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  Building a full scale Mercury spacecraft

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Author Topic:   Building a full scale Mercury spacecraft
bemison
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posted 09-06-2003 10:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bemison   Click Here to Email bemison     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm helping a friend build a fullscale model of a Mercury Capsule. We have built most of the interior and internal structure with materials found at a hardware store.

Here is the problem! We don't know how to create a good reproduction of the ribbed skin of the capsule. Our preference is to try and recreate the skin with panels of aluminum or tin so it has the feel of the real thing.

Has anyone got any ideas of how to create the ribbed panels of the Mercury Capsule? Are their full scale spacecraft model clubs that we could contact. Any information or ideas would be great. Thanks.

dsenechal
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posted 09-07-2003 12:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dsenechal   Click Here to Email dsenechal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You might try contacting Guard Lee in Apopka, FL. They build full-size spacecraft replicas for museums, and might be able to offer you some suggestions.

Jake
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posted 09-08-2003 03:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jake   Click Here to Email Jake     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You might want to consider vacu-formed plastic instead of metal for the skins. Plastic is much easier to work with, and once it is painted, would be difficult to detect. A simple wooden jig could be used with a home oven and vacuum.

dsenechal
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posted 09-09-2003 07:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dsenechal   Click Here to Email dsenechal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did a little checking, and it appears that most contemporary full-scale Mercury and Gemini capsule replicas have an outer shell made of hand-laid fiberglas. Building a full scale model from vacu-formed plastic would be a little arduous, and would lack rigidity (and we know that's important!).

bemison
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posted 09-10-2003 10:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bemison   Click Here to Email bemison     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the replies and information.

After a lot of discussion we have decided to try and press some thin steel panels. After looking at photos of a real capsule, it looks as though we need three sizes of panel.

If we are successful, I'll post the results. I'll also post some photos of the project for anyone interested.

If things don't work out we will try fiberglass.

Thanks again.

CaptCBoard
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posted 09-12-2003 02:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for CaptCBoard   Click Here to Email CaptCBoard     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One thing you need to keep in mind is that the shingles are all sections of a conical surface and that the corrugations themselves are curved. If you try to do the corrugations as straight "hotdog" shapes, the skin will look faceted.

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
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posted 11-28-2010 04:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, I've read every post regarding a full scale Mercury capsule mock up, I never found any photos of a completed one though.

Here's the deal, we were going to have one donated for our museum but it appears that that isn't going to happen. So, now that I've bragged about it to a number of people, it looks like we will be building one from scratch by ourselves.

Like everyone else that has attempted this, I've scoured the net, found everything I can, pulled every book out of our library, printed off volumes of photos and every basic blueprint available.

There really isn't much out there though: the skin or shingles.

The outer skin is obviously going to be the most challenging part. Fortunately, I've been fabricating for the past 32 years and own a fabrication shop. I will be making a set of adjustable dimple dies to form the outer shell, we'll be making it out of thin sheet metal. Anyone out there have actual dimensions of the 'dimples' and/or outer panel dimensions?

I know a number of you have taken measurements from actual spacecraft. Care to share those with us?

This project will start in mid January. I hope to get some real close up shots during a trip to Houston, Huntsville and KSC in a few weeks but actual dimensions will be the key to making this one of those 'WOW' factors when people see it on display. We will not be doing just the main capsule but the retro pack and escape tower as well.

Like others that have said they will post their results (yet I haven't seen any, all the links posted are no longer valid) we will post ours. If for no other reason than to keep us on the ball and get it done. I just need to figure out how to post photos, it's been a pain for me ever since I joined the site.

Anyway, feel free to e-mail me if you have any comments, ideas or whatever. In the meantime, I'll try to figure out the photo upload issue. Thanks for any help, if we don't get it from the talented folks on this forum... we won't get it anywhere!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-28-2010 09:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I recall correctly, the production crew behind The Astronaut Farmer used "Space in Miniature" No. 5 Mercury as a reference when building their full scale Mercury spacecraft.

Retro Rocket
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From: Santa Paula, Ca,. USA
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posted 11-29-2010 01:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Retro Rocket   Click Here to Email Retro Rocket     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a good CAD model of the Mercury capsule that could be used to fabricate tooling masters for vacuum-forming, fiberglass or even metal.

When I did SFX I helped build full scale mockups of the Apollo Capsule and LEM (Apollo 13) the Mercury Capsule and the Space Shuttle (from the payload bay forward) They were mainly fiberglass which works the best and is the cheapest, easiest and most durable material to work with.

If you're interested just write me.

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
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posted 11-29-2010 02:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for all the responses both on and off list. All this is going to be a big help, I knew I could count on you guys.

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
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posted 01-22-2011 06:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I told you that I would post photos of our full scale Mercury capsule project. So far all I have done is the heat shield area. This is going to be a long project folks.

The first shot is obviously a vintage photo of the actual thing and the second one is what I came up with here in the shop.

mercsim
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posted 01-23-2011 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mercsim   Click Here to Email mercsim     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You need molds for the shingles. There are at least 14 unique ones not counting the ones around the window(s). Whether you stamp them, vacuum form them, or lay them up in fiberglass, you still need all those unique molds. A quick study of the Atomic City plastic model will confirm that. There are a few full size models that only use 3 basic shingles. The skip all the details and look fair from a distance but up close, they really fall short.

Someone needs to model them in a CAD program and then fabricate them. This is obviously best done on a CNC machine. This involves hundreds of hours of work which is why you don't see them everywhere. The few companies that have done it charge A LOT for their work. Movie props are expensive!

I have all the computer models finished, all of the 1/4 molds finished, and some of the full size molds made. We are in the process of testing all the molds in 1/4 scale for fit and finish before we spend hundreds of hours of CNC router time finishing the full scale ones. My sample shingles have been test fit on an actual capsule and are nearly indistinguishable from the actual ones. We are currently preparing to finish the full size molds.

The plan has always been to provide the parts for free, to the right projects and for others that help contribute. This has never been intended to be a profitable venture. I have given away dozens of shingles, full size and quarter scale, with promises of something in return and never hear another word...

I have told many people that I would help, if they contributed. Of course no one ever follows through. Everyone wants something for free, which is expected.

I work on my Mercury Project every day. Even if its for the Engineering paper model, work for the hundreds of computer drawings and models I have created, the many spreadsheets I have organizing the hundreds of parts, or sorting and reviewing the thousands of photos I have to visualize part designs. A few builders have followed me along and have received everything I have promised them.

In the last few years, I started a new career, bought a house that needed major renovation, and adopted two toddlers. I have spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours on this project and have several friends that have contributed hundreds of hours to it. It comes along as it comes as we all have other lives. It has all been for free and freely shared.

How about some photos of your "interior and internal structure."

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
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posted 01-23-2011 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott, great to hear from you again and to know that your still at it. I know you had a ton of stuff on your plate last time we talked.

Actually, our museum effort has only been in the works since June of 2008 and the capsule project just got started about a month ago. I'll be starting on the interior structure next and will certainly post photos for all to see. That's when the thing will start to take shape.

My original offer still stands to put my fabricating shop to use for your efforts as well, if there's anything that I can assist with anyway. Not really looking forward to the shingles part of it but we'll take it one step at a time.

We just returned from a trip where we took hundreds of photos and measurements of every Mercury capsule we could get close to. Whether or not this turns out to be a big help or not remains to be seen. It's the advice I'm getting from guys like you on this forum that have proven to be helpful so far. So thanks to everyone who's contacted me with advice.

Having never taken on anything of this nature before, I'm sure I'll hear about everything I've done wrong or could have done better from the true modelers out there. But our main goal is to get a WOW out of the kids that see this for the first time and to get them interested in space. So bear with me and I'll do my best.

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
Registered: Jun 2006

posted 01-30-2011 03:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's how far I've gotten on the project since the last post. At least it's beginning to look like a capsule.

It's taken about 14 hours to get to this point.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 02-01-2011 06:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fascinating project. I wish you luck with it. By the way, you might want to see if you can get in touch with the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS as well. While they have two Mercury capsules (Liberty Bell 7 and an unflown one) they have also built some mockup ones, including one that sits on top of the Redstone booster outside the museum building. I seem to recall the museum also had a full size vac mockup section of a capsule where they bolted on an escape tower. They may have some ideas on how to do this.

Wonderworks in California might be another possible research option as they make space mockups and sets for the film industry. As I recall, they have done a couple Mercury capsules used in films, although I believe for the most part they re-use old set pieces as opposed to making new ones.

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
Registered: Jun 2006

posted 02-01-2011 10:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the Wonderworks tip Jay, as a matter of fact we just got back from the Cosmosphere as well as visiting the Omni-Plex (Science Museum OK), Frontiers of Flight, Space Center Houston, the full scale model in Pasadena, TX., Space and Rocket Center Center and Marshall in Huntsville and KSC. We took hundreds of photos and dimensions.

As stated earlier, the shingles are going to be the real challenge here. If I could afford to have them made for us I would gladly skip that process. We might still look into it but I fear the cost will drive me to make them here. We'll see when we get to that point.

I just built the framework for the antenna package yesterday and hope to start on the retro package today. I just picked up most of the material for the escape tower as well so there's no shortage of work to do.

saturn1b
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From: Westcliffe, CO
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posted 04-04-2011 07:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for saturn1b   Click Here to Email saturn1b     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Since my last post here, I've managed to get the retro pack and antenna structures put together. I had to take some time to build an English Wheel which is a machine that will allow me to form parabola's or dishes such as the bottom of the retro pack, the top of the antenna package and the flame deflector that sits just above it in the escape tower. Now that the shop isn't 20* I may be able to start on the tower next. I have most of the material so we'll see what I can come up with.

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