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Dragon 1/144 X-15 Build

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As a change of pace from the Saturn models I've been working on, I decided to do an X-15.  This is the Dragon kit that I bought about 8 years ago.  I'm not planning on doing a bunch of updates to the kit.  I know there are some accuracy issues with it here and there, but really in this scale I don't want to do too much.


I've actually been working on this since October, but different things have gotten in the way and I haven't gotten around to posting anything on the build. Funny how things like that happen.  I'll post my progress so far.


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.


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.


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.



You can barely see where I used a straight pin to deepen the RCS thruster nozzles.


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.



You can see how little depth the XLR-11 nozzles have. Here I have started drilling on the top XLR-11.


Now both XLR-11 engines have had their nozzles drilled out. It is a much better look I think.


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.



Now the exhaust port is drilled out and has some depth.


I 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 a 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.




The cockpit is in and the seat has been added.



Here you can see the installed canopy and masked off windows.  Very little of the cockpit will be visible after painting.


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.



Forground is X-15-1 with mount hole being filled in. The back one is X-15-3 and I'll be using the mount hole there.


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.



Mount hole drilled out at an angle for the mounting rod.


I glued the rear fuselage to the forward sections of both ships.  I then sanded the patch on X-15-1 smooth.



X-15-1 patch sanded smooth.


I started more assembly 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 since I plan on X-15-1 being on its skids.



X-15-3 wings and horizontal stabilizers glued on and unused holes filled.


At this point I decided to concentrate on completing X-15-3.  More to come on the next post.

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The X-15 is such a cool aircraft. Watched it takeoff under the B-52 and form up with it's chase planes 

and then slide back home on the dry lake at Edwards when I was a young guy. So cool! I went to school

with Robert White's son Greg and daughter Pam when my dad was stationed there. Great job so far on 

the rocket powered monster!


Cheers and Happy New Year....Ron

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Straight and clean build so far!

Funny, I started building this kit a while ago and planned to do a similar presentation. One on the ground (maybe in landing configuration together with a F-104 chase plane), one in air.

The build is currently on hold due to other ongoing projects but I'll have a close look on your progress, I may take some inspiration out of it.

I am curious how you will create the missing decals, I also have the problem still before me.



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A few years ago I built a 1/72 X-15 and I thought THAT was small ... in 1/144 ... good grief, good for you Randy!    👍   :thumbsup:


But I am really disappointed that I don't see a lot of detail on the IP or seat belts in the cockpit and ............. aw-w-w, I'm just kidding!  :woot.gif:


This is coming along nicely and it's a nice way to get back into the groove ... maybe I should do something like this!  :hmmm:


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Had been interested in this kit but hadn't researched it or bought one, that old thing of other projects and how many hours there are in a year.

And speaking of things I hadn't done, I hadn't expected tubular moldings for the fuselage ... interesting.

Thanks for posting this build.

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Pete: Thanks.  It's coming along pretty well.  I really wish they had included tail numbers for all three birds, but oh well.  It will be interesting making some of those small decals.


Southwestforests: Dragon seems to have some injection machines that can do that sort of thing.  It does help in some situations.






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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.



Here are a couple photos of the Rarefied Wake Flow experiment from “Hypersonic” by Jenkens & Landis



The kit includes the experiment box but it represents a different experiment that was not flown on X-15-3.  Here is it original part.


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 that protruded from the back of the experiment box.



Here are my details added to modified kit part.



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 them in the closed position.  The closed air brakes are a bit thick so I sanded them a bit thinner.  The kit has 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 above photo 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 with the part is that the “V” is actually upside down.  The open end of the “V” should be facing the fuselage, it does not.  I am really hoping 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.  Note the skids in retracted position have been added.



I then added the kit parts for the fuel and oxidizer vent ports.



I also added 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.


More to come in the next post.

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If I had known the Dragon kit had the XLR-99 parts, I would have gotten it when it was out. These are practically non existant on the secondary market now.


Very nice work!

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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.


Lots more decal work to do, more to come.  Thanks for looking.

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I'm using Hypersonic by Jenkins and Landis and X-15 The NASA Mission Reports by Apogee Books.  Plus, a lot of internet searching.



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Excellent choices.  Jenkins and Landis also published a companion book, 108 pages of photos they couldn't fit in the Hypersonic book.




You might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere, search:

  • ISBN-10 : 1580070744
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1580070744





Edited by habu2
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Jenkins did another X-15 book that preceded the Hypersonic book. You can buy a printed copy but, since it is a NASA technical paper (SP-2000-4518), it is also available online:




I don't know Dennis personally but we have corresponded via email, and he has used some of my photos in one of his books.

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22 hours ago, as205 said:

Thanks Jay.  I missed the X-15A-2 version of the kit.  They seem to be just as hard to find.


To my knowledge they never did a kit version of the A-2, just the pre-builds. Dragon kit issues are a bit funny. On some kits like the Mercury Redstone, they deleted the capsule heatshield so you wouldn't have a complete kit if all you wanted was the capsule. Then on others they do many extra bits you may or may not need and don't tell you about them. The X-15 falls into this as I had no idea it had the XLR-99 parts or the Q ball nose as all the box art showed was ship one with the XLR-11s. But of course you didn't get fuselage bits for the A2. But they of course did the A2 parts for the pre-built one.


Same thing for the X-1A and X-1E, they had the bits tooled for a kit but they only ever offered the pre-builds. I have a couple sets of the Yeager X-1 kit, but I would love to find the X-15 kit.

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