# Mars Lander 3X Build Thread

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#### David

##### Well-Known Member
I don't do many kits these days, but when I saw the super-sized 3X Mars Lander as a new kit, well, I had a flashback to 1969. I was 12 when Estes created the original. What a great memory...probably the coolest rocket I bought and built from Estes. So, my flashback led to ordering the 3X version. Couldn't resist. The box arrived on Friday and it really feels like I'm 12 again. I still remember opening my Estes ML. Funny how our brains and memories are wired...

So, here's a few photos of the shipping box (nicely done), the parts as I'm starting to sort (over 300) and a few of the extraordinary documents included. The drawings are incredible. I've since learned that the developer, Ben Awes, is an architect and it really shows in the documents. This should be a fun and challenging build.

I'll get started in the next week or so. Have another project going and I'll have to parallel them a bit. I will try and post a few build photos.

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#### MasonH

##### Well-Known Member
Who makes the kit? I saw a few projects about that on facebook, but thats it. What can you tell up about the kit?

#### mmmdowning

##### Well-Known Member
I love the looks of these and have always wanted one. I'll be watching for sure.

#### sodmeister

##### Well-Known Member
That kit has quality written all over it ,from the box to the parts and the instructions look very well done ,wish I had the coin to purchase one.

I shall enjoy this build thread !

Paul t

#### cwbullet

##### Obsessed with Rocketry
Staff member
Global Mod
I am holding for the AV bay.

#### legranddudu

##### Well-Known Member
Well I am impressed and really thinkin about it..but hey there are many VERY large boxes on the way to me from Wildman and Madcow....the pile needs more storage *lol*...

But 2 questions: where can we see nice pictures of the bird? The homepage of the company is not really exciting...and Second..how does the bird start?? where are the rail buttons?

thx

#### thobin

##### Well-Known Member
WOW! Now that is a kit, I got goose bumps just looking at it. Subscribed.

TA

#### David

##### Well-Known Member
Well I am impressed and really thinkin about it..but hey there are many VERY large boxes on the way to me from Wildman and Madcow....the pile needs more storage *lol*...

But 2 questions: where can we see nice pictures of the bird? The homepage of the company is not really exciting...and Second..how does the bird start?? where are the rail buttons?

thx
I can answer the second question. Two launch lugs, one forward and one aft, attach to the central parachute/ MMT along the length. The lugs are accessed via openings in the aft CR and the forward shroud.

Re: first question, I don't have any better photos yet since im just getting started. I can email the company owner and let him know we have this thread going. Maybe he could check in.

#### David

##### Well-Known Member
I am holding for the AV bay.
Agree. One build objective for me is to add electronic deployment. Probably not DD...I'm not expecting it to go terribly high. What's the point of flying this thing far out of sight, right? But having the assurance of chute at apogee is important.

#### Ben Awes

##### Well-Known Member
David sent me an email and told me there were a couple questions about the kit - so I thought I might jump in - thanks David.

My name is Ben Awes and I am the maker of the kit. My company is Colossus Rockets which I started just to build the 3X Mars Lander. I have two places that feature the 3X Mars Lander Kit, a Facebook page:

and an Esty Shop where it can be purchased:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/85413715/3x-mars-lander-high-power-model-rocket

That's a bummer that my home page is "not really exciting" (which page are you referring to?)- I thought they looked pretty good! But I would love some more feedback on the sites!

There are a number of posts i have made on the facebook page that show multiple photos of the completed rocket. The kit is also offered through Off We Go Rocketry:

http://www.offwegorocketry.com/product_info.php?cPath=181_239&products_id=1256

I did use electronics when I flew it. I used a Raven 3 and I only used the accelerometer feature only due to the potential for trouble with a barometric sensor with the body shape of this rockets. I designed an Electronics Bay just for this kit that is installed and activated from the aft end of the rocket. I will be listing that E-bay on my etsy shop later this week.

I flew the rocket on a K650 Smokey Sam.

I would be happy to answer and other specific questions or tell you more about that kit - just let me know. (but I think hearing from an actual buyer is way better than coming from me!).

Ben Awes
Colossus Rockets

##### Roger Smith
I used a Raven 3 and I only used the accelerometer feature only due to the potential for trouble with a barometric sensor with the body shape of this rockets.
I don't think you'd have a problem using barometric apogee detection. The "Big Daddy Akavish" that I fly hasn't had any problem with it and it has a more unconventional shape. As a test, you can download and check the baro data from the Raven to see if it would have fired the event at apogee.

Oh, and kudos for creating such a cool kit!

-- Roger

#### AfterBurners

##### Well-Known Member
Ben that is a very impressive kit and by the looks of the parts absolutely well made. I hate to bring it up but didn't the proto-type crash. The parachute got tangled or something. Every time I see that happen to someone it makes me cringe because I know how much work is involved in building these masterpieces...it's just sad!

I hope that you sell a lot of these kits and many more people see the high quality parts used and the amount of time you put into each one.

Thanks for a great kit!!

#### legranddudu

##### Well-Known Member
Ben,

sorry for making the wrong impression. When I said the home page is not really exciting I mean..you have created such a jewel...and I want to see much more detailled and large pictures of the kit and the built result! My eyes are crying for more...
It is by far the most awesome Kit I have seen since weeks, especially after a particular boring black sales offering this year (I mean really different new stuff from the major vendors was not there) ....To be honest I am sooo much tempted...an incredible product..sad one crashed so badly..What kind of 75mm casing/Impulse would you recommend? What is your delivery time? Any of them on Stock currently?
thx, I am hooked!

update: indeed more to see on your FB page..BEAUTIFULL JOB!
Add. Question: what is the box size when you ship..need to calculate postage to Germany
Next add question. This Mars lander prototype in green is also sweet!! can we get here more details? I could imagine something crazy with my hybridz ;-)

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#### Ben Awes

##### Well-Known Member
I don't think you'd have a problem using barometric apogee detection. The "Big Daddy Akavish" that I fly hasn't had any problem with it and it has a more unconventional shape. As a test, you can download and check the baro data from the Raven to see if it would have fired the event at apogee.

Oh, and kudos for creating such a cool kit!

-- Roger
Thanks Roger, aaaaaaaa - never thought of looking at the baro data on the Raven. I have not reviewed it, but i will check it out - but the accelerometer worked great. There are a couple reasons that we did not go with a baro sensor. The body shape is one reason, but also the entire rear end of the rocket, including landing gear and motor tube, is removable from the airframe. This makes creating a sealed e-bay that has access to the outside air pressure, not impossible, just logistically more challenging. It was just easier and more direct to use the accelerometer only.

Ben

#### Ben Awes

##### Well-Known Member
Ben,

sorry for making the wrong impression. When I said the home page is not really exciting I mean..you have created such a jewel...and I want to see much more detailled and large pictures of the kit and the built result! My eyes are crying for more...
It is by far the most awesome Kit I have seen since weeks, especially after a particular boring black sales offering this year (I mean really different new stuff from the major vendors was not there) ....To be honest I am sooo much tempted...an incredible product..sad one crashed so badly..What kind of 75mm casing/Impulse would you recommend? What is your delivery time? Any of them on Stock currently?
thx, I am hooked!

update: indeed more to see on your FB page..BEAUTIFULL JOB!
Add. Question: what is the box size when you ship..need to calculate postage to Germany
Next add question. This Mars lander prototype in green is also sweet!! can we get here more details? I could imagine something crazy with my hybridz ;-)
No worries man, I want all the honest feedback I can get! It's a short stubby rocket so it cannot handle real long motors. I used a 54mm 5 grain, k650 (19"), but I think it could handle one grain longer, and the same length for a 75. Mine weighed in at just under 25 pounds fully loaded. I have them in stock, 8 of which are on special promotion for $495 (normally$595). The box is 14 x 14 x 24 (I think those are inside the box dimensions - so 14.5" x 14.5" x 24.5"?). I ship within a week of the order, maybe sooner. I don't have details on the green one, or build photos, but thanks for the compliment.

#### David

##### Well-Known Member

Most of my build time is still on another project, but I've made some progress on the Mars Lander 3X. Filled the spiral grooves in the main body airframe using epoxy putty. Extended the leg slots with a small saw on the Proxxon. Next, marked and beveled the "friction-reducing strips" (FRS), four at a time by tightly taping together. I don't show it, but the other end takes a (different) bevel, too. After some e-mail discussion with the designer Ben, drilled some weight-reducing holes in the FRS's. These guys are epoxied inside plywood housings so the articulating legs slide easily across the surface, and the holes don't interfere with that function. The other benefit of drilling holes is the creation of several "stepped wells". Filling these with a little more epoxy helps with adherence also. I made a test strip, weighed with and without holes and the little extra epoxy, and you do come out with a small weight benefit from the procedure. More photos in a minute...

#### David

##### Well-Known Member

After applying a thin layer of epoxy and clamping the FRS's to the leg housing, I filled the three "stepped wells" with epoxy. Two these assemblies then are mated with a slotted piece of plywood to form the entire housing (end up with four housings). I'll take and post a few housing photos later.

Moved onto the actual leg/landing gear assemblies. This requires some cutting and beveling of very strong fiberglass rods. One photo shows a dry fit test and some practice runs on the bevels with some wooden dowels. Used the chop saw. A length of clear vinyl tubing is cut and slipped over the upper struts...this simulates a landing gear piston and was a cool touch on the original ML. The instructions warned this tubing could be very difficult to slip into place, recommending a little baby powder to help. After some experimenting, I found powder plus a gentle warming with a heat gun made the thing temporarily pliable and easy to position.

Next, with the actual struts are beveled and the vinyl "pistons" in place, two of the struts per leg are epoxied into place. A little tricky and requires a little patience. But came out nicely. Once set, the lower strut is epoxied into the nicely routed groove in the trailing edge of the leg (its pre-routed). Then a wrap of fiberglass tape is used to strongly secure the struts and leg. The leg hole will be re-daylighted after the glass cures. This is where the rubber bands later will impart the springiness to the landing gear.

#### David

##### Well-Known Member

This shows the completed leg housing, essentially two triangles of plywood with the friction-reducing strips connected by a cover plate of thin plywood with a slot where a leg will slide through. Photos shows some beveling of the surface which will later attach to the main body. The leading edge will rest nice and tight on the airframe.

That's all for now. Will be a few weeks before I am able to do more. So far, I'm having a blast. It is definitely a builder's kit.

#### cwbullet

##### Obsessed with Rocketry
Staff member
Global Mod
Subscribed. I got mine this past week. Watching to see how you build it.

#### David

##### Well-Known Member
Used some coarse sandpaper taped to the main body to put a touch of rounding on the leg housings. Ben shows photos of a nice jig he purpose-built for this. I used a milk crate-type box with some wood blocks and stuffed rags inside to hold the body still. Probably building the jig is a better idea, but it worked. Two cautions: if you first bevel the root edge of the housing (see my belt sander photo), leave enough wood thickness on the nose of the housing for this rounding step. I measured (guessed) about right, but if you first beveled it too thin, on this rounding step you could end up sanding right through the cover plate. That would be bad. Second caution: if you sand like this, it might be possible to squeeze too hard on the two triangle pieces and break the thing. Didn't happen, but it occurred to me it could.

Chuck, glad you bought the kit. Having a builder with your experience working on this will be great. Looking forward to reading and seeing your ideas, here if you want to make this a community build thread.

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#### David

##### Well-Known Member

After applying a wrap of fiberglass to the proximal landing gear, the hole is "day lighted" with a razor knife. The splines are used at two of the leg joints to provide the necessary strength. The joint if first beveled and epoxied. Then a 1/8th slot is cut across the two joints (times four legs). I used a rotary tool with a small circular saw blade, then a small router tool to "clean out" the slot. Ben suggests a band saw, which I do not own. My approach worked just fine, just took a while of careful cutting. After everything dries, sand the spline joint back to original configuration. The final photo is there to emphasize everything needs some sanding to fit...by design.

More soon! Next: you'll be able to see how the landing gear assembly fits together as a unit. Very clever design.

David

#### David

##### Well-Known Member
One of the coolest enhancements of 3X is the articulated landing pad. The original had a fixed pad, which never made sense, so this is a nice improvement. I'll show you how the clever movement works in a few days, but first a few photos of the assembly process. As before, some sanding and attention to detail is needed. Really, I don't like sanding usually, but this is different...I swear. This is more...artistry. I',m liking the sanding more because it is more a part of the craftsmanship than usual.

#### CarVac

##### Well-Known Member
I just realized that I have a tiny mini-engine (13mm) all-plastic ready-to-fly version at home from years past... [understatement]Not very hard to build, that one was[/understatement].

Looking at the Etsy page and the photos, "Wow." is all I can say.

#### David

##### Well-Known Member
I might add a bit more about splines. Two of the leg joints are potential weak points. These are the joint between the two upper fiberglass rod struts, and the two fiberglass rods where they join the plywood at the distal end of the landing leg. A spline is a 1/8" slice of plywood that fits into a slot or groove placed across a joint. The purpose is to add strength across the joint. It works. Once the joint is initially glued and dried, the slot is cut. See previous entry. The designer used a band saw. I used a hand held rotary tool (like a dremel) with a small circular saw blade. Cleaned out the cut with a small router tool on the dremel. The slice of plywood ( a spline) is glued into the groove. Once dry, then the excess wood is sanded back to original joint. The gray you see in the photos is epoxy putty used to fill small imperfections. This is sanded and finished with Bondo, then sanding sealer. Very strong.

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#### David

##### Well-Known Member

The landing gear assembly is complete. Soda can gives an idea of the scale. The legs detach individually...I'll get a close-up photo of the hinges and post.

#### SAC of MMMSClub

##### Well-Known Member
That kit has quality written all over it ,from the box to the parts and the instructions look very well done ,wish I had the coin to purchase one.

I shall enjoy this build thread !

Paul t
You had better have several coins!!

The Face book page for the producer showed the parts, and it looks to be a really nice pile of laser cut, well done parts!

Bring on the pics and commentary. op: