1/110 Scale Shuttle model is a success!

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Jan 17, 2009
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Update - See message # 9, where I have spilled the beans, this is a prototype for a KIT!

Recently a long thread in TRF drifted into some discussion of the various shuttle models I’ve done:


One of those was a 1/110 shuttle stack I built in 1979. The thread got me to thinking about doing another 1/110 shuttle, which would be a better model. Such as using the Guillow’s foam orbiter, and vac-formed parts of my own.

I posted a bit about this a week ago in the same thread:


But rather than stretch that thread any farther, I’ve decided to start a new one here.

Last Monday (Dec 14th) , I flew a boilerplate for it, using a D12-3. It flew nicely, about 300 feet, perhaps more, with a good straight liftoff and weathercocking into the wind (5-8 mph) as a very stable non-shuttle model of the same weight would tend to do. I had anticipated I'd need to do some tweaking of the aerodynamics but it flew so well, I could not determine anything about the flight to tweak.

Flew it a second time, another good flight. And the third time, on an E9-4. Another good flight.

Steward Jones shot video of all of those flights, and put them onto YouTube. Here is the link for the high quality version:


And here is the link for a low-res version, for those whose computers balk at playing hi-quality smoothly:

At the BRB December launch yesterday, I flew it three more times. It was windier, at 10 mph or more. It weathercocked more, but still in a manner as a typical model, ejection at a good altitude. All were D12-3 flights, as an E9 flight might have put the orbiter into the woods, and I only have this one foam orbiter at the moment.

Now that the boilerplate has proven itself out, I’ll be ordering some parts (like some good 3.0” tube for the ET, in place of the 3.125” Mailing Tube the boilerplate has). And will be getting some wooden molds made up for the ET Nose, ET Aft Dome, and some other parts (for vac-forming better copies than this boilerplate used).

I have put together a web page showing the origins of the 1/110 model and this past week’s flight photos, at:


The idea of this model is not a detailed scale model. But a relatively easy scale shuttle model to fly for fun.

- George Gassaway





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Very nice, George.

I am not a BG expert but it looked like the shuttle performed well from my untrained eye. In fact, I am surprised at how much it looks like the real thing when it's gliding.

Is this your early Christmas present?


I am not a BG expert but it looked like the shuttle performed well from my untrained eye. In fact, I am surprised at how much it looks like the real thing when it's gliding.

Is this your early Christmas present?
This is the beauty of that Guillow’s foam orbiter. The only glide trimming it needed was to add a little bit of noseweight, and to flatten out the plug-in rudder that has a slight natural bend to it . No messing around with elevon angles, and the molded-in elevons do not move (part of the trick with this model is to get it to not react on boost to the slight upward angle of the elevons which are JUST RIGHT for glide once the correct glide CG is achieved).

As for Christmas, well, the “present” part was the fact that the test flying of the boilerplate went so smoothly.

I’ll report a bit later on what this model is about.

- George Gassaway
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Great idea and thank Steward for the great videos.

Would you mind posting a closeup pic of your orbiter attachment mechanism?

Very nice work, George! Glide mode looked very good

Are my old eyeballs tricking me or is that wing just a teeny bit "non-scale" with a slightly stretched span?
Gus, included are some pics of the attachments.

Since this is a boilerplate, it didn’t matter how pretty it looks, but that it be functional. Also it suffered some “still building it at 3 AM-itis”. And at the field, I found out the long 1/4” plastic tube I was using for a lug just was not sliding smooth enough on the 3/16” rod, so on the field I had to glue on a short 3/16” lug and a short 1/4” lug (did not have a second 3/16” lug in my range box)

The attachments are basically 1/8” dowels on the ET and 1/8” launch lugs on the orbiter.

Originally I glued the two aft-most lugs on the orbiter in the wrong place, about 1/2” forward of where they belonged. Rather than remove them, I kept them and used them for alignment when I glued on two 1/2” lugs behind them (I had used tape to build up the diameter of some scrap 1/8” dowel and slid that thru the old and new lugs to keep the proper alignment as the new lugs were glued on).

When I do the later models, mechanically the attachment method will be the same. But physically they will be better. I plan to work up some cast parts for the ET to orbiter attachments (no plywood), and some sort of cast part for the orbiter to help align those two aft lugs.

Powderburner - yes the span is a bit oversized. That was what Guillows did to improve the glide performance. Also the fuselage width is a hair skinny. By span, it would be 1/94. By fuselage length, it would be about 1/116 scale. So, it works out nicely for a 1/110 scale model, and the oversized wings help with the glide. Actually I think the Estes orbiter also had oversized wings, as did Luther Hux’s 1/72 and 1/48 R/C model airplane orbiters of the early 1980’s. I also used oversized wings on some of my orbiters to improve the glide (except for the ones aimed at potential use for an eventual scale contest model instead of sport flying models).

- George Gassaway




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Very nicely done George!:) Where can one get those Guillows gliders?


Does the underside of the orbiter attach parallel to the wall of the ET, or is the nose of the orbiter canted slightly outward? The photos seem to suggest the nose is canted but it might just be the angle of the photo.



They're between $4 and $5 but I picked up a bunch of them at Michaels last year on the discount rack for $1 apiece. :)
OK, here is what this 1/110 shuttle boilerplate has been about. And I am a little bit surprised nobody figured it out.

A proof-of-concept prototype for a kit that I plan to produce in the next 2 months or so.

I wanted to be sure it flew well before saying anything, or starting to arrange for obtaining raw parts (like tubes) and molds for vac-forming many parts and RTV and casting resin for casting a few other parts.

The kit will use vac-formed parts for the ET nose and aft dome. Vac-formed parts for the SRB noses, aft skirts and SRB nozzles. There MAY be a vac-formed wrap for the intertank, depending on whether I can get the master pattern for that laser-cut (I did a test vac-forming with a similar intertank type of pattern and it worked out well).

Orbiter will be the same, the Guillow’s foam orbiter.

The idea for this model is to be easy to assemble, and for it to fly well. It is not going to have lots of scale details. The idea will be to focus more on flying it than looking at it on a shelf.

The cast parts will not be aimed at being scale detail parts. Instead, they will be aimed at making the model easier to assemble. Such as aligning and gluing the SRB’s to the ET. I have the intention for the ET tube and SRB tubes to be pre-drilled with holes, probably 1/16”. The cast attachment parts will have very short alignment pins (1/16”) that will fit into those pre-drilled holes. So, it will be like gluing together a plastic model that has alignment pins that fit into holes. For the ET to Orbiter attachments, same sort of thing. The ones on the ET will be cast and make use of alignment pins to fit into holes in the ET tube.

There will be very little (possibly zero) use of any paper marking guides for assembly. Reference lines will be pre-marked onto the tubes. I will be making up jigs to assist me with drilling all the various holes at the right places and marking the lines. I *think* I will be able to work up a marking guide for the gray leading edges of the orbiter, for those who would want to have it look more accurate, so they’d have pre-drawn reference lines on the foam orbiter to assist with where to paint it gray.

There will be custom decals. I already have some that I drew up for my 1/72 shuttle, which can be resized (And tweaked since the Guillow’s orbiter cockpit window area is shaped a little differently). Some other aspects of the decals will have to be made up new, since I used some other brand of decals on my 1/72 contest shuttle in addition to my custom ones.

Assuming I do this, it will be done in three phases.

One, I'll be working up the prototype kits at home, and send a couple of them to some people I know for some feedback. That will be the most time-consuming portion since this means making up the master parts for the cast pieces, the jigs, marking jigs, decals, instructions, and even building and flying a boilerplate 2.0 to check out how it does with all the “real” parts (for example the 1.0 prototype uses a mailing tube 3.12” in diameter, not 3.0”, and no intertank wrap other than a printed one). And all of that has to happen before I send out a couple of pre-production prototypes for feedback.

Two, I’ll produce a limited production run of about 10 kits for sale. The money from those first 10 kits will help to recoup the cost of the molds , supplies, and provide some seed money for the next step. I already have two local BRB club members who are pretty much insisting they get to buy kit #1 and kit #2 (both wanted #1), so I do not have too much concern about selling the other 8.

Three, well, if the first 10 sell well, I will buy a lot more supplies and go into unlimited production of the kit. Also I’d like to get feedback from everyone who buys those first 10 kits, so if there was a need to tweak the kit, or instructions, or whatever, I can do that before churning out a lot more kits.

Oh, and four, I may also get into selling a few other things, rather than just sell the shuttle as my only product. Will have to see how it goes.

- George Gassaway
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Cool stuff, George. Good luck with the kit making, et al. Gotta love a shuttle model, detailed or not. :)
One of those was a 1/110 shuttle stack I built in 1979. The thread got me to thinking about doing another 1/110 shuttle, which would be a better model. Such as using the Guillow’s foam orbiter, and vac-formed parts of my own.

Sam Boden of SoAR did a semi-scale shuttle stack with that orbiter, and it gave an excellent flight at our November launch.

Neat idea George. I had 2 of the gliders laying around for a long time and decided to put them in flight. If you look at this thread


( go down to post # 19 ) I took a Bertha and added two gliders and it flew real nice with a D12. I actually added led's to the bottom of the wings and flew it at our night launch in Sept with both gliders sporting running lights along the bottom of the wings. Thougth I had some pics somewhere but seemed to have misplaced them !

I'm interested in getting my name on a list for this kit. Put me down for a kit.
cool work George, looks like you'll have no problem selling the first 10. Any idea on an approximate price, or are you holding off figuring that out until things are a little further developed?
George - wow cool to see someone had the same idea i did !

I modeled mine also after the legacy Estes kit, but I didn't much like the fin layout. I also wanted to experiment with detached boosters, so of course the shuttle is the perfect platform. This is my first post ... i will try to attach some photos. I am currently in Orlando, but moving soon to Huntsville !

My shuttle also used the foam preformed glider. My 'inspiration' was a clear 1-liter bottle which i thought would make a perfect round bottom for the external tank. The rest is just paper! Yes, the nose cones are just paper. So i planned on putting a big (D/E) engine in the tank and smaller (B/C) in the boosters. Boosters and shuttle were held on with straws and dowels.

The first flight was terrible and the whole stack blew apart. I adjusted the weight and the second flight went straight up, but the boosters still came off early and the tank and shuttle went majorly unstable. The next couple flights I used all (3) C6-3's and it went a little better. This link is to the first shot in a really nice sequence. Use the arrow to go right and see the sequence.





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Did you post a build for this? Got notes? I'm planning a build like this and it would be easier to copy/clone yours.

no, and no. i am more of a 'on-the-fly' or 'prototype' builder - i should start a journal though to keep my notes.

Anyway, check this out - it is the model I used for the external tank nose. For the other nose/nozzles I used Roger's transition tool - they were more basic/linear pieces.



Everything else was based on the Estes model like the dowels/straws that connect the shuttle to the tank. The 3 motors and the fin placement made this build quite unstable. I would like to improve that. The back of the tank has two fins on it - not sure that provides any useful control.... I had to put a large amount of weight at the top/rear of the external tank. And that barely keeps it under control.

Also, each booster is held on by one dowel at the top, and two at the bottom. The straws that go around the dowels are not tight, so this may be another reason for instability. I suggest a more snug fitting joint for those if you want to have them detachable.

See photo of the boosters separating. Note they are still firing - and the shuttle and tank started doing flips not long after.... I think everything hit the ground still on fire...

Conclusion: just 'wing' it and it will turn out just as good, if not better :)

Not much progress on the shuttle kit lately. But I hope to get it going again soon.

I did do a bit of testing with some potential decals. In this case I just printed them onto normal paper and used double-sided tape to hold them on. Just to see what they’d look like.

Flew the boilerplate again 2 weeks ago at the February BRB Launch. Flew it twice on a D12. Again two good flights. This makes 8 flights so far.

Photos below.

- George Gassaway





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Nice George!

The 3rd pic looks like the bottom of the shuttle got a little scorched, or is it something else?

I like pic 4 with the moon in the background. Sweet!

The 3rd pic looks like the bottom of the shuttle got a little scorched, or is it something else?
Yep. I had lost the ignitor plug for the D12. I made the mistake of using some wadding and masking tape to hold the ignitor in place. The way I applied the masking tape was across the end, which left two sides “open”. So when the D12 ignited, it shot a bit of flame out sideways, into the orbiter.

I have seen this making tape induced sideways ignition flame with other models too, and should have known better. Well, I knew better, I needed to remember better for a model like this.

So, I will mention in the instructions not to do that. When using the Estes ignitor plugs, there’s been no problem at all.

- George
An update on the shuttle model kit.

Not much progress on it lately. But , but I did finally do a cosmetic upgrade to the boilerplate. I painted the ET, and added paper wraps to the SRB’s. I simply taped them on, with the seams facing into the ET. I am still trying to decide the most practical way to do the SRB wraps as far as cost, ease of application, and so forth.

I will say that I used the easy way of painting of the ET without masking the SRB’s, and applied the SRB wraps without trying to work on the seams facing the ET. It was a lot easier to cut them off, paint the ET, do the wraps, then glue the SRB’s back on. That’s the sequence the kit will use, paint ET, complete SRBs, and then glue the SRB’s to the ET.

Flew the model 4 times on D12-3 power, at the March 20th BRB Launch. All flights were good. The paint and wraps had added some extra mass to it, but it still flew fine (just a little lower of course). The boilerplate has now flown 12 times, all good flights.

Pics below.

Please check out the kits I'm currently auctioning on eBay. I need to pay some bills and hopefully have enough left to help provide the seed money to produce this kit. Link to the auctions: https://tinyurl.com/yzamjlg

- George Gassaway





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