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Spacecraft Modeling

June 12, 2008

It’s summer and I have devoted a little more time to spacecraft modeling. Things were too busy for the last couple of months to accomplish very much, but now there is enough time to proceed with a couple of big projects.

First is the Fantastic Plastic von Braun Ferry Rocket. Allen Ury’s small company has brought out some really interesting stuff. This is a very large kit, mastered by Scott Lowther. It’s a 1:288 scale rendition of the ship von Braun proposed for the series of articles he wrote for Collier’s Magazine in the early 1950s. Because it used hydrazine and nitric acid for propellants, it needed to be huge to get roughly the same lift capacity as the Shuttle. This somewhat blurry cell-phone image is of the orbiter section before the windows are painted.

The whole thing will be about a foot tall and is a big hunk of resin. Here’s an image of the vehicle from a web site called Man Conquers Space – eventually these Australian independent filmmakers will get the whole film completed, presenting an alternate view of the space program we should have had.

Besides working with the usual resin garage kit fit issues – which were not too bad with this kit – I spent a lot of time trying to match the color of the ship to this image. Eventually I would like to scratchbuild a LUT for it based on the Saturn V LUT. This image obviously superimposes the von Braun ship on the Saturn launcher, but it looks good, doesn’t it?

The other big project right now, which will probably take a while, is scratchbuilding a ship that is only described in novels – no images are available. Science fiction and fantasy writer David Drake has written a series of novels detailing the exploits of young Lieutenant Daniel Leary of the Republic of Cinnabar (Space) Navy. They were inspired by the Patrick O’Brian Napoleonic-era sea novels. (On Drake’s site, look for the “RCN series.”)

The RCS Princess Cecile is not aerodynamic, it’s not graceful, it’s not very “cool” looking. Still, there are just enough clues in the books to intrigue me. What would this ship look like? As I design and build, I am also keeping a sort of a diary of the build. When it’s done you can read it here. For now, here’s the cylinder that is the main hull of the ship:

The little peanut down in front is carved from balsa foam –  it’s the beginnings of a matter/antimatter engine nacelle. Sort of.

Anyway, I’ve never tried anything like this before. No drawings, no photos, no nothing. Just words sprinkled through six novels. I’ve done some fairly extensive searching through text versions of the books, made a bunch of notes and some sketches. We’ll see how well it works over time.

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