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Lifting Body Study Models

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Hello. I'm new to posting here, but I've been following the site for a while... mainly to keep up with the progress of Tracy's (Vidar_710) incredible Excelsior project. I don't build a lot of models, and usually only when I'm actively studying a subject. Consequently, I'm not nearly as skilled as someone who practices the craft on a regular basis.


That having been said, I figured that my current subject of interest might be worth sharing.


My study models

I've always had a fondness for the lifting body program of the 60's and 70's (similar to my love of the X-15 program, if not nearly as strong). A few months back I started looking into what info I could find on the HL-10 and along with the data collection I started building a study model at about 1/24th scale. The study of the HL-10 led to studying the M2-F2/3, and more recently the SV-5 project (X-23 and X-24a).


What was surprising was that while I found a fair amount of data on the designs of the HL-10 and SV-5, there was very little on the M2-F2/3. So while plans could be pretty easily worked out by comparing and contrasting available drawings of the HL-10 and SV-5 with photos of the actual vehicles, there weren't any good drawings of the M2-F2/3 to start with... so I reverse engineered my own.


Often times I don't take study models very far (which is why I rarely share them). In some cases I might only assemble sections to get a feel for a design... like these of the M2-F3 and SV-5P (X-24a).nasa_02.thumb.jpg.7020ffee6a28f726cda11399c126f7f6.jpg


As I started getting deeper into the history of the M2-F2/3, I figured I'd build a more fleshed out version like my HL-10.



And even though I hadn't originally planned on it, I got interested enough in the SV-5 project to start in on a more fleshed out version of that one too. Leading to a set of three 1/24th scale builds (at various stages of completeness).





So I'm sure the question has cross some of your minds... where do I go from here?


The HL-10 hasn't changed much as the other models have progressed. At this point my next overall step would be to hit the models (when they all reach the same stage as the HL-10) with automotive primer and start working out the remaining defects with glazing putty (repeating as needed).

When I'm actually happy with the quality, I'll use these as masters for molds. I can then continue adding details to the models pulled from those molds.


The masters for the M2-F2/3 naturally lends themselves to being able to make both versions of the craft. I'm working on keeping the SV-5 study model as generic as possible so that it'll work for both the SV-5D (X-23) and SV-5P (X-24a).


At any rate, I figured I finally had something worth sharing with you guys.


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Wow, that is really cool!


Even though it isn't part of the technical research I've been doing, learning about the guys who flew these vehicles has been really interesting. Like seeing that Fred Haise had been involved before moving to the Apollo program, which made him a logical choice for flying the Enterprise.

I've had a great time reading Wingless Flight: The Lifting Body Story (on NASA's site, HTML or PDF). It has some great stories, including Gentry's experiences with the M2-F1.



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Nicely done Shaw and glad to see you posting here!

Now, I'd love to know how you built these ... between the ribs, is the material Bondo or Sheet Insulation or Wood and then lotsa sanding?


And it certainly is fun to do a little research, build something to visualize your mental images and then ... flesh it out to a relatively finished model.

I think we all understand the evolution of your models. 


And we'd love to see more, in whatever stage of completeness you wanna post.  ;- D

If you've done the research and one of us needs a little advice, we'll know whose thread to turn to!



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Thanks for the encouragement guys!



On 11/6/2022 at 1:41 PM, K2Pete said:

Now, I'd love to know how you built these ... between the ribs, is the material Bondo or Sheet Insulation or Wood and then lotsa sanding?

Its styrofoam cut to the general shape using a hot wire. I then applied spackling and sand to get the shape more refined. I then started glazing the model with Elmer's glue to get the surface sorta "plastic", which is about where I need it to be to start applying Rust-Oleum auto primer.


Honestly, I only planned on making the HL-10 and M2-F2/3. But because it is best to let the Elmer's glue on the surface dry for about a week, I decided to build the SV-5 body to keep me occupied.


So sometime this week I'll start applying Rust-Oleum auto primer to the first two models and working out the remaining surface flaws using a glazing putty. After I'm happy with the results, I'll hit them with a gloss coat and they'll be ready to make silicon rubber molds.


I've used a similar process in scratch building other models in the past (like these... here and here). Right now I'm mostly interested in learning the contours of these vehicles. Making molds is sorta like hitting save as on them before trying out other possible options with them. I know I'd like to make simple display models from them, but maybe someday I'll spring for a used dental vacuum former to make clear canopy parts and build more detailed versions.

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Fantastic stuff, Shaw!  I've always wanted to build the HL-10 from The Six Million Dollar Man : )   I bought a vacuform machine for the purpose of building a 1/18 or 1/32 model and tried to build the buck but gave up.   The vac form machine's been sitting there for more than a decade waiting for the right buck to come along, lol.   Then 3D printing came and offered hope in being able to print the whole airframe -- the only problem being I'm terrible with surfaces and complex curves so I couldn't model the body.  So there you have it - a vacuform machine with no buck to form and a 3D printer with no HL-10 body to print.   But I'm still dreaming of that 1/32 (or bigger) HL-10.   


I want to learn, too, about how to vac-form canopies.   I heard the material has to be right.  I do have the smaller dental machine for vacforming smaller parts.  It would be nice to  have an HL-10 with a clear canopy and clear bubble nose with edges that exactly match the edges on the body for a closed-canopy model : )    I think we need to collaborate, haha.


Re putty not sure if you're looking for other kinds but if you are I would suggest you look into Smooth-On Free-Form Air that Tracy hipped me to on one of his airliner builds.  I just love the stuff -- no stink and so much easier to knead than Apoxie Sculpt - like kneading cotton candy  : )   No shrinkage and feather-light even after drying.   It's everything you've ever dreamed of in a putty.   

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On 11/9/2022 at 6:52 AM, crackerjazz said:

Fantastic stuff, Shaw! 




These models are, in the truest sense, study models. I'm learning about the shapes by building them and hoping to incorporate that info into my plans. It would be great if the HL-10 model works out perfectly, but I did a lot of sculpting so I'm not expecting a high level of precision with this one.


With that having been said, like you I'm a fan of the HL-10. So I am going to draw up more detailed plans... and plans really are meant to be built. I'd love to take a stab at a 1/18 build, but you might find that I'll have included enough data in my plans to render a printable product.


Having watched your work on the LLRV over the years, I would love to see an HL-10 done with that sorta eye for detail. And I'd love to be able to contribute to such a build (even if I couldn't do it myself).


And thanks for the tip on putty, I'll have to give that a try.



Small update...


I hit the HL-10 with primer and started working on the surface flaws. I need to do a little more work on the M2-F3 before it gets its first primer coat and I'm still working out issues with the SV-5.


Here they are currently...



I made a mock-up of the rear ramp that would be added to make a SV-5D (X-23) to get a feel for what would be needed. It isn't part of the current build, just sitting in for the photo.


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So I've been doing some research on the SV-5 program, mostly trying to flesh out the SV-5D (X-23). Below is a sketch I drew up with some notes.




Nailing down the details of the rear panel has been my main focus because there are surprisingly few good reference images.

I have been slowly plugging away on the SV-5 body. Here it is mocked up as the SV-5P (X-24A) with stand-in center fin and flaps.



And here it is mocked up as the SV-5D (X-23) with stand-in rear ramp.




On the M2-F3 body, I decided I wanted to address some issues before starting in on the primer, so here it is after a few touch ups (with the stand-in fins).



As for the HL-10, still plugging away at it. Here it is after the most recent primer pass.



It still has spots I need to address, but I'm making progress.

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Yeah, for me the effort of recreating things like this is an important part of learning the subject. It is similar to how I used to study surfaces back when I was doing mathematics. I would sit down with a pencil and paper a draw surface like an immersion of the real projective plane...



Doing it this way (starting with only what I knew about the topology of the surface), I had to really under stand the nature of it. And the drawings of the surface could be different depending on how I envisioned the immersion...




I have applications that can create very beautiful versions of the same surface (like this), but I don't think I (personally) get as much out of passively looking at a computer generated version as I do when I have to do it myself.


Back to this learning experience, because my HL-10 is still quite featureless, I've been using photos of the HL-10 wind tunnel models for comparisons...




I know I'm late to the study of this and that you guys have seen much of this before, but I thought I'd share some of my references. Here are a couple sheets assembled from those sources...





And here is where you can find some of those sources...

(1) HL-10 diagrams, Part 1 (The Unwanted Blog)
(2) HL-10 diagrams, Part 2 (The Unwanted Blog)
(3) NASA Tech Memo on HL-10 Wind Tunnel Model 1971
(4) NASA Tech Memo on HL-10 Wind Tunnel Model 1974
(5) Development and Testing the HL-10 1994

As for my models, because the first versions are going to be low detail display models, I've been trying to work out what to include for decals. Here is what I'm planning on for the HL-10 and M2-F3 (I'm not close enough to an X-24A to worry about decals at this point)...



Thanks again for the encouragement!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Quick update...

A couple weeks ago I started in on the primer/putty stuff on the M2-F3, and I started building the fins for both models out of styrene.




Because I'm getting close to the last primer coat on the HL-10, I figured this would be a good time to sketch out the canopy details on the model.



I'll use clear packing tape to lift the pencil lines off the surface and place the tape on a sheet of paper to scan it in. From that image I can create a clean version for making masks (windows) and decals (hatch outline).


I've gone through a few more rounds of primer/puttying on the M2-F3, and refined the fins a bit more. Originally I was only going to make molds of the bodies, but considering how involved of a process it has been to create the fins, I'll be using these as masters as well.


Here are a few more shots of the models with test versions of the decals for the elevons and upper flaps in place (making sure that my illustrations actually fit the models).










I have been working on the SV-5, but the progress hasn't been that visually interesting. I figure that I'm within a week of starting the primer/putty stuff on it... which should make the remaining flaws show up nice and clear.

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  • 4 weeks later...


Sometimes I'm not sure what to include as far as build details because I figure you guys have so much more experience at this stuff than I do.

Here is a quick family portrait of the masters...



The SV-5 has had its first puttying and second primer pass, and I made the X-24A center fin master out of styrene. They're darker because my wife couldn't find Rust-Oleum so I'm using Krylon primer on this one.

I believe these are all of the masters (bodies, fins and the M2-F3 canopy) I'll be making molds of. I'm still working out how I'm going to approach this with the odd shapes of the bodies.

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2 hours ago, Shaw said:

Sometimes I'm not sure what to include as far as build details because ...


What I want you to do is build what you enjoy, build it to satisfy your needs, your desires, and build it to be yours.

This is not a job contract to meet the economic demands of an employer or market forces.

This is a creation from your being.

So ...

create what pleases and fulfills your being.


Trying new things, new processes, new materials, new designs, because your being wants to try them is a very different kind of creation from trying new things because you feel forced to try new things in order to keep up with the Joneses.

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I completely agree with SWForests ... include what YOU wanna include on these pages. 

Before I got into this hobby 15 years ago or so, I saw modellers using materials and styrene and I recall thinking, "I did NOT KNOW we could DO-O-O that!" Using copper wire to represent spark plug wires on a Merlin engine, Aluminum Foil to represent a Natural Metal Finish on an Aircraft, stacking styrene sheet to add thickness to a part ... and even now, when I build a model, I'm trying a new technique ... for me. These guys may have used it many times before, but it's new for me.


I also use this forum to document the build ... for ME. If any one gets something out of it, wonderful.


So Shaw, include as much or as little as YOU wish. But know this ... I'll be watching and learning from YOU. Thinking, "I didn't know we could DO-O-O that!"



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10 hours ago, K2Pete said:

Before I got into this hobby 15 years ago or so, I saw modellers using materials and styrene and I recall thinking, "I did NOT KNOW we could DO-O-O that!"

That point for me was in my 7th grade year, uhh, 14 years old?, after having been building model kits since kindergarten age.

Memory of where exactly I learned that is foggy but it was around that time that I got first scale modeling and model railroading magazines & when I discovered the library had some books on model building in both genres.


The resulting thought was along the lines of, "Oh cool! Hmm, what can I do on my models with those things?"


First things I remember doing after that are;


> making some external stowage and tow cables for Tamiya 1/35 tanks, yeah the tow cable was picture hanging wire and probably too thick for scale, and the packs and rolls had straps without buckles if they even had straps, but, hey, it was things I made! 👷‍♂️

> adding paper and cardstock and plastic cockpit wall details to a Monogram 1/72 P-51B & cutting its canopy to be posed open, yeah the details were kind of basic and a bit clunky, but it sure was satisfying to see the finished thing, and it even won junior category in a local model contest. 😎

> scratchbuilding cab seats for a Tyco HO scale Santa Fe F9 locomotive, yeah, there was no cab floor and the seats were glued right to the sidewalls a la Hawk, Airfix, and Aurora, model airplane style, but, hey, I made little bitty seats to put 2 little bitty 1/87 scale guys in! 😁

> scratchbuilding a sci-fi space fighter of my own design, all flat sheet styrene plates and not a curve on it, but hey, It Is Mine! 😁

Edited by southwestforests
fixed an autocorrect-induced typo
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  • 5 months later...

So I was slowly able to piece together enough silicon rubber to make molds of the M2 parts. The next step is getting the resin I'll need.


I had enough resin to make a test canopy, here is that part with the other M2 masters...


I had also been plugging away at the SV-5 masters (which are nearly done). But I still wanted to do something more than deal with fixing surface imperfections on that model, so I started in on something else... the Enterprise.


I've only ever seen one space shuttle in-person, and that was the Enterprise back in 1978 (it had stopped at our local airport on the carrier 747 to refuel). I figured I'll build it up in her first flight configuration (with the tail cone) because that was pretty much the same way she looked when I saw her.


I started by picking a size (1/125 scale, which fit nicely on a 8.5" x 14" sheet), and then I built a mock-up to be sure I was happy with it. After that I started in on making my dumpster diving masters (made out of whatever I could find).


Here is the mock-up and the WIP masters as they currently stand...



This isn't meant to be a hyper accurate/detailed model, just something to do while I wait for the materials I need to finish my other models.

Edited by Shaw
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  • 2 weeks later...

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