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1/72 Scale Space Shuttle Challenger STS-41B on MLP

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After being on these forums for many years, and finally have more time in my retired post military career, I have decided to take on a project where I will display a 1/72 scale Monogram Space Shuttle stack on a scratch built mobile launch platform (MLP) as STS-41B.

A little background first.

I was born and raised in Clearwater, Fl which is only a 3-hour drive from my house to the Cape. My father was a photographer (as a hobby only) and dreamed of getting professional close up launch pics like those seen in newspapers and magazines. Back in the early to mid 80’s, we would go as a family to the causeway viewing area (which was roughly 7 miles away from the launch pad) I was in elementary school at the time and I remember seeing several launches in person from the causeway missions STS-41B to STS-61A. Of course there were several that were scrubbed for whatever reason that we were not able to get back and see. I do remember the very last one I saw from the causeway was perhaps the most delayed mission in shuttle history, and that mission was STS-35. I remember being there for the first attempt in April 1990, and scrubbed many more times due to the 17” fuel disconnect leaking until finally it got off the ground very early morning December 2, 1990. Dad would learn that if he wrote his congressman, he could get tickets to the VIP viewing area including a tour the day before launch where the stack would be uncovered at the pad and allow for many excellent photos (and thank God he did, this would come into play now present day with my model projects) Not too long after that, he learned that if he was with the media, he could get to the press site at the countdown clock right next to the VAB. He found a publication to shoot photos for and thus he would go to the press site from mission STS-44 through the end of the program in 2011. I was able to accompany him at the press site for several launches (STS-87, 90, 95, 103, and STS-134) I had to miss out between STS-95 to 134 due to my military career and being stationed out west. I was very fortunate to see all orbiters except for one launch in person. Unfortunately, I never saw Atlantis launch in person. All the missions from the VIP site and press site dad collected the NASA pre-flight (processing, rollout, launch & landing)mission photos. Each mission had tons of press information brochures that had good descriptions, drawings and photos off the mission specific payloads. This also will come into play present day for my upcoming model projects involving displaying payloads. Now that I have more time to finally build these projects, 3D printing technology, perhaps the best resource, these forums, and the internet and finally, all the photos and information I inherited from my father, I am finally ready to start my first project.


My Father’s favorite orbiter was Challenger. I always promised him I would build him Challenger in 1/72 scale. I began working on one before leaving for the Military, but was not happy with just painting black, white and grey, which set me back farther. Unfortunately, I was never able to finish it for him before cancer would take him from me way too soon. I want my first real project to be what I set out to finish for him. So with that, I fully dedicate this build to him. I will make this Challenger as STS-41B due to this being my father’s favorite orbiter and the first launch I ever remember seeing in person at a very young age. Besides, I didn’t want to do a maiden flight or final flight for this orbiter. In my humble opinion, STS41-B was the beginning when the shuttle program was just settling into its glory days prior to STS-51L.


For this project, I am using the 1/72 Monogram shuttle with tank and boosters. Yes that’s right, I will be using the monogram shuttle, not the revell. Just like previous members, I have my own methods to overcome the kit deficiencies (like the oversized windows) to make a pretty good representation of the STS-41B stack. I will also be using some ideas I have read about here in these forums. I also chose the Monogram orbiter because I will be using .020 styrene for the tiles on the belly, fuselage and wings and for the other TPS details. If I did this on the revell orbiter, I think it would make it too “thick”.

Alright, let the project begin!


I started out with obtaining the main dimensions of the MLP and drew them up in a graphics program and printed out.


Next came the hard task of what I will be making it from. I tried lexan sheet several years ago as an experiment, it didn’t go very well and it kept cracking, not to mention the mess it left. I was recently in Hobby Lobby and cruised over to the photo frame section and scored a bunch of foam board 3/16” think by 36” by 48” I felt this would be fairly light weight but strong to hold the completed model. Plus, it is easier to cut and make versus the lexan sheet.


I then went into my illustrator program and drew it out in 1/72 scale dimensions. I saved the document as a PDF and “poster printed” it out over 9 sheets of 8.5 x 11 card stock paper.  After following the cut marks and cutting it out, I taped the 9 sheets together to form the size it will be in 1/72 scale. This would serve as my template I place over the foam board and carefully cut to size. I used a scale ruler to confirm all measurements. Also, Before I trace and cut the foam board, I placed a partially assembled stack on it and confirmed the SRB and SSME openings match the model. Everything lined up and checked good!


Next, I make 2 exact cutouts, one for the top surface, one for the bottom surface. I cut out the basic shape and the SRB & SSME exhaust openings. I then traced the lines for where the outside walls will go in addition to where I will put the main supporting walls internally. I will use the cut down balsa wood strip as a guide and to strengthen the walls. Also want to note at this point that the real dimensions are 135’x160’, I have it cut according to my dimensions of 133’x158’ 2 feet shy on both ends. My plan is to order and take a continuous sheet of .020 styrene sheet And adhere this to the exterior of the platform including the interior of the exhaust openings. The 1 ft on each side will be the ribbing on the exterior. 


Well, that’s it for now. I’m off to a good start I think. Please note this will not come anywhere close to the details of the 1/144 scale version another ARC member is currently working on. My version will not come close to his, but it will be a really good representation overall. I plan on making updates 2 times a week, this is my goal. This will not be a fast build, I would like to have it completed within a year for the MLP and an additional year for the orbiter and stack. Heck who knows, I might keep going after this build is done and make a scratch built 1/72 scale launch complex.

I have other projects I will be working on in conjunction with this one as I take a break at times from this project.
One project I have planned is in 1/144 scale where Atlantis (STS-38) is passing Columbia (STS-35) outside the VAB at night time.

Other projects include 1/72 scale shuttles with various payloads (TBD) but definitely Hubble servicing mission STS-82 Discovery is the foremost on my mind for my first payload model. I also plan on several other payloads at 1/72 Scale.

I have several shuttles with SCA builds to do, not sure which missions would be represented yet, more to follow. 
I have several 1/100 scale orbiters to build, not sure what the projects will be at this time, more to follow there.

Finally, I also have several 1/144 shuttles with launch complexes to build, not sure which missions yet. So many ambitious projects, so many models in their boxes waiting to be built. 


In the end, my goal in all my builds is to try and tackle a mission that hasn’t been done yet on the forums here. I want to share what I’m doing in hopes to help others as others have done for me, maybe inspire some more builds from others. I have techniques that I developed and will be trying and using ideas that others have shared (for example, textured paper for thermal blankets in 1/72 scale) should be good, I’m going to go as long as time and health will allow. 

As I said earlier, I dedicate this build of STS-41B on the MLP to my Father, this one is for you man!
















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Hi there,


wow, you have planned a very substantial overall program of projects. :thumbsup:


Your chosen early Challenger mission STS-41B I find very interesting, as it took place only one year after the STS-6 mission, to which I have dedicated my long-term project. So I will surely discover a lot in common, from the Shuttle stack to the MLP-2 that was used at the time. :whistle:


Have fun at work, I'm looking forward to it. up040577.gif

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My Goodness Discoveryov103 ... ambitions is DEFINITELY the word! Take your time ... you have a lotta plans and don't ... burn ... out ... trying to get 'em completed.

I hope we've shown you some of our ideas in correcting the Monogram Orbiter and I look forward to seeing your methods too!

I've still got 2 1/72 Shuttles in the stash and have been spinning my wheels ... I hope you'll inspire me to set that fire under my ... bum!  :whistle:


And I too look forward to your twice a week posts, but don't hold yourself to it ... life gets in the way when we least expect it ...


Okay ... on with the show!   :thumbsup:


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Just want to add one more vote of motivation! Can't have too many shuttle modelers in which to share both our failures learnings and successes.
Also glad to find out there's yet one soul on here with a lofty list of shuttles to model! Looking forward to see what you have to share!

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Spaceman:  Yes sir, almost the same build as yours, just at 2x the scale. Like I said I chose this particular mission because it was the first launch I remember seeing in person. Also, I failed to mention the Pilot on this mission I am modeling (STS-41B)  Robert "Hoot" Gibson is the one astronaut I always looked up to (and still do). 


crowe-t:   Thank you, very happy to see the interest with this build. Should be good when complete.   


K2Pete:   Absolutely I will take my time. I have a large inventory of models to build and may take a break away from one project and work on another. 

Maybe initially 2X a week updates was a little ambitious, especially since I had the intital post, been a crazy last 2 weeks,  but once a week at a minimum I will post an update.


JPaunicka:   Agreed, there are lots to learn from successes from fellow modelers. If you ask me, the wait has been well worth it. With advances in technology and learning from others, these are what made the wait well worth it. 


It has been a crazy last 2 weeks since my initial post and I just wanted to write a small update. I am going to be working on the MLP heavily this weekend. Currently I have both top and bottom of the platform surfaces cutout, including SSME and SRB exhaust holes on both. Sides 2, 3, and 4 (Left, rear, and right sides respectively) cut and glued. I am getting the internal supports cut out and placed as I write this. SSME and SRB exhaust areas are being cut out in addition to side 1 (front side) as this was significantly different in size from side 3. The goal is to have the "box" done and glued all together before the weekend is over.  Pictures in my update Sunday evening.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is an update on where I am at with my MLP project so far.

First, I want to note something here. When I am talking about the MLP sides, the sides are as follows: SIDE 1- the side you see if you were standing in front of the MLP as it sits on the pad and would see the top Surface of the orbiters wings. SIDE 2- the side that would be closest to the fixed service structure as it stood on the pad. SIDE 3- the side that if you looked at head on, you would see the orbiters belly tiles. SIDE 4- would be the side opposite of where the fixed service structure stands. 
I started out by measuring the thickness of the foam board (3/16”) or at 1/72 scale 1.25 scale feet and subtracted that from the perimeter edges and drew a line. I then cut balsa wood strips into 2” pieces and placed along the lines. This will be where the sides will align with platform top and bottom pieces. 
Next, I cut the SRB exhaust holes which are 42‘ long and 20’ wide (real thing converted into same dimensions in 1/72 scale) I made the 20’ sections 1.25 feet longer on both pieces, reason being, this will be where the 42’ piece will intersect. So on the 42’ pieces, I glued foam board to the back side which ended up giving me a box with a final dimension of 42’x20’ inside perimeter. This will match my upper and bottom surface cutouts. 
just like with the perimeter of the upper and lower platform surfaces, I measured the thickness of the foam board and subtracted it from the sides of the SRB exhaust openings and drew a dark line. I then placed 2” balsa wood strips around the openings where the “box” will go. I then glued the boxes for the SRB exhaust openings to the lower side of the top MLP surface. I placed some weight to make sure the boxes would make firm contact and glued into place. 
at this point I had already took sides 1-4 and glued them all together. I believe this turned out to be a mistake and decided I will go back and re-cut the pieces and after I have the SSME exhaust openings in place along with the SRB exhaust openings glued to both upper and lower surfaces of the MLP. I will then “insert” them and glue firmly into place one side at a time. 
Speaking of sides, side 1 on the lower surface of the MLP is a little tricky because it will be slightly less thick by several feet on the run from side 1 edge to roughly half the distance of the SSME exhaust opening. In fact, you can see where I cut the width of the lower platform surface to half way up the SSME exhaust opening. 
I have tried a few attempts to get the lower surface on the side 1 end and the SSME exhaust openings and was not happy with the results, they were off slightly. I am on to it now and third time is shaping up to be the charm here. I also was debating on whether or not I re-I force the area from the rear sides of the SRB exhaust openings to side 3. At this time, I am happy with the strength of the sides and all 3 exhaust openings, it feels more than sturdy to me. 

I am ordering huge sheets of styrene plastic sheets that I will be adhering to the foam board. Next MLP I build, I will adhere the styrene sheet to the individual foam board pieces BEFORE I glue the sides, exhaust openings and upper and lower surfaces.

I am entertaining the idea of placing all my templates I made for this project and all supporting material (drawings, photos, etc.) into a drop box folder and sharing......something tells me I don’t think I will get any resistance on this one.

So that is where I am at for now, enjoy!












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  • 4 weeks later...

Hello everyone! It has been a few weeks since my last update, and for that I apologize. I am in the process of moving right now, happened kinda suddenly, and in a good way, nothing bad. Unfortunately that means that I will have to put my project on the back burner for a little while during the packing/moving/unpacking phases. I am happy and grateful yet timing sucks as I just received my first 3D printer And now I will have to leave it put away and can’t set it up and use it due to how quickly these recent events and changes (once again for the good!) have occurred. In the meantime, I am drawing up some parts in my CAD program so that when I am finally settled in and am ready to push the print button For the first time, I should have a nice amount of parts to print. Something I need to do for my models eventually, and it’s something I can do while things are Boxed up and still have a feeling of accomplishment. 
As for the MLP model, I have all pieces finally cut correctly and am in the finishing phases of gluing everything together. Desperately trying to finish the main “box” Before moving time. The items I am designing include the tail service masts, railings that go around the perimeter, SRB hold downs, Water pipes, rain birds, many other smaller details and even the exterior sidings. I will also be working on drawing up some parts for future projects dealing with payloads for specific missions. Another item of interest for me will be drawing up the external tank inner tank part with all the stringers for a more accurate representation of the stack, and also the booster frustums for both 72 and 1/144 scales. I have even pondered venturing into 1/100 scale world with a custom tank and booster set for the Tamiya orbiters. Oh, the possibilities are endless!!!!
If I can provide updates, I will provide them as much as I can during all this. Thank you for your patience, and this minor delay should turn out the wait to be well worth it in the end.

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