Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mega Review: When a Stock Saucer Isn't Enough

This post will describe goofy modifications to otherwise normal flying saucers. Three started life as Art Applewhite paper kits and one was a Quest MicroMaxx 'brick'.

Crew Exploration Saucer

I really like my Art Applewhite 6" Delta saucer. However, since it appears that it will last for many, many more flights, I didn't think I needed a second one just yet. So what to do with my Spaceship Earth Delta?

The build requires:
* One Spaceship Earth Delta Saucer (6" diameter with 24mm MMT)
    o One sheet of cardstock - top and bottom shrouds
    o One ~ 7" square piece of foam board - center plate
    o One 24" motor mount (not used)
* 12" long Apogee 24mm body tube
* Balsa nose cone
* Eye hook
* Kevlar® twine
* A small piece of a spent 24mm motor casing
* 12" plastic parachute

I began by constructing the Delta: Cut and form the top and bottom shrouds and the center foamboard plate, bevel the edge of the plate, and glue the top shroud to the plate. Then in place of the provided motor tube, I merely used an 12" Apogee 24mm tube. Finally, I added the bottom shroud, making sure the launch rod guides on all components were aligned.

The rest was trivial: hook eye in the cone and attach the shock cord to the body. For the latter, I used a small piece of a 24mm motor casing. I notched the outside so that when the Kevlar® was tied around, it would lie flat with the outer rim. This was mounted several inches down into the body tube.

I simulated the saucer in RockSim8 using Bruce Levison 'short stubby' simulation techniques as presented in Apogee newsletters #154 and #158.

The Spaceship Earth saucer's name comes from the fact that it has a projection of the Earth printed on it. The 24mm cone I had laying around resembled a capsule (any cone would work). NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle is in the news. Hmmm, guess I'll call it the Crew Exploration Saucer.

Finishing consisted of painting the cone white and creating some wraps on my inkjet printer. The lower wrap has nozzles, flames, and smoke. The top is the Pantone color specified for models of NASA's CEV and a NASA logo.

Simulations said it would be stable under any conditions. I loaded dog barf wadding and a 12" Estes chute, friction-fitted a D12-3, and tested out the theory.

It flew just fine although the ejection, even with the short delay motor, was a bit late. Nevertheless, the chute opened and it recovered well.

This was just another use for Art's simple yet robust kits. If you have an extra, you might try making a variation on this theme. This rocket needs long burn, short delay motors!

Spyder Saucer

When I reviewed Art's 10.25", 29mm saucer, I said, "I don't know what Art is feeding his saucers, but they just seem to keep gettin' BIGGER". Now I am not sure where he gets his materials. I accidentally squirted some liquid plant fertilizer on my 4" Delta saucer...and look what happened!

But seriously, as I mentioned in my review of Art's new 4", 13mm Delta saucer, this kit originally came with the material for two Saucers. I built the Texas Special stock, but just had to do something a little different with the second set of parts. So, I went to Modular Space Toys and grabbed a set of ‘legs' from the 'original' modular set.  (The whole set of plans is now in a single .zip file).

PS - The 13mm Delta is now a free download!

Parts required:
* An Art Applewhite 4" delta saucer
* one additional sheet of cardstock

I first built the 4" saucer - please see my review of the Texas Special 13mm Delta Saucer.

The original plan for the legs was in the leg6.gif file (see links above). The drawing for 3 legs was scaled to fit on a full 8 ½ x 11 page, and was a little big for this small saucer. So, I scaled the image to a vertical height of 5". To conserve paper, I then edited out one of the legs on the .gif so I could re-feed the paper and print the 3rd leg on the same sheet.

The legs consist of one large, multifaceted section and one smaller piece. The latter was not used in this application. They were easy to form, just don't forget to score all the fold lines, both on the leg faces and the glue tabs. I could have mounted the legs either on the bottom of the saucer's center plate or on the bottom shroud, but elected to mount them on the plate. When gluing the legs on, I marked their locations and scuffed up the foam board.

The legs come pre-decorated and I haven't decided what to do with the white saucer, if anything. Maybe I'll grab a set of magic markers, or look for Spider man decals. Note that you can specify any two of the available print when you order. I just got plain white for my second saucer.

It started raining on launch day and in my haste to keep things dry, I dinged one leg. It was just a little floppy, so I improvised and reinforced it with a few small strips of duct tape. It flew nicely on an A10-0, with comparable performance with the stock kit. It came down nose first, so there was no damage to the legs.

I have said this before, but one thing I like about Art's saucers is that they provide the opportunity for customization; and getting 2 saucer's in one kit just begs you to build one stock and do something different with the other. Adding the legs made an interesting variation on the stock kit, but they are a bit flimsy. They could be reinforced further if desired.


This is a quick and dirty saucer-style rocket based on a yarmulke that I got at a Jewish wedding that I attended. The way I built it, it was ARF (almost ready to fly), but then, I cheated!

Parts list:
* One Art Applewhite Ultra Delta Flying Saucer
* One yarmulke
* Needle and thread

I was thinking about building a custom core for the yarmulke when I found the Ultra Delta Saucer fit just nicely. First, build the saucer as described in the instructions (see EMRR review linked above).  I cut a small hole in the yarmulke to accommodate the launch rod and tack-sewed it to the saucer in 4 spots.

This rocket flies just like the original but is odder. I flew mine on an E9-P. 100% Kosher!

Quest MicroMaxx Alien UFO on 'Roids

This is a conversion for a MicroMaxx Alien UFO for 18mm power. Since I have two, I thought I'd cut and grind one of them up. I basically just cut and ground out the center of the saucer and glued in an 18mm tube.


Parts used:
* One Quest Alien UFO
* 1-1/2" of BT-20
* 1/8" lug
* scrap styrene
* fiber ring, 18mm+

I cut the MicroMaxx motor mount out with my mini-Leatherman and then took the Dremel to the inner ring until the 18mm tube fit. The cuts are shown in the following photos. (I'm searching for the originals and will replace these with higher res versions.)

The connection point for the lower fins were weakened so I added some supports cut from a scrap plastic model. These were attached with plastic model glue and the rest was built with 5-minute epoxy. I next attached a fiber ring on the outside of the 18mm tube. This fits in between the inner ring and the lower fins. I used 5-minute epoxy to fill the small space between the top ring and the motor tube. Fillets were also added to the point where the fins touch the motor tube. A 1/8" launch lug completed the mod.

I painted the tube and lug with black Testor's brush-on paint.

Flight and Recovery:
I fly the modified saucer on Quest 'long burn' C6-3 motors. The only prep is a tape thrust ring and, of course, the igniter. This little thing really scoots and is far from the low and slow flight you get from a standard 18mm saucer. The ejection charge fires while it is still quite high and each time it lands close to the pad.

This is an easy mod, it raises eyebrows, and it flies great. The only con is that, if you like slow saucer flights, this one isn't. This is a nice little rocket to keep in the range box.