Back to SCALE
Back to Shuttle
Back to Shuttle - CD

 Assembly of NARAM Shuttle

For NARAM-41 in 1999

ASSEMBLY NOTES (incomplete)
Also see: ET assembly for 2000 WSMC model

Most images here are of the NARAM shuttle during assembly. They were made by laying the parts on top of a flatbed scanner. The scanner had a problem that produced some yellow-green specks. Wish I had the digital camera back then.

Some of the images seen here are composites, scans of the same part or parts taken at different orientations.


Assembly jig for building bay door/hatch. The bulkheads for the doors were extra-tall to allow for removal later. Balsa longerons included for the top and the sides.
Assembly jig with bays doors added. Doors were 1/16" light balsa soaked in water and curved to the right shape then allowed to dry before gluing. When glued, each door skin half was first glued along the top longeron, then down along the sides. The extra height of the bulkheads allowed access to also apply CA to glue the door skins to the three middle bulkheads. After gluing complete, lower part of the jig assembly was cut away, easily done due to the horizontal grain of the balsa bulkheads. After removing the jig, the rest of the bulkheads were trimmed. The fore and aft ends of the doors later were trimmed and sanded to match up with the fuselage, further along in the fuselage assembly process.
Mid-fuselage assembly, future nose section at left. Lower fuselage bottom made of 3/16" light balsa. Extra 3/16" layer added to allow for future trimming and sanding of contour. 3/16" square balsa longerons placed 3/32" below where the bay door edges will be once 1/16" side sheeting is added. Assembly 18 grams at this point.
Mid-fuselage assembly with side sheeting added. Bay door hatch trimmed to fit and laid in place temporarily. 
Aft Compartment floor assembly. Made up of 3/32" horizontal grain balsa layer (outer) and 3/32" vertical grain balsa layer (inside). 1/8" gap between them for elevon torque rod assembly to be partially submerged to produce the necessary hinge line location. 1/16" brass rod torque rod assembly. Used for elevator only, steering done by rudder, not mixed elevons.
Vertical tail/rudder after being built, subassemblies detached. Tail made by vac-forming Monogram parts (solid filled), using .02" plastic sheet. Balsa spar runs full height. A second stub spar of a wider chord is shown at right, which carried most of the plug-in assembly stresses. Movable rudder has a special Alumilite cast sleeving inside that engages the splined shaft of a piece of Gold-N-Rod pushrod (shown). The movable rudder is not hinged in any way, it simply is attached to the top end of the splined Gold-N-Rod shaft which uses a piece of 3/16" Evergreen plastic tubing as bearing tube (Bearing tube visible protruding at far left of tail root plug-in assembly). The cast Alumilite tube seen below the Gold-N-Rod is another piece of cast sleeving as the rudder uses, that one to be mounted inside the orbiter's aft compartment to transmit the rudder torque rod motion to the plug-in rudder's shaft.


Left: Rudder with all components in place.

Right: Rudder after painting and application of black decal pieces.

Frame-up of Aft Compartment and rudder plug-in assembly


Rudder Torque-rod assembly added

Side sheeting of aft compartment added. OMS pods temporarily in place



Mid-fuselage R/C gear and latch install.

Servo at lower left is HS-60, for elevator control (elevator needs more power and accuracy than the other two channels). Uppermost servo on right is HS-50 for orbiter separation. Servo below that is HS-50 for rudder control.

Latch and servo/pushrods were installed early in the assembly process to avoid too much handling of the orbiter later on (before the nose and wings were attached).

Close-up of Latch assembly. Latch is based on a 1/16" brass torque rod which rotates about 90 degrees when released. The working end of the torque rod is a piece bent 90 degrees that sticks out about 1/8". It engages a notched piece of 1/8" aluminum rod that is attached to 1/32" cable from the ET, when the torque lever is pulled up 90 degrees. When prepped for flight, a sliding "trombone" type 1/32" wire assembly locks the torque lever in place. When the servo moves the trombone wire assembly to the right, it no longer holds back the torque lever arm, allowing the arm to pivot forward and to release the orbiter from the ET. Note the semi-triangular opening in the custom cut plywood arm of the servo, which allows manually prepping the trombone/latch without having to have the radio gear on.

A modified version of the above image, to clarify somewhat more how the latch parts work and what they look like.

Hitec/RCD HS-60 servo (left) and HS-50 servo (right).

HS-60 used for elevator, due to the high loads on boost and greater need for precision in pitch during glide.

HS-50 used for rudder and for sep latch.

OMS pod fabrication. Basic pods made by vac-forming .015" plastic over slightly modified Monogram parts (1/8" balsa end pieces glued to the Monogram OMS pods for forming). 1/16" light balsa glued to inside edges of vac-formed OMS pods for rigidity and surface for gluing to orbiter. Aft thruster assemblies hollow-cast from 1-piece RTV mold. A high-volume mix of micro-balloons was used with the Alumilite. The mixture poured into the RTV mold and mold tilted around to cover all the surfaces, then most poured out (I understand this is called slurry-casting). Mold rotated during curing to keep from pooling too much at any one spot. Then as curing started, mold laid base-down. The inner skin was quite thin, the apparent thickness seen in this scan (lower left) is where the Alumilite slumped down and spread out a bit during final cure.
Complete OMS pod after painting. OMS engine nozzle cast with micro-balloons and Alumilite, based on Monogram part. This shape is inaccurate, will be accurate for the FAI model. Approximate mass of each completed OMS pod was 10 grams.


Nose job. This is not the NARAM model but the first time to give an orbiter a nose transplant. 1982 oversized wing orbiter went out of control during last glide flight that used mixed elevons (1985). Temporary nose was added to fly the model to see if rudder control could be used instead. After that proved to work well, the nose was properly replaced with another built-up balsa nose. But the balsa noses have always been so tedious to get just right, especially the cockpit (I have never gotten one that looked just exactly right, some better than others).

Therefore the great desire to build a scale model using a formed nose from the Monogram kit rather than to build out of balsa.

Nose thrusters-top.jpg
Monogram kit nose section half before being cut with razor saw and solid-filled. Outline of thrusters and black tile patterns traced for reference. Tracing was traced again by using yellow Japanese tissue and scanned to use as a reference to trace in MacDraw.

This assisted in the process of drawing up custom decals.

Orbiter thruster trace.jpg

Orbiter nose vac-formed from .03" plastic. 3/16" balsa cut to exact profile was used for structural strength and to double as internal joiner, no joiner strips were used. Before assembly, a special spring loaded assembly was glued into the 3/16" balsa, to accept the forward strut from the ET. The spring helps to push the orbiter nose up and way from the ET, to help with the separation process.
Mid-fuselage front just before vac-formed nose was attached. Note marks along the lower corners, showing where the balsa will be carved and sanded to shape to match the vac-formed nose contour. Note similar marks along the upper bay door corners to match the flat-spots that extend back from the cockpit area. Note extra balsa was added to the bay door skins on the inside to allow for sanding down those spots without sanding through all of the balsa.

A lot of this process was tested out 15 years before with the 1984 boilerplate which also used a vac-formed nose (at that time, for convenience). Then of course, 15 years is a long time to try to remember details of how a model was built, and the process in 1984 didn't seem practical at the time to use for an actual scale model.

Orbiter nose glued in place to mid-fuselage (bay doors temporarily laid in place, not glued). Squadron white putty applied along joint between vac-formed nose and balsa mid-fuselage. Lower corners of balsa mid fuselage not carved or sanded yet.
Rib Patterns. These are from Luther Hux' 1982 plan for a 1/72 orbiter. However, I made my 1982 and 1984 boilerplate orbiters without the reflex to the airfoil. And didn't have the old modified rib patterns from the 1984 orbiter.
There was only one way to be sure to get the rib patterns for the 1999 model to match the 1984 orbiter so the 1999 one would have the same glide stability characteristics. There was noit way the 1999 scale orbiter was going to be test-glided for any reason, the contest flights would be the only glide flights.

The 1984 orbiter's right wing was removed and cut up into sections at the desired rib locations. The scans were used for tracing over in MacDraw to generate accurate ribs for the 1999 orbiter.


Assembly process of main wings. Lower 1./16" balsa skin has pattern drawn onto it, then ribs glued to it. Leading edge added, then ribs. Upper skin added, and tip block. Then leading edge and tip carved/sanded to shape. Wing Glove/Chines built from 1/16" balsa skins. Elevons and body flap built up from 1/16" balsa skins. Elevons hinged by Klett hinges.
Orbiter with wings attached. Main wings were attached first to mid-fuselage. Then the glove/chines, carefully trimmed and sanded to match up with the beginning of the glove/chine on the vac-formed nose and airfoil of the chopped off front of the main wing. After that, a rectangular section was cut out of the transition section and a solid piece of light balsa glued in to be carved and sanded to shape.

Also visible is the belly latch hole, 1/8" I.D. aluminum tubing. As well, in the aft section, one of the short pieces of rectangular brass tubing used as one of the hardpoint interfaces with the 1/16" pins that are on the ET aft struts. The acceleration loads are transmitted thru those hard points.

Aft Compartment SSME Heat Shield mold. An RTV mold was made of one of the heat shields of the Monogram kit, and three Alumilite copies cast. They were glued to a piece of plywood, to vac-form the heat shield. To get the forming to work, 1/32" holes were drilled along the edges. .015" plastic was used for the formings and they worked well.
Vac-formed Aft compartment heat shield piece before trimming. Also cast Alumilite SSME engines. The SSME engines were hollow-cast from one-piece molds. Alumilite with some microballoons (but not a lot) was poured into the mold, rotated around to cover the mold, and some excess poured out as mold was continuously rotated by hand until the Alumilite was set up beyond flowing anymore (similar method as used for casting the rear OMS pods and SRB nose/Frustums). Resulting SSME engines averaged about 3 grams each.


Aft Skirt Fin Test Assembly - Aft Skirts vac-formed from .04" plastic. Base ring from .04" plastic. The one shown in this photo was used as a test of the attachment of the .06" Lexan/polycarbonate fins. Fins have a tab that extends inside a slot cut into the skirt. Liquid plastic cement used to help tack-glue the fin into place. To anchor the fin, Alumilite and micro-balloon mix is applied to the fin tab, inside of the skirt. A series of holes in the tab also help to anchor the fin tab to the Alumilite.
SRB Aft Attach Ring - Cast part with two half-struts which interface with similar half-struts attached to the ET.

To reinforce the struts to prevent breaking, a piece of bent .025" music wire (lower left) was placed into the mold at each of the two half-strut locations. The dark wires are slightly visible in the cast struts.

Two "whiskers" on the half strut at lower right are from vent holes in the mold. Part was not cleaned up at the time this scan was taken.

SRB Nozzles - .03" plastic formed over a slightly modified Monogram nozzle part.
SRB Timer - Recovery system deployment timer based on a Tomy toy type of wind-up timer. A 1/16" brass rod slides inside of a 1/8" Evergreen plastic tube, seen at upper right of the timer side view. The rod is pushed by the ET when the SRB is attached to the ET, and in turn the left side of the rod presses into the cast Alumilite disc (left) to prevent the time from rotating. When the SRB seps, the rod is free to slide to the right, allowing the disc to rotate and timer to run. When the disc rotates about 210 degrees, it no longer holds down a latch (not shown), so that latch pivots up to allow a rubber band-driven dowel (not shown) to push the nose off. For more details see the shuttle model web page.

Bottom of photo : Special wind-up tool made of square brass tubing. This engages the output shaft of the timer, which is ground to a 1/16" square cross-section.

SRB Nose - Cast nose based on slightly modified Monogram part (shoulder added). Uses open-faced one-piece RTV mold. Hollow-cast using a mix of microballoons and Alumilite, in similar manner as to how the SSME nozzles are done. Average mass of 4-5 grams.
SRB Nose Done - Finished nose after painting and decaling. The only paint used was white paint. Everything else is solid color decals.
SRB nose color pattern from mike Mackowski's booklet. The black "L" and "T" patterns were drawn up in MacDraw and printed out. The printouts were rubber-cemented to black decal sheet and cut out by hand using the patterns as a guide. After curing, the paper was removed (this is why rubber cement was used).

Also see the DECALS page.

Aft Skirt Details - Molds used for casting copies of the Monogram kit's aft skirt hold-down flanges and separation rockets. Two-piece mold (top left and top middle) was used for casting the Separation rockets.

An original kit Aft Skirt was used for the proper curvature of the cast flanges, after filling a flange mold with Alumilite the aft skirt was pressed into place.

As shown at bottom, several flanges were cast and allowed to cure a long time to stiffen before removal fromt he Aft Skirt.

The flanges were later glued to a vac-formed aft skirt.

Not Shown - Fiberglass SRB tubes made by Jay Marsh. These saved significant mass over paper tubes, as did the ET tube.


Intertank Bulkhead - Heart of the ET (Flight Computer is the brains). Built of two layers of 1/64 ply and light 1/8" balsa. Large hole at top for the engine mount tube. Since engine has to be loaded into the top of the ET, not the bottom, the whole engine tube assembly has to slide into place. 6-32 threads to each side secure the engine mount tube in place (flange glued to upper end of tube). Large hole at bottom for wiring access and other "manhole" access inside ET, and of course a little bit of mass savings.

HS-60 servo in center for SRB sep activation. Spring-loaded pushrods to latches allow latches to be manually moved to allow for SRB attachment, and for servo to "overdrive" the pushrods.

SRB sep latches - Paste-up of several scans of latches. Near-vertical 1/32" brass rod attached to the upper latch engages a notch in 3/32" rod from the SRB (not shown).

Latches are cast in 2 parts using one-piece RTV mold (bottom). 1/8" hole is cast in part by use of a 1/8" rod (mold release waxed) inserted before casting. Holes for hinge pin also cast into parts by use of 1/32" brass rods. After Alumilite has gelled reasonably firm, but not totally hardened, the 1/8" rod and 1/32" pins are rotated enough to "unfreeze" them, then left in place for a few more minutes before removing the rod and pins completely and removing the parts.

For more info on how the latches work, see the Shuttle model web page. These latches are a modified improved design from the ones shown in the drawing on the web page.

Intertank Wrap - Half-pattern (180 degrees) was laser-cut from thin cardboard by Tom Campbell. Laminating film applied to one side of the thin cardboard then an RTV mold was made. Wrap is flexible Epoxy (Hobbypoxy Smooth 'N Easy), with a base layer of 1.4 oz fiberglass cloth. Red dye was used to help see and pick out any bubbles. Bubbles/voids were a major problem, about 7 of these were cast to get two good ones to use. Note this is a "simple" pattern, for the FAI model a more accurate pattern will be used.
Intertank Wrapped - Translucent fiberglass body (by Jay Marsh) and translucent intertank wrap allow seeing inside the intertank. The wide vertical piece is a 1/2" piece of 4.6" NCR tubing glued in place to provide a secure bottom stop for the removable intertank disc (not shown, see shuttle model web page). To the right of that, the narrow vertical line, is the intertank bulkhead.

Horizontal light gray line is Squadron Putty applied over the joint of the two intertank wrap halves. It was still drying when this was taken, later sanded down.

Aft Dome - Aft dome formed from .03" plastic sheet, over mold made by Jack Hagerty. In this scan, the formed dome was only rough-trimmed and placed back onto mold after removal.

After trimming, and after the Aft bulkhead was built, the position of the hole for the engine nozzle was determined (the extended nozzle of an F25 sticks thru the hole). The hole is cut to match a tube coupler for BT-20. The coupler is saturated with thin CA to give it some heat/flame protection. The tube is used to ensure that no hot gases get trapped along the opening of the hole, it extends up about 3/8" inside the Aft Dome. It has worked well, no exhaust damage to the dome on either the NARAM or boilerplate models.

Aft Bulkhead and Dome - Aft bulkhead made of two pieces of 1/16" light balsa glued at 90 degrees, plus some reinforcement along the SRB attach strut mount tubes. The attach strut mounts are 1/8" ID tubing. The machined SRB attach half-struts (Bob Biedron) were attached later after the aft dome was glued to the ET and the joint filled and sanded.

Yellow plastic ring at top has 4 angled guide ramps to help slip the engine mount tube into place.


LOX Line 90 degree bend. Evergreen .25" plastic tubing used for Lox Line. The real thing has a curved 90 degree bend at the rear to go from parallel to the tank up into the Orbiter. It was not practical to bend it, nor to cast a curved solid piece due to the need for it to be hollow to run wiring thru. So the tubing was cut into wedges, glued together with liquid plastic cement, and puttied. After the putty fully dried, it was sanded smooth to achieve the proper curve.
Pipes & Fairings - Far left are the Monogram kit conduit strips. They were not practical to mold, so were built up from using plastic strips and plastic tubing. The scan at left was copied into MacDraw to allow for tracing a pattern to be printed out, the conduits built over the printed pattern.

In scan at right, cream colored parts are cast copies of fairings from the Monogram kit. Large one at left for the Lox line, the one at top center is for the "Beanie cap", where the conduit lines from the ET nose start down. Assembled conduit lines on the right side.




ET/Orbiter Struts. Cast parts based on Monogram kit parts as masters for RTV molds. The Aft struts are fully assembled, from three cast parts. The 90 degree bend for the Lox line is shown, with Orbiter Sep sensor wiring (yellow) running from it. Barely visible inside of the Lox line is the very small lever switch that was the orbiter sep sensor.

Orbiter attach hardpoints are 1/16" brass pins. If you look close you can see them near each end of the horizontal beam. The beam was drilled to accept these pins which were then CA'ed in place. Acceleration loads are transmitted to the orbiter by these pins (and the entire aft strut assembly)

Near bottom, the forward attach strut. It is reinforced by a piece of 1/32" music wire in each leg, bent as needed. The music wire extending out of the bottom allows for the strut assembly to be attach to the ET merely by drilling two 1/32" holes to the correct spot on the ET, no gluing. It is free to pivot and can even be easily replaced. The top part of the strut assembly extends inside of the orbiter nose about 5/8", a spring assembly inside of the orbiter nose pushes down on this to help with separation when the sep latch is released.

Assembled ET aft area - Lighter colored parts such as the struts and Lox line were painted separately before gluing.

Light orange parts of conduit struts are white decal material that was airbrushed with the same color. This orange-painted decal was used in other places as well.

SRB Aft attach half-round struts visible to the left and right.

Assembled ET nose - Vacuformed Nose shell (.080" plastic) , NCR 4.6" tube for coupler.
BT-80 module inside for recovery system and Jay Marsh's Flight Computer

Conduit strip in place, along with beanie cap, fairing, and so forth.

Lighter orange ramp was made by gluing two pieces of plastic to a sharp angle then using that as a mold to cast a long wedge cross section part. After hardening the long piece was trimmed and sanded to achieve the proper angled shape for the front and read of the ramp. Then the part was cut into two pieces, one for the nose and one for the ET intertank.

Not visible are two 1/32" holes in the ET nose side, where .025" "remove before flight" pins are inserted to disarm the ejection charges and keep the flight computer power off. The holes are between two of the conduit lines. This area is pointed out better on the shuttle model web page photos of the NARAM-41 model.

Assembled ET Intertank area - Conduit lines and Lox Line in place. Also the lower half of the Foam ramp extending from the ET nose. Antenna plates were painted in advance then glued into place after the ET was painted.

Lighter orange bands along the top and bottom of the intertank area are white decal material, painted orange.

A view of the three ET scans in one shot.

Micro lever switches. The one at far left was used for the Orbiter sep sensor, the one mounted inside the 90 degree bend Lox Line piece.

The second one was used for three remove before flight switches, thrust detect switch, and liftoff sensor switch. To the right of it is shown one of the special assemblies that was built to house the switch for the remove before flight pin switch method. Two of those were used in the ET Nose (Computer ON, Ejection ARM), and one in the orbiter for R/C power ON (on being when the pin is removed).

Some assorted scans from Dennis R Jenkins' booklet - Rockwell International Space Shuttle (Aerofax Datagraph #5, 1989, OOP)



ASSEMBLY NOTES (incomplete)
N-41 Shuttleliftoff.jpg
ET assembly
for 2000 WSMC model

Back to SCALE
Back to Shuttle
Back to Shuttle - CD