the way I had to apply the S-IVB interstage stringers would have put us in jeopardy of not making our deadline.


Our local Hobby Town owner helped us considerably with the styrene.  We were able to special order the strips and sheets and got them very quickly.  He even gave us a discount.  He's a great guy.


When the rocket gets back from getting it's white paint we will start masking for the detail paint.  Then we will apply a set of 1/48 decals from Space Model Systems to make it really look like a Saturn V.


Thanks for looking.

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My Goodness ... or words to that effect ... what an amazing piece of detailing! I'm lovin' this build!

I envy your club. To see the involvement of the members, in not only creating jigs to assist the build but in the painstaking addition of the stringers ... man oh man ... this is GREAT to see!

Does it have a website wherein you're posting WIPs of this build too?


And while hoping it has more than one flight, that one flight will be spectacular!


I'm glad to read your local hobby shop is supporting you guys too ... good on him!


And I hafta ask, what are "hat shaped stringers"?


Thanx Randy and thank all your members that are involved with this build! This looking terrific!


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The hat shape refers to the cross section view of the stringer.  Think of an old style top hat like Lincoln used to wear.  Cut it in half and you have the hat shaped cross section that many of the stringers on the real Saturn V had.  Making hollow stringers of that type of cross section at 1/48 scale would be crazy, so we used solid strips.  In reality the actual Saturn V stringers were hollow.


We have a web site (tulsarocketry.org), but we haven't posted the build there.  Maybe we should put up a post and point the reader to the build here?


Thanks for asking.




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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm back with an update of this build.  The paint started going on about June 15.  The paint is a high gloss Rustoleum that was sprayed on.  The gloss should help the decals lay down nicely.  Here are a few pics of the white coat.



The main body, the S-IC and S-II.



The S-IVB and part of the SLA.



The forward part of the S-IC.  The high gloss should make the decals less liable to silver.



The BPC and LES.  The BPC will be detailed more after the flight.  Note the core running inside the LES tower.  It is providing some strength to hopefully survive the landing.



Here is the flight version of the aft skirt all masked for the black bands.



The aft end of the S-IC is all painted with black and will get its silver color later.  The display aft skirt will not extend all the way to the end of the engine fairings.  The flight versions is this way to prevent some damage on landing.  From the flight line you won't be able to see much difference.


More to come...

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More painting has been done.



Here the aft skirt has been masked for the silver on the fairings and fins.



Silver has been painted and this section of the rocket is done with paint.  Some detail painting is still to be done, but that will have to wait until after the flight.



The Service Module is now masked for the silver paint.



Silver is on with one minor oops.  The scimitar antennas were missed during masking.  This will be corrected later.



Here is the other side of the SM.  Just a bit more painting to finish.


More to come...

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Final paint is done and the decals have started to be applied.



The interstage is masked and is ready for paint.  This was the one of the more difficult areas to mask.  The curved lines over the corrugations required a bit of help from the drawings.  We made a copy of the interstage area of the David Weeks drawings and cut out the checkerboard section and used that to create some fine lines to the curve required.   That worked out very well.  Kudos to club member Chris for the idea!



Here painting is in progress.  You can make out under the plastic masking on the right end that the forward skirt of the S-IVB has already been painted.



At the same time, a few blocks away, the decals were being applied.  For the first flight, we are only putting on the largest decals.  The details will wait until later.  We are using a set of 1/48 decals from Space Model Systems.  I'm not sure they are available anymore.  The last time I looked at CultTVMan's website they were not listed anymore.



Here is an example of how the decals were lined up.  The proper distances were measured and then some tape applied where the decal borders needed to be.  Once the decal was applied the tape was removed.  That avoided any pencil marks that might have been difficult to remove later.  One note of caution that I should mention here is that I had a bit of a problem with the clear coat over the decals.  Apparently Future Floor Finish does not like Rustoleum with high gloss, because about a day or so after applying the clear coat the paint under it started to yellow.  With some research, I found out that Future Floor Finish reacts with some oils that are used to create the high shine, especially peanut oil.  I personally have used Future over many types of paints from enamels to acrylics and have never had this happen before.  I removed the Future with some Windex and ammonia and the paint is still a bit yellowish where the Future was.  From a distance you can't see the yellow and in bright sunlight it is even more difficult to see.  We don't have enough time to fix this before the first flight so we will tackle the problem later.



All stacked and ready for the final preparations for flight.  To the right is the raw Sonotube that was used for the S-IC and S-II stages.  It takes a bit of sanding and filling to smooth out.



For a sense of scale here I am standing next to the rocket.


Now we need to add the parachutes, shock cords, altimeters and altimeter sleds and then re-balance the beast to make sure it will still fly stably.  That will pretty much take up our time until the launch on July 20th.


We will hope for good weather at the sod farm for the launch.


More updates to come.  Thanks for looking



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