Build thread: fantasy scale Virgin Orbit LauncherX

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mbeels

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Anyone have an opinion?
Usually.

I think I like the logos on each side. I don't think that the top looks too crowded, especially if I mentally subtract the CG and CP markers. It seems to me that the logos are the central artwork of this rocket, and should be prominent. It'd look pretty empty with one of them missing.
 

neil_w

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OK, seems unanimous. Glad I included two in my sheet. :)
 

BABAR

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Real is over rated! Make it your own :)

View attachment 462843


Oh, oh, oh! I had to edit because once you do it, it is real :)

Mr. Alway once replied to a photo I sent him that the rocket in the photo was not painted in an actual paint scheme but then continued that since it was painted that way it is now an actual paint scheme :)

-Bob
Desperately.....trying.....not.....to......type.......something.....politically.,,,,incorrect.........
 

neil_w

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WHITE PAINT

Based on assorted things I've read here and on @hcmbanjo 's blog, I decided to try something slightly different for my white coat:
1620395164049.png

The hypothesis is that the semi-gloss might be a bit less subject to the unpredictability of the Rusto 2X gloss white. I'm usually clear-coating the rocket anyway, so I don't need that extra bit of glossiness in the paint. I bought a can of white and black semi-gloss. Honestly, I've had worse luck with the black than with the white, but I often need to sand down my white coat and apply another final coat to smooth it out. Let's see how this goes.

I was extra-careful to clean off the rocket thoroughly this time, with multiple passes with alcohol wipes and a microfiber cloth. I did not use a separate primer coat, beyond what remained of my filler-primer.

*** STOP TALKING AND JUST SHOW US THE PAINT ALREADY ***
Fine, fine. Click for larger, as always.
white.jpeg

This is three coats of the paint, again with no additional primer. Verdict: Considerably better than my usual white basecoat. It is noticeably less glossy, but the level of gloss is fine for me (should look great after Future). On the whole it is quite a bit smoother than usual, giving me no reason to even think about sanding down and recoating. Could be luck, could be my better-than-usual prep, better technique, or the paint itself, who knows, but test #1 of the Semi-Gloss is an unqualified success.

I was also better than usual at not banging the still-wet rocket into anything in the shed while putting it away to cure. I did find that one bit of foreign matter landed on the rocket before it was dry:
white speck.jpeg

I picked off part of it with my fingernail, that's what's left. I realized it will be covered with the logo decal, so I'm just gonna leave it the way it is there.

Most of the not-quite-filled seams ended up fine, except this one:
white seam.jpeg

That's pretty bad, but I'm probably not going to touch it. It's on the underside and I won't see it very often. My past attempts at fixing things like this have often made them worse. But clearly I need to focus a bit more attention on dealing with these things earlier on. The seams between the transitions and the body tubes (that I previously fretted over) generally came out OK. Not perfect, but perfectly satisfactory.

I free-handed the tip of the nose cone with my Vallejo gloss black, and one of my beloved Testor's micro-sponge touch-up brushes.
1620396578458.png

No masking here, too hard to do in my experience so I entrusted it to my shaky hand and did OK:
nose_tip.jpeg

I'll also be using the Vallejo for this, with a much larger brush. This is qualifies as an experiment, since it will be the largest component I've attempted to brush-paint with the Vallejo. Largest component I've ever brush-painted is the pink eraser on the Skywriter Deluxe, but that was different paint (cheap-o Craft-Smart paint from Michael's).

I had really, really, really wanted to paint the nozzle black before assembly, so I wouldn't have to mask it. I just couldn't come up with a way to do it that would ensure everything would go together correctly at the end. So now I needed to mask it, and although it is a small mask it was indeed just as difficult and miserable a job as I had anticipated, and I am not confident it's going to come out great. I used my Tamiya curvy tape for the sections between the fins, and then a jumble of regular Tamiya to cover the area behind the fins.
nozzle_mask.jpeg

In hindsight, I perhaps could have moved the trailing edge of the fins a bit forward of the seam, to leave room for a more normal masking tape line. I'm going to try to be extremely careful with the brush around there (maybe I'll use the sponge to paint the mask line), but I'm certainly I'm still going to get leakage. My fingers are crossed.
 

jqavins

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*** STOP TALKING AND JUST SHOW US THE PAINT ALREADY ***
Fine, fine. Click for larger, as always.
Craftsmanship even in posting. That's a nice touch, changing the typeface as well as the colors here.
No masking here, too hard to do in my experience so I entrusted it to my shaky hand and did OK:
View attachment 463160
Nice job, so maybe anything to help in the future isn't needed. But I can't resist (as usual). You might try poking the tip of the nose through a small hole in a piece of card stock to define the edge of the black point.
In hindsight, I perhaps could have moved the trailing edge of the fins a bit forward of the seam, to leave room for a more normal masking tape line.
So I guess that goes into the Lessons Learned database under Design for Manufacturability. (The first item in the Lessons Learned database is "Always consult the Lessons Learned database". It's sort of the opposite of Fight club.)
 

neil_w

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Craftsmanship even in posting. That's a nice touch, changing the typeface as well as the colors here.
Nice job, so maybe anything to help in the future isn't needed. But I can't resist (as usual). You might try poking the tip of the nose through a small hole in a piece of card stock to define the edge of the black point.
I might try it, but it requires (a) a very clean hole, and (b) a good seal. Or does it? I don't now if brushed-on paint will want to seep under the cardstock. I guess I should experiment.
So I guess that goes into the Lessons Learned database under Design for Manufacturability. (The first item in the Lessons Learned database is "Always consult the Lessons Learned database". It's sort of the opposite of Fight club.)
Rather, DFP: Design For Paintability. I *always* think about it in my designs, but there are always unexpected things that crop up. In this case, it was expected, but I failed to think about how to deal with it up front. Thinking about it now, rather than move the trailing edge forward, I could have put a little diagonal notch in the back of the fin, which might have even looked cool.
 

mbeels

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Thinking about it now, rather than move the trailing edge forward, I could have put a little diagonal notch in the back of the fin, which might have even looked cool.
Oh totally, that would have looked cool.

No masking here, too hard to do in my experience so I entrusted it to my shaky hand and did OK:
Looks great!

I do think that the semi-gloss came out very well. I've also done satin on some rockets, I like the variation in texture in addition to the colors (for example, satin red nose cone, and gloss white body, or even mixed textures of the same color). Satin does a great job of hiding less than perfect surface prep (or rather, gloss reveals everything!).
 

neil_w

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I do think that the semi-gloss came out very well. I've also done satin on some rockets, I like the variation in texture in addition to the colors (for example, satin red nose cone, and gloss white body, or even mixed textures of the same color). Satin does a great job of hiding less than perfect surface prep (or rather, gloss reveals everything!).
You get a double-whammy with gloss: shows imperfections *and* is harder to actually get a smooth coat of paint, at least with the Rusto 2x.

It seems the flatter the paint, the smoother the result, even after accounting for the effects of the more diffuse reflections. If going from gloss -> semi gloss can get me a significant improvement in that area, I'm all in. Too bad they only make it in black and white, but I certainly use those a lot.
 

boatgeek

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You get a double-whammy with gloss: shows imperfections *and* is harder to actually get a smooth coat of paint, at least with the Rusto 2x.

It seems the flatter the paint, the smoother the result, even after accounting for the effects of the more diffuse reflections. If going from gloss -> semi gloss can get me a significant improvement in that area, I'm all in. Too bad they only make it in black and white, but I certainly use those a lot.
There was an article years back in WoodenBoat magazine entitled "In Defense of Flat Paint." The author pointed out how well light-colored flat paint hides surface imperfections. I use a lot of lower gloss paint as well, though usually in darker colors.
 

neil_w

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NOZZLE, PART 1

One coat: not good
qXZ4VsgdSnu3OyN9PYLh+A_thumb_12294.jpg

Two coats: better
S2qWyOBwRyiwGyhMK3wRkg_thumb_12295.jpg

Three coats: betterer?
<insert pic that looks exactly like the previous one>


After hearing over and over how folks like to pull their masking tape while the paint is still wet, I tried to pull a piece wrapped around the back of a fin, and immediately made a gooey mess. Touch-ups will be required, and that is the last time I'll be touching masking tape before the paint dries. The way it pulled up makes me a bit concerned about the adhesion of the Vallejo to the underlying enamel. It's very easy to touch up if anything ever happens to it, though, and the Future coat should give it a bit of protection.
 

Bruiser

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You do much better with a brush than I do. I would have masked the heck out of it and sprayed the black.

Looks very good. Is that it for paint now? On to decals next?

-Bob
 

neil_w

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Looks very good. Is that it for paint now? On to decals next?
Well, I need to pull the mask and and do the inevitable touch-ups, but then yeah decals. I also need to make myself some marking guides to help align the decals; lots of fiddly lines to do.
 

BABAR

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WHITE PAINT

Based on assorted things I've read here and on @hcmbanjo 's blog, I decided to try something slightly different for my white coat:
View attachment 463145
The hypothesis is that the semi-gloss might be a bit less subject to the unpredictability of the Rusto 2X gloss white. I'm usually clear-coating the rocket anyway, so I don't need that extra bit of glossiness in the paint. I bought a can of white and black semi-gloss. Honestly, I've had worse luck with the black than with the white, but I often need to sand down my white coat and apply another final coat to smooth it out. Let's see how this goes.

I was extra-careful to clean off the rocket thoroughly this time, with multiple passes with alcohol wipes and a microfiber cloth. I did not use a separate primer coat, beyond what remained of my filler-primer.

*** STOP TALKING AND JUST SHOW US THE PAINT ALREADY ***
Fine, fine. Click for larger, as always.
View attachment 463150
This is three coats of the paint, again with no additional primer. Verdict: Considerably better than my usual white basecoat. It is noticeably less glossy, but the level of gloss is fine for me (should look great after Future). On the whole it is quite a bit smoother than usual, giving me no reason to even think about sanding down and recoating. Could be luck, could be my better-than-usual prep, better technique, or the paint itself, who knows, but test #1 of the Semi-Gloss is an unqualified success.

I was also better than usual at not banging the still-wet rocket into anything in the shed while putting it away to cure. I did find that one bit of foreign matter landed on the rocket before it was dry:
View attachment 463152
I picked off part of it with my fingernail, that's what's left. I realized it will be covered with the logo decal, so I'm just gonna leave it the way it is there.

Most of the not-quite-filled seams ended up fine, except this one:
View attachment 463154
That's pretty bad, but I'm probably not going to touch it. It's on the underside and I won't see it very often. My past attempts at fixing things like this have often made them worse. But clearly I need to focus a bit more attention on dealing with these things earlier on. The seams between the transitions and the body tubes (that I previously fretted over) generally came out OK. Not perfect, but perfectly satisfactory.

I free-handed the tip of the nose cone with my Vallejo gloss black, and one of my beloved Testor's micro-sponge touch-up brushes.
View attachment 463159
No masking here, too hard to do in my experience so I entrusted it to my shaky hand and did OK:
View attachment 463160
I'll also be using the Vallejo for this, with a much larger brush. This is qualifies as an experiment, since it will be the largest component I've attempted to brush-paint with the Vallejo. Largest component I've ever brush-painted is the pink eraser on the Skywriter Deluxe, but that was different paint (cheap-o Craft-Smart paint from Michael's).

I had really, really, really wanted to paint the nozzle black before assembly, so I wouldn't have to mask it. I just couldn't come up with a way to do it that would ensure everything would go together correctly at the end. So now I needed to mask it, and although it is a small mask it was indeed just as difficult and miserable a job as I had anticipated, and I am not confident it's going to come out great. I used my Tamiya curvy tape for the sections between the fins, and then a jumble of regular Tamiya to cover the area behind the fins.
View attachment 463166
In hindsight, I perhaps could have moved the trailing edge of the fins a bit forward of the seam, to leave room for a more normal masking tape line. I'm going to try to be extremely careful with the brush around there (maybe I'll use the sponge to paint the mask line), but I'm certainly I'm still going to get leakage. My fingers are crossed.
That tip of the cone is almost a perfect broad but flat cone. Maybe a a black decal wrap?
 

neil_w

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NOZZLE, PART 2

I scored the mask edge with a knife, removed the tape, and then touched up with one of my micro-sponges. Final result:
nozzle - finished.jpeg

That is probably the worst spot on the edge. I might or might not try to smooth that out one more time, it's risky.

I'm a little unsure of the durability of the Vallejo paint. I might give it a Q-tip coat of thin CA to protect it before the Future coat.
 

BABAR

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Could you make a black decal (or a contrasting color like red or gold) ring to cover the area? Or a ring made of trim monocote?
 

neil_w

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Not impossible, but assorted practical concerns would make it very difficult. Too small benefit for the expected effort, so I'm not going to try. It looks OK when your eyeballs are not right on top of it.
 

neil_w

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Weight before primer: 4.59 oz
Weight with unsanded primer: 4.9 oz
Weight after sanding primer: 4.79 oz
Weight after paint: 5.2 oz

So, primer and paint added about .6 oz... which is really quite a lot.
 

neil_w

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DECALS, PART 1

I love doing decals, not because waterslides in particular are any fun, but because of the instant gratification. With each decal that goes on, you can see the rocket looking better and getting closer to finished. It's great.

For this rocket I was a little nervous about all the skinny lines I was putting on there. It's hard to lay a straight line with a skinny waterslide (also I've never really tried to go for the effect I'm going for here). The placement and design of all the stripes comes from some photos of LauncherOne that I saw back when creating this design. Since then, it looks like many things have changed on the prototype, but I had (and have) no interest in changing the decal design at this point.

In the front, there's a strip on top and bottom, connecting the nose cone and one of the circumferential stripes. I started by marking the positions lightly with a pencil, with the goal of laying the decal stripes directly on top of the lines.
front decals - guides.jpeg

And then on went the stripes. Did the lines help? Kind of. Once the decal was on top of them, it was hard to see anything. I ended up doing a *lot* of sighting down from the end, and using the reflection of the overhead light as a guide. Here's the result:
front decals - top.jpeg

I think it looks pretty straight. Is it perfect? We'll find out later (hint: no) You can still see a couple of drops of Micro-sol on there (that part was still drying when this pic was taken).

Wrapping the two stripes at the top of the picture all the way around the BT was "fun". Getting it straight was nightmarish. I still don't know how straight they are, but they seem to look OK, as demonstrated by the side view:
front decals - side.jpeg

The tail decals were uneventful. The tail area has gotten its coat of Future, glossed up nicely (including the nozzle):
tail decals - bottom.jpeg
tail decals - side.jpeg

All the stripes were applied to the middle section and Micro-sol'ed and allowed to fully dry to prepare for the big logo decals to be applied on top of them.
mid decals - stripes.jpeg

These guys only needed to go half around, up to the wings. *Much* easier than the full wrap-arounds.
 

neil_w

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DECALS, PART 2

The nose needs two stripes to match up with the ones on the front body tube, and extending all the way to the little black tip. I was concerned going in that these were going to be difficult, keeping things straight on the curved cone. I cut the decals pretty narrow to maximize the chance they'd lay down OK, and tapered the edges to help them lay down at the tip.
nose decals - 1.jpeg

I laid down the decals by eye, sighting along the top of the rocket and ensuring that the stripe line up with each other. Here's the first one.
nose decals - 2.jpeg

Looks pretty good. I then rotated the model around and did the second one, which also looked good. Then I looked down the nose cone from the tip:
nose decals - 3.jpeg

OK, well that actually does *not* look good. Fortunately, no one ever looks at the rocket from that angle.

I rotated the nose around 180 degrees, lined up one side and then looked at the other side:
nose decals - 4.jpeg

Whoa nelly! The only explanation is that the top and bottom strips ended up way off, despite my guidelines.

And so the nose cone shall henceforth only go on one way so the lines match up, and unless you view it directly from the front, you can't really tell. So it's fine, but I must say I am surprised by the magnitude of the error.
1620776282151.png
 

neil_w

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DECALS PART 3

After everything else was done, I applied the logo decals, one on each side. Here's one of them, after Micro-sol + Future:
OVG9lmr9R66Ljb4p35KQmg_thumb_122b5.jpg

Yes indeed, the stripe ended up right in the middle of the C, which isn't the best look, but I needed to realize that earlier because it's the stripe I would have needed to move, not the logo. Oh well, no biggie.

Hey, that was the last decal. Beauty shots coming up.
 

neil_w

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BEAUTY SHOTS

Here are some highly retouched beauty shots. I decided that it is easier than trying to get good photographs with good lighting and clean backgrounds. Mainly I cleaned up the background, corrected white balance, and de-noised. Unretouched versions available on request.

I also added a very diffuse drop shadow this time, to make it look less flat and artificial. Let me know how I did. As always, click for larger.
LX beauty - 1 - clean.jpg

LX beauty - 2 - clean.jpg

LX beauty - 5 - clean.jpg

LX beauty - 3 - clean.jpg
LX beauty - 4 - clean.jpg
 

mbeels

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Wow, this one came together really fast. I like the shots, they almost look like an OR render. If not for the limited depth of field, it'd be hard to tell them apart! I hope to be able to get out to NJ for the maiden flight.

BTW, I think definitely having the decals on both sides of the rocket was the right call.
 

boatgeek

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I actually like the line through the middle of the C on both sides. I think it's a nice touch.
 

jqavins

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Great job, very good pics. I imagine the thin lines are simulated joints between sections. If the brand label had to span two pieces on the "real" thing then Virgin would just have to live with it.
 

neil_w

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Great job, very good pics. I imagine the thin lines are simulated joints between sections.
Yes. I was mostly working off images such as this one (from Virgin Orbit's website):
1620908647975.png

If the brand label had to span two pieces on the "real" thing then Virgin would just have to live with it.
Maybe, but not necessarily. They control the graphic design, could adjust it as desired to do something more aesthetically pleasing.

But it's not something I plan to lose sleep over. :)
 
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BABAR

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Nice work!

One good flight and then goes on the wall!
 

neil_w

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One good flight and then goes on the wall!
What is this "flight" thing you speak of? I know not of such things.



Normally I would hope for two flights on day one, weather permitting and barring mishap. But now with five unflown rockets, I probably won't get them all in the air twice at the same launch.

In fact, I'm probably not going to build anything else until I get my existing stuff in the air. I'm starting to accumulate significant frustration at building things and then putting them straight on the wall for who knows how long, despite the inherent joy I get in building.
 

jqavins

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Hmm, you enjoy building but are frustrated at not flying what you've built. This is very dangerous; this is the sort of situation that leads to taking up second hobbies. First it'll be just one innocent airplane, and before you know it you're mainlining trains.
 
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