X-15 Design and Build

Discussion in 'Aircraft & Aviation' started by exzealot, Nov 5, 2008.

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  1. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    To all,

    Per your request, I have decided that my next adventure will be to design and build a 1/32 X-15.

    I live roughly 6 hours from one of the remaining X-15's at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. They moved it from the modern flight gallery to the Annex, and the museum allows photoshoots if planned ahead. It is the extended version, so that is what I'll be doing.

    I hope to take the lessons learned from my F84-G design experience (which was a good one), and apply them to this design. To me, one of the challenges will be to design a "black" aircraft with appropriate and realistic seams, rivets and corrugations that exist on this incredible machine.

    Here is what you can expect:

    1. Open cockpit
    2. Open speed brakes
    3. External tanks
    4. Detail - Detail- and more Detail
    5. Lots of detailed pictures of the progress

    I hope you like! AND, as always, constructive suggestions for improvement along the way are welcomed and needed to ensure a good outcome.

    LET THE FUN BEGIN! :thumb:

  2. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    That sounds great, but may I make a suggestion? Namely, how about the option of building the two different versions of the X-15? As you've noted, you're building the "extended" version at the USAF Museum, 66671, which was an X-15A-2. It'd be nice to be able to build the original (and shorter) X-15, 66670, or even 66671 before it was lengthened. (The second X-15 was rebuilt after it crashed, and 29 inches were added to the fuselage, as well as other modifications.) You'd also need to provide different motors, different lengths of nose gear, different cockpit windows, etc., but it would be nice to have that option.

    Also, the X-15s carried a variety of different tail markings, and that would be a good option to have.

    If you haven't checked it out already, Dennis Jenkins' book, "Hypersonic! The Story of the North American X-15" would be an invaluable help. It contains hundreds of detailed photos, many of them in color, and plenty of color side-view diagrams -- not to mention authoritative text by one of the country's best aviation writers.

    Then it'd be on to the 1/32nd-scale B-52 mothership....
  3. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    I thought about building the different versions. However, to do it correctly and accurately, you really have a different design. Canopies were different, various pods used, panel line breakups etc. I guess it would also depend on the methodology used to design. For me, it would be difficult to try and focus on "package-protecting" for 2 versions; it would be easier (for me) to build the first version 100% through, then go back and re-design the second version. Markings are a different story. Changing them is relatively easy compared to structural changes.

    Once the A-2 is done, it wouldn't take to long to build another version. We'll see how everything goes.

    Thanks for the input,

  4. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    I think we'll wind up buying whatever you design, frankly....

    A few years ago, FineScale Modeler magazine had an article about backdating the Revell/Monogram X-15A-2 kit into 66670, and described how to cut down the fuselage, the rear sections of the chines, landing gear, etc. I think I still have it at home. Granted, plastic and paper are two different things (to which I give myself a big "duh!") but it might provide some insight.

    This is exciting news and I can't wait to see (and build) what you come up with.
  5. exzealot

    exzealot Member


    I didn't know the nose gear was a different length between versions. These are the things that are not so obvious unless you happen to read it somewhere.

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  6. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    The nose gear had to be lengthened so the strap-on fuel tanks wouldn't scrape the ground. Even though the tanks were jettisoned before landing, and the X-15 didn't "taxi" before take-off, it still had to be travel on the ground before launch, hence the lengthened nose gear. The rear of the vehicle was supported by a little trolley contraption.

    Another thing that is easy to miss (not that you would, mind you, but I thought I'd mention it) is the length of the chines along the side. On 66670 and 66671 before it was rebuilt, the chines ended in a plane that was forward of the rear edge of the tail fin. On 66671 after the rebuild and on 66672, the chines were extended all the way back so their rear ends were flush with the rear edge of the engine nozzle.
  7. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    OK - let the insanity begin!

    I am starting this out with a quick demonstration on the kind of "development" and trial and error that goes into some of the more difficult parts. Many of you are already familiar with this.

    Just for Sheets and Gargoyles, I chose to design up a quick version of the canopy. I chose this because the X15 has very few compound curved parts; the canopy and the front of the fuselage tunnels are the only exceptions that come to mind. Since I believe any model is only as good as its worst looking part, I wanted to give the canopy some special attention. In many ways, it is the focal point of the model and gives the X15 its "personality".

    Below, you see the result of my first pass at this. I can already see several opportunities for improvement. Basically, this iteration is too "busy" and complicated, but the shape is correct. Stop by in the next day or so, and you will see a vastly improved version.


    Attached Files:

  8. Teriffic... I'll be following this...:thumb:
    This would be a nice diorama:mrgreen:

    Attached Files:

  9. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    Tonight I implemented the improvements that I talked about in the last post. 1 more iteration and it will be just right (and a sharp knife would have helped as well.

    The canopy assembly will get an inner frame (structure) that will help to establish and maintain the correct shape. Clear windows will make a difference too.


    Attached Files:

  10. the mole

    the mole Member

    This model is going to be great. I'm in to buy 2 or more to convert to rocket flight. Can't wait.:thumb:
  11. josve

    josve Active Member

    Interesting!! Will be great to follow your build/design Ken!!
  12. Regie

    Regie Member

    This looks like it's going to be fantastic!
  13. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    Today, I focused on finishing the canopy. I added the glass and internal structure. There is no cardboard used in the canopy; only 110lb paper. My camera is brutal - it even picks up paper fuzz!

    As I mentioned before, the canopy is by far the most difficult part of this project. The rest should be a breeze.

    Attached Files:

  14. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    More pictures of the completed canopy.


    Attached Files:

  15. Robot Exodus

    Robot Exodus Member


    The weird thing is, I was actually looking for a paper model of an X-15. I went to this section of the forums to look for one, and lo and behold; there was this thread at the top of the page!

    I am definitely buying this (after I finish all my other projects, that is...).

    Keep up the good work.
  16. flying rasta

    flying rasta hooked card modeler

    That canopy is one excellent piece of workmanship. wow.
  17. dhanners

    dhanners Member

    I might point out that if you can get your hands on the May 2007 issue of Scale Aircraft Modeling, it has a nice article on the X-15, complete with four pages of color profiles of the three X-15s in a variety of markings and colors. One interesting one is 56-6671 on its flight of 28 September 1961, when the port wing and tailplane were covered with a white thermal paint, and there were two green panels with another type of thermal paint.
  18. exzealot

    exzealot Member

    To all,

    Thanks for the info and documentation on the X-15. Everything helps! :thumb: The more I learn about the X-15 and the pilots that flew them, the more amazed I am.

    Attached are some pictures of the nose and cockpit section (as a prototype). Working in automotive design for over 25 years has taught me that the first design is rarely the last design.

    This may seem like a waste of time, but a prototype provides the following:

    1. Verification that the pieces "fit" as intended before wasting time, recoloring and ink.
    2. Establishes build sequence (no assembly lockouts).
    3. Provides "hands-on" experience. What seems doable on the computer may be too complicated or small for human hands and eyes.
    4. Shows opportunities for improvement.

    One of the signs that I am on the right track is that the canopy fits the fuselage. Although the model is being designed as an open display, future builders can choose to glue it closed - the fit is more than adequate.


    Attached Files:

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