MARS Center Shuttle -- Atlantis

Discussion in 'Space & Aeronautics' started by dhanners, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    I finally decided to get off my butt and try and build something, so I'm tacking the MARS Center's space shuttle Orbiter -- in this case, Atlantis. I had the sheets re-sized at a copying shop to 1/96th scale so the final model will be in scale with my Energia-Buran. They should make an impressive side-by-side display when done.

    I had mentioned in another thread that I'd put off building the model for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I wanted to figure out some way to accurately replicate the Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation (AFRSI) blankets that cover part of the shuttle's exterior. There were a couple of ideas I had that didn't work out, but last night, I bought a big piece of textured art paper and thought it might look OK if I cut it into little squares and glued it on to the kit pieces. To see if my concept would work, I experimented with the tail. There are some pictures below, as well as the SSMEs that I scratchbuilt several months ago.

    In real life, the AFRSI blankets look quite rough (I've seen them up-close) and they do really stand out from the Orbiter's surface. That's what I was going for.

    The tail is still "unfinished" and I've got some tweaking to do (like sanding the rough spots, etc.) before it's done. And there are still some challenges to overcome in the build as a whole, but if you never start, you never get it finished. So to keep myself going, I thought I'd post these.

    Has anyone else built this model? If so, I'd be interested in seeing photos. It looks like it could be complex....

    Attached Files:

  2. Hans Christian

    Hans Christian Active Member

    Hi sir!!!

    Finally, the master tackles the MARSCenter shuttle!!!

    I also built one BTW, you can see it in the ISS thread sir :-D
  3. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    okay..two questions only..
    1. How have you seen the blankets up close?
    2. How did you modify in the parachute on the vertical stabilizer?

    Looks awesome by the way and you certainly will have quite a great model when finished.
  4. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    I saw the blankets up close, on Discovery, while in the Orbiter Processing facility. I got sent to Florida after the Challenger disaster (in my day job, I'm a newspaper reporter) and while there, I got a NASA flak to take me inside the OPF. Discovery was being worked on, and I got to stand right next to it. It was very impressive, to say the least, but I couldn't take too long to soak it all in because I had work to do and it was a very tragic time. That's how my work often goes.

    Modifying the tail to include the parachute housing wasn't too difficult. I had some drawings of the tail's current outline and used them to draw the changes on the kit parts, then just cut them to the proper shape. That's one of the parts of the tail I need to clean up a bit.

    I appreciate the kind words. It does look to be a bear of a model, though. Lotsa parts, lotsa things I need to modify to make more accurate. Then again, if we wanted models that "just fall together," we'd be building plastic models, right?
  5. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    Wow..YOU are stood next to Discovery?! You are so Lucky!!!!
    Why did they allow you in a restricted zone at KSC? Just for a news report? That is unbelievable. You are so Lucky..(deja vu)

    Also, you are correct, if we wanted the easy way out, we'd pick plastic over paper. haha. hmm.. by any chance could you send me the drawings you are using? :D
  6. dhanners

    dhanners Member

  7. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    hmm...would it be possible to go into the OPF and VAB during a normal persons tour if ya had an escort?
  8. paulhbell

    paulhbell Guest

    Those engine bells look good. As for the tail I like the tiles you are doing.

    I've also built one of the mars shuttles and they do look good when finished as standard, can't wait to see yours finished.
  9. Jan Kytop

    Jan Kytop Member

  10. Bengt F

    Bengt F Active Member

    Marscenter Atlantis Space Shuttle

    Great work, David,

    This will be really interesting to follow. It is always very enlightening and educational to follow your builds, and to marvel at the many wonderful results.
    I have started on this one, too, a while ago. I up-scaled it to 1:72 so I could use the flight deck interior and landing gear from the Betexa model, which is printed in this scale. Send me a PM if you´d like some modified parts for the interior, landing gear and wheel wells.

    I see that you have done the rounded shape of the top of the tail fin - that looks really good. It´s a bit sharp and 'square' in the original sheets. The main engine bells look simply wonderful - how about a very thin spray mist of light or middle grey?

    Wedge has shown the way for a flight deck interior and double windows in his wonderful Betexa Altantis build, which so unfortunately got destroyed last summer.


    I really like what you have done with the 'belly' in your Marscenter Atlantis shuttle. The grey underside/bottom with the tile pattern looks so much more realistic. There are hi-res pictures at NASA´s site of this and they look just like it.
    I also very much like the 'glassed' windows and interior, the rounded nose, the metallic paper on the insides of the cargo bay doors and the wrinkled gold foil on the probe in the cargo bay. Great work!

    Leed the way now, David,
    Bengt :thumb:
  11. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    That's a very impressive build, Jan. It lets me know the MARS Center shuttle can be built into a good-looking model. And I do like the lightening of the belly color; I was thinking I'd have to do something similar. I've also printed out the belly tiles in reverse, and plan to cut two halves and join them because the MARS Center model only has the tiles aligned in one direction, and they're actually aligned in two different directions, meeting at the Orbiter's center line.

    As for the engine nozzles, they look brighter in the photo than they do in reality. The photo was a bit dark, so I brightened it up a bit and it makes the contrasting colors stand out more than they actually do.
  12. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    Just a quick update. Between work, the Thanksgiving holiday and trying to think through several of the challenges I have in building this model, I haven't gotten a lot done. But I did get the rear engine structure (minus the OMS pods) done, as well as the SSME mounts.

    I deviated from the MARS Center instructions in a number of areas. For one thing, the instructions call for the use of a cardstock "spring" to keep the gimbaling portions of the SSME mounts movable. That didn't strike me as very hardy, so I substituted short portions of a big rubber band. Each SSME mount is made up of two assemblies -- the outer ring (which is comprised of the ring, its disk-shaped base and the silver insulation ring -- and the conical shaped gimbal mount that goes inside that ring. (The SSME nozzle will later be attached to the conical gimbal mount.)

    I probably should've taken photos as I went along, but you get in a rhythm and it's hard for me to stop to take pictures. Anyway, I took the disk and glued two short sections of rubber band on it, in an "X" pattern. Then I stuck the gimbal mount on top of that. Lastly, I put the SSME mount ring over the gimbal mount and glued it to the disk I mentioned earlier. The end result was a springy gimbal mount.

    I haven't glued the SSMEs to the mounts yet, nor the mounts to the rear engine section yet, but I did dry-fit them to take the photo to give folks an idea of what they look like. And, in retrospect, I may need to tone down the plumbing on the SSME, as Bengt suggested. He's right.

    Next up: the OMS pods....

    Attached Files:

  13. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    WOW!!! Simply amazing there David, I love the detail on the SSMEs and that was also a very good idea you had with the spring. When I built Challenger, the springs I used were double thickness cardstock and they hold the engines well.

    How did you get the tile area the right color? That looks amazing. Can't wait to see the rest.
  14. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    The tile area color was just luck of the draw, actually. Since I'm building the model in 1/96th scale, I took the original 1/100th-scale pages and enlarged them (at 104 percent, as I recall) to get them to 1/96th. I had a few passes to get it dark enough.

    I'll still be tweaking the piece a bit. I tweaked the tail, too, because the black leading edge extends farther back than it does on the kit part.

    Sorry I build so slow, but I think for a couple of years I went through a big spurt of building and almost got burned out on the hobby. This is the first thing I've built in awhile, aside from a model of the Split Rock Lighthouse for my wife on our first wedding anniversary. (And just so you won't think I'm that cheap, it included an actual weekend in a cabin just a few miles south of the lighthouse....
  15. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    Extend the black on the tail? I'll take a look at the pictures you have posted.

    So when you say 'passes' you printed over the same sheet a few times? The way I solved the white space between the tiles was to use a sharpie and color over the white area. Insta-solution.
  16. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    Here's a photo of the "new" tail. I added a thin strip of black paper right behind the black HRSI tiles on the leading edge. It is a different sheen than the HRSI tiles, but in photos of the real thing, there's a different sheen, too. I didn't plan it that way, but it turned out that way, fortunately.

    As for "passes" on the copier, I just started making copies until I got something I liked. It was largely trial and error, with "error" outnumbering "trial."

    Attached Files:

  17. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    It looks excellent David, I wish you the best for the rest of the build. Post pictures when you can.
    As for the copying trial and error routine, I'll try to find some other kind of alternative to give everyone more than one option in the future.
  18. londonbluemisty

    londonbluemisty Wayne P

    Nice work, dhanners:thumb::thumb:
    The blankets look great :mrgreen:

    If anyone is interested I started to add some of :inw:SIR Alfonso's designs to the Mars Shuttle for my 1/96 STS117 build.
    I widened the black leading edge of the Tail.
    Added his underside tile details and added his more detailed NASA ball to the Main Engine housing.:twisted:
    I have still to add the tile detail to the Main Shuttle belly.
    If anyone wants them then send me a P.M (Files are Adobe PDF)


    Attached Files:

  19. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    If they're in 1/96th scale, sure, I'd love to have them. My e-mail address is dhanners (at)

    I should point out, though, that there is an error in Sir Alfonso's design of the TPS tiles on the Orbiter's belly. He has them aligned in only one direction, when in fact they should be aligned like an upside-down chevron, with the apex on the vehicle's centerline. (And the alignment changes on the outer sections of the wing.)

    I was planning on fixing this by printing out two versions of the belly -- one regular, and the other in reverse. Then I'd cut each down the middle and join two halves. Then again, since my plan is to build a full shuttle stack, you won't see the bottom anyway so I'm debating whether to do this.

    And, of course, unless you're modeling a new Orbiter, the tiles should be much lighter, and I see you've done that on the sections you've shown us. They look good. The underside of the shuttle does get quite gray after a few entries, but with replacement tiles the overall effect is a mottled one as the photo below shows. I was planning on lightening the tiles by airbrushing a light gray over them.

    Attached Files:

  20. underwoodl06

    underwoodl06 Member

    Londonbluemisty: Ah, I almost forgot that you were doing such an excellent build. Have you gotten the ET and SRB stack finished? If so, It'd be wonderful to see some pictures.
    Can't wait to see the finished product.

    Dhanners: Your models are so detailed and to think that you went through the trouble with Buran to darken the tiles. I think it would be quite the milestone if you did go along with the tile detail. I have never seen detail on card models, such as yours. You go that extra mile that makes the wait for your finished model worth it. What's the challenge if there is none? I say take the risk and go the next step.

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