Little Joe-II Pages


Scale Main
Little Joe Main
Photos #1
Photos #2
George's Models
Tom's Models

George Gassaway and the Little Joe-II

My sixth model rocket was the Centuri 1/100 Little Joe-II, in Spring 1970. It was also my first with balsa fins, and first scale model (previous 5 had been MPC kits). As with Tom Beach, the Historical Brochure that came with that kit left a lasting impression.

In 1975, I got a Centuri 1/45 kit. It was flown a lot usually with a D12. It was even used for design out "Abort Staging", with a mini-A engine in the base of the Capsule. I still have it, , but it is in bad shape. I also have an unbuilt 1/45 kit in storage.

In 1989, I teamed with Wayne Hendricks (Southern Comfort Team). Wayne had been interested in our team developing a scale model of the Little Joe-II, and had built his own 4" diameter prototype. Plus for sport flying he loved flying 7 engine clusters in a Little Joe-II model. I had not considered doing a Little Joe-II as a serious scale model before, as my scale skills in early years were poor. But by 1989, they were getting a lot better. I found ways to do the three most critical parts of the model - scratchbuilt LES Tower, corrugated body, and the UNITED STATES Lettering to conform accurately to the corrugations. And Wayne arranged to get an aluminum mandrel made up for vac-forming the Capsules/BPC's.

As part of preparing to build a serious model, I contacted Tom Beach who was known to be a collector of data and expert on the Little Joe-II. The Centuri Historical Brochure had some flaws (no BPC information), and I did not even know how many corrugations to model. One thing led to another as we collaborated in the drawings and article that ran in the May/June and July/August 1991 issues of American Spacemodeling magazine (now Sport Rocketry).

Even before the data was created, I built models in early 1990. First a boilerplate. Then a model for Regional Contests. And then a model for NARAM-42 in 1990.

For some info on how the models were built, use this link to jump to the assembly of the Regional Model.

Little Joe-II at JSC - Houston, Texas

George (far right) with Little Joe-II and launcher at JSC, during NARAM-21 (1979)
Rick Gaff photo - Mark Bundick in foreground.

NARAM-32 Sport Scale - 1990

A-004     1/39.5 Scale

Near Dallas, Texas

Southern Comfort Team - 1st place

The Regional model had worked out nicely, winning the regionals it was flown in at Alabama contests. The experience from building the Regional Model helped a lot in building the NARAM model. Also, more information from Tom Beach was helping fill in a lot of holes that I did not know when the Regional model was built.

But ironically, the information from Tom was not really all put togther until long after the NARAM model was built.

At NARAM-32, the model scored well in Static judging, in first place. When it flew, it flew nicely. There was a "surprise" carried inside of it, a hidden Command Module with three chutes, for mission points. Unfortunately, the CM caught a thermal and flew away! The NARAM model was recovered fine, and went on to fly more NARAMs and even three WSMC's.





The photo at left and right was taken by Bob Alway.

The photo as printed at right, with caption.,was featured in Peter Alway's first scale book in 1990:
"Scale Model Rocketry - a Guide for the Historian-Craftsman".

It was later also included in Peter Alway's
"The Art Of Scale Model Rocketry", in 1994

Static Judging
(Bob Alway photo)

Loading onto Pad, with Wayne Hendricks
(Bob Alway photo)

2007 update - New internal CM for Mission Points,
replacing original CM lost in 1990

NARAM-33 Peanut Sport Scale - 1991

A-002     1/100 Scale

Near Chicago, Illinois

Southern Comfort Team - 2nd place

For info on how this model was built, see the second part of the construction series further down this page.

The model was built at 1/100 scale, as the Centuri and Estes kits were. This one was for A-002, perhaps he first time anyone had modeled A-002 for a NARAM (or any meet?). I used more advanced fabrication methods for that model than I had for the previous ones. Especially regarding Alumilite cast parts and RTV molds. The Peanut model suffered a bit due to its tiny size. The UNITED STATES lettering was done by clear decal, and the clear decal film was visible, so that hurt the score somewhat.

It took Second Place in Team Division, to Team Neutron's Tiny Saturn-IB (Jay Marsh and Ed LaCroix), We would merge teams later to create the Southern Neutron Team.

With Photo 64-H-2805

With Photo 64-H-2456

American Spacemodeling issues,
with Peanut and Quest models

Removeable Base plate, slight burn damage.

NARAM-34 Super Scale - 1992

Las Vegas, NV (dry lakebed site)

Southern Neutron Team - 1st place

This was quite a challenge, to build a Scale Pad to go with the 1990 NARAM Little Joe-II. It never would have been possible without Tom Beach providing drawings he had drawn up for a model he also planned to build, but did not.

A functional concern was how to keep the pad from being damaged by the engine exhaust. This was solved by designing the Scale Pad's base so it would be raised off of the ground, with a hole thru the center. To further protect the pad, a BT-70 tube was rigged up to be attached to the base of the E15 engine, and ride up with the model for about 16 inchs, then come to a stop due to a stop ring at the bottom fo the BT-70.

The Little Joe Pad was bult from yellow .04" styrene, white .04" styrene, Plastruct I Beams, H Beams and L Angles, and some other plastic parts including Evergreen styrene tubing. In the midldle and far right photos, the partially completed pad can be seen , sitting on top of the elevated launching platform.

Boilerplate Test

The launcher actually had more time put into it than the NARAM model had. It dragged on so much that I had to finish off making some RTV molds so I could take Alumilite with me and cast parts at NARAM (parts for the wheel assemblies, and halve for each wheel). I spent Saturday night at NARAM casting the parts, gluing some of them, then painting them Sunday and completing the pad in time for turn-in Sunday night.

It turned out that there were NO other entries in Team Division, and only three in C Div. So there was a combined 4 entries for C and Team Division. The Little Joe was easily in first place, and flew very well, nailing first place. Ironically the only hing that did not go right is the BT-70 tubing did not ride up with the modle as it had i na test flght, but the pad was OK, and Tom Beach would not have gottne such a nice launch photo.

The Little Joe-II helped our Southern Neutron Team, flying our first season together, to win the National Championship in Team Division.

Medium Resolution image

High resolution image

Photo by Tom Beach (Medium Res.)

Southern Neutron Team: Wayne Hendricks,
Ed LaCroix, George Gassaway, & Jay Marsh

Photo by Tom Beach (High Res.)

Photo by Tom Beach

Photo by Tom Beach

NARAM-37 Sport Scale - 1995

Rochester, NY

Southern Neutron Team - 1st place

Yet again the NARAM Joe came through and won Team Div.

The most notable thing was finally meeting Tom Campbell, who had been building his own model, pretty much the first serious model anyone had built using the 1991 Data Tom Beach ahd I had created.

Tom Campbell's bird was incredible. Best - Joe - Ever!

Flown on a G40, Tom's bird easily flew to first place in C Division.

George with Jay Marsh

Tom Campbell and his model

NARAM-38 Sport Scale - 1996

Evansville, Indiana

Southern Neutron Team - 1st place

Yet again the NARAM Joe came through. It was one of the even wins at NARAM that year that helepd us to nail down another Team Championship for SouthernNeutron.

It was mothballed and not flown again until NARAM-48 in 2006



(no photo available)

NARAM-48 Scale - 2006

Near Phoenix, Arizona

Southern Neutron Team - 4th place

The 1990 NARAM model was flown once again, 10 years after it last flew (1996 WSMC and NARAM-38).

It ony came in 4th, for a few reasons. It had not been built to be measured for Scale, the orginal BPC/LES had been destroyed due to a shock cord tying error in 1992, plus wear and tear of being an old workhorse model.

Also, the other builders uppped their game too.

NARAM-48 (2006)
Rick Gaff Photo

Launch on E15-4
Rick Gaff Photo


The Little Joe-II was also flown at three WSMC's, in the FAI S7 Scale event. It was not good enough to ever crack the top ten ,indeed it was usually near the back of he scoring, since it had been built for Sport Scale to begin with, and it is a whole extra step-up from being a NARAM contender to an FAI Medal contender such as Bob Biedron. At one time I had started some upgrade parts with the plan to build a new Little Joe for the 1992 WSMC, but it never got too far.

The main reasons the Little Joe-II was flown was to help make the third spot on the U.S. S7 Scale Team, otherwise there might not have even been a third person (or a person less qualified). Plus I was going anyway, flying at least another event or two.

It did pay off in 1992, the WSMC held in Melbourne, Florida. The U.S. S7 Team took second place as a team (and Bob Biedron winning a Gold Medal with his Ariane). My Little Joe and Jay Marsh's Saturn-IB helped to add to the team score enough for the team to take second that year. Unfortunately, that was the last time a US S7 Senior team had all three entries to make qualified flights. However the U.S. Junior Team did do that in 2002, to taking the Team Bronze.

The Little Joe-II was also flown in S7 at the 1994 WSMC in Poland, and at the 1996 WSMC in Slovenia.

G. Harry Stine (1992 WSMC)
Scale models on pads (1992 WSMC Melbourne, FL)
Launch (1992 WSMC)
1994 WSMC - Poland

7" Diameter 1/22 Sport Model  -  1991

In 1991, I wanted to build a 7" Diameter 1/22 model just for sport flying, not contests. A boilerplate was built out of poster paper. It flew on a G25 and six C6's. It also happened to be my HPR Level 1 Cert flight, in those days a person certified on a G.

I regret that I do not have a photo of the actual model, before it crashed. It was made up from .02" styrene plastic for the body, and also for the Capsule. It was a very lightweight way to build a model like that. It weighed about 1.5 pounds, plus 4 ounces of noseweight added to the Escape Rocket. Detailing was sacrificed, even the corrugations were just crudely scribed into the skin. I had intended to fly it eventually on an H45, and six D12's, but never got that chance.

It did make a great flight at NARAM-43 in 1991. That fall, I flew it in Huntsville at HARA's Rocket City Classic. Unfortunately the G25 did not light, but the six C6's had enough power (like a 60 N-sec F36) to carry it up 100 feet or more, then it fell to the ground and was smashed. I still have the main Joe body, but do not know if I ever will rebuild it. Ironically I had intended to add R/C ejection to that model later on, that would have saved it.

Posterboard Boilerplate
Photo by Vince Huegele

The aftermath of the core
G25 failing to ignite

2008 photo comparing the 1/22 model
with Micro Maxx and 1/100 Models

Centuri 1/45 Little Joe-II Tests - (1989 or so)

I modified my old 1/45 model ,which was in bad shape, to try out a couple of things. For one, I replaced the original engine mount with one for 7 engines. A 24mm engine in the center, and six 18mm engines. I did not test it on 7 engines though, I only got around to doing a test with three, a D12 and two C6's.

The other test was for "abort staging". I modified the BPC cone to hold an engine mount in the base of it, plus a system to deploy a parachute to recover it. And added a mercury switch system into a 1" long ejectable piston that fit in the upper part of the SM, just under the BPC cone, to both house the electronics and to keep the recovery system of the Main Body from being roasted by the A3 engine inside the BPC. It flew and worked out just great. Later I did a similar BPC Abort test with a 4" model, and C6 engine in the base of the BPC. It worked, but I decided not to pursue it for the Contest models due to the reliability risks.

George and Wayne Hendricks

Ready for flight at a HARA launch


Assembly pictures - The 1/39.5 Regional model assembly in 1990

A Boilerplate model was built to explore the construction using corrugated plastic sheet curled into a tube, fin attachment, and BT-80 tube for recovery compartment (with a printed wrapper for the Service Module pattern). Service Module slips on and is replaceable. In both photos at right, the Boilerplate is seen with a sivler body, and a paper printed wrap on the Service Module

The "Regional" Little Joe model (being built in these pics) went through thru several Service Modules due to accumulated wear and tear.

The Regional Model seen here was built with a 29mm engine mount. The NARAM model was built with a 24mm mount, to fly on E15 power. A baffle system was used inside of a BT-80 tube, to store the parachutes. Over time I regretted not having something larger than BT-80 inside, such as a 3" or 3.25" tube to allow for more room to store the chutes and shock cord.


The scale of 1/39.5 was determined by a 12" wide piece of Evergreen "Metal Siding" plastic sheet with .10" spacing to produce the necessary 120 corrugations (result is 3.89" diameter tube).

There was a lot of use of vacuformed parts, including the BPC/Capsule cone , nozzles, and fin root fairings. Even the 16 Thruster quad nozzles. Wayne Hendricks arranged to have a machinist to turn a mandrel for use in vac-forming the Apollo BPC Cone.

There was little use of casting due to not discovering the joys of Alumilite by then. The cast fairing translucent pieces on the system tunnel plate are polyester resin, Alumilite is lots better. When I later did a Peanut Scale modle at 1/100 scale, I made a lot of use of casting.

The lower body skin, and system tunnel strips, were cut from .005" styrene and glued into place.

The Tower was built from 3/32" and 1/16" plastic tubing using a flat jig to hold two vertical legs and the horizontal struts. See the Jig Drawing Pattern at right. Take note it is at 200%, 1/19.75 scale, meant to be printed at 50% for 1/39.5 scale. Once the two vertical legs and two horizontal struts were glued together, then the diagonal struts were added in. This was done two times, to make two sub-assemblies, let's call them side 1 and side 3.. Once both were fully dry, then one leg of side 1 and one leg of side 3 were taped into place on the jig so that the horizontal struts for side 2 could be glued in. Once that was done, then it could be removed, and rotated 180 degrees then taped to the jig to allow side 4 to be assembled.

Another special jig was made for gluing together the "X" struts, cut from 4 pieces of 1/16" plastic rod. Pre-printed cutting guides were used to help trim them to the correct angles and length. The jig for the "X" struts was bowed inwards, the same as the real thing. Once an X strut was completed and fully dried, it was glued to one side of the tower assembly, and the process repeated for the other three.

There is more info on building the LES Tower further down on this page, including photos of the Jig.


Photo at right: Alignment of the assembled tower top to the BPC cone, and alignment for attaching LES motor and skirt was done by making a special jig (shown) to hold all parts centered.

As seen here, the assembled BPC and Tower had already been painted white, and the Tower Skirt painted black, before gluing the skirt to the Tower. It would have been quite difficult if those has been glued together first, and then painted.

The Regional model went on to win many regional meets over the years, mostly in Alabama.

The final of the big three problems to solve for building a Little Joe-II was how to do the UNITED STATES lettering so it would conform with the corrugated body. Solid black decal film would be used for the letters. First I simply cut different widths of decal film and applied them to some test corrugations, and found just the right width to fit across exactly three corrugations. Then I drew up the lettering and adjusted the width of the lettering to match the width as determined by the decal tests.

The drawn lettering was printed out onto paper, then the paper rubber-cemented onto solid black decal sheet. Then I used a singe edge razor blade and straight edge to cut out each letter, one at a time. If the font had been curved instead of angular, I could never have cut curves freehand.

When the letters were cut out, the rubber-cemented-on paper was peeled off, leaving the black decal letter to be applied. I drew up a letter spacing guide, cut it out, and taped it to the side of the body, offset to the right, as seen in the photo at right. This showed me exactly where to place each letter.

To get the letters to conform, it required setting solution and a scrap piece of Evergreen corrugated plastic as used for the main body (the corrugated plastic matches face to face). The Evergreen corrugated plastic was used to help press the letter into place, into he crevices of the corrugations. A small paintbrush was also used in helping to slide the decal around to get it just right before. Sometimes it took several tries to get a letter placed just right, but it was not a bad process. When I did the NARAM model, I molded an RTV rubber strip to use instead in place of the plastic, since it could wrap easily across the painted body without scratching.

I should note that the Regional model, seen here, did not have accurate elevons, the hingeline was simply scribed on. That is because the whole project was a progression from R&D of fabricating the corrugations, building a LES, and doing the lettering. Then making a boilerplate, then the Regional model, and finally the NARAM model. The NARAM model did have accurate elevons and other detailing the Regional Model did not have.

1/100 Peanut Little Joe-II for NARAM-33 (1991)



At right, from left to right: A test sample of trying to curl .04" spaced Evergreen Plastic into a tube, and next to that, a printed ful l body wrap with Centuri cone on top (I used a vac-formed cone for the Peanut model).

The curled .04" plastic did not work as wel lfor me as it had for Tom. So, I ended up making a flexible body wrap. I used HobbyPoxy "Smooth-N-Easy" epoxy, a low viscosity epoxy that was flexible, to cast a body wrap, using the Evergreen plastic as a female pattern. The epoxy was mixed with some red dye, the epoxy poured into the plastic sheet model, and a brush was used to remove any tiny bubbles (the red dye made the bubbles visible). Once done, a pre-cut piece of 1.5 ounce fiberglass cloth was laid over the the mold, so the cast wrap would have a backing (otherwise, an all-epoxy wrap would rip when removed from the mold). A sheet of plastic was laid on top of everything, than a sturdy flat sheet on top of that, and weights to squeeze out the excess epoxy.

.04" plastic body Test Sample, Printed Body Wrap, Test Assembly, and Final Model


As seen at right, let side of photo, a reject wrap was used with a Test Assembly Model. Not for flying, just a practice run at assembly so problems that might crop up would happen with this and not the real model. The tube for the wrap was a piece of BT-60 that had had a strip cut out and re-glued to reduce the diameter to one equal to the inside diameter of the BT-58 used for the Estes Apollos. That allowed for the correct diameter for the epoxy wrap to fit just right, at 120 corrugations. The tube was allowed to be a bit longer so that for the real NARAM peanut model, the front end would act as a tube coupler for the completed Service Module to be mounted onto and glued from the inside.

The Main Fins and Root Fairings were cast in one piece using Alumilite. The Elevons were cast separately, then glued on.   005" styrene was used to simulate the splice rings and lower body skin, as well as System Tunnels.

The silver paint on half of the Test Assembly Model was a crappy type from a spray can. The only good paint I found for the cntest models was Testor's Model Master Metalizer series, Aluminum, in bottles, which required spraying from an airbrush.

The Apollo LES tower was built-up like the 1/39.5 model had been. But for a jig, I used the Estes 1/100 tower to cast a female mold, then used the female mold as an assembly jig.

The United States Lettering was too small for me to use the cut-letter trick and apply each letter one by one as with the 1/39.5 models. I had thought that I could get the lettering to work using clear decal film and lots of decal setting solution plus RTV copies of the Evergreen corrugations to press the decal strips into place. It mostly worked, but it was not as good as the hand-cut letters (other than the fact the letters were all perfectly aligned, which I may never have achieved with hand-cut 1/100 letters applied one by one).

Test Assembly Model, and Final model


More Building Notes -

As seen at right, staring at upper loft, clockwise: Raw Vac-form for 1/100 Peanut Cone, Raw Vac-form for 1/39.5 Cone, partly trimmed 1/39.5 Cone with cast Hard BPC, and a 1/39.5 Fin Root Fairing vac-formed from .04" Yellow plastic.

Wayne Hendricks vac-formed all of the 1/39.5 cones, usually from .04" plastic.

The cast "Hard BPC" was meant to glove-fit over a vac-formed cone. The casting included the fairings for the Tower legs and he beginnings of holes for the 3/32" legs. They needed a bit of drilling by hand afterwards.

In the photo at right, top row, the Tower Assembly Jig, Partially assembled Tower Side, Cast Hard BPC with one Tower side stuck into it, and partially built 4-sided tower. The tower was built up form 3/32" styrene tubing and 1/16" styrene rod. Glued by use of a jig and liquid cement. At lower left, two untrimmed "X" shape braces.

At the lower right is a cast Tower Skirt. It was cast with four metal pins to help to anchor the tower skirt to the 3/32" LES tower legs. The LES legs were hollow, so the pins could be glued in (Plastic glues do not work with casting Resin). When the Skirt was cast, the metal pins had heads sticking into the resin area, so that the pins would be truly anchored. Simple straight pins would have easily slipped out. The pins also were scraped up a bit, and a slight hook bent into the end (not shown), otherwise smooth straight pins could have slipped out from inside a tower leg despite the glue.

Unfortunately, I did not end up making any new models to make use of the cast parts like the Hard BPC and Tower Skirt. I had intended to do so for the 1992 WSMC, but was so burned out after doing the Pad for NARAM-34, I did not get actual construction of a new model started.

At right, a close-up of an X-brace. It was built up from four pieces of 1/16" rod.

First step was to cut two pieces of 1/16" rod to the correct angle for a "V", then used a printed pattern as a guide for gluing them to the correct "V" angle, using liquid cement. I glued up many sets and let them dry.

Then, I would take one V set, and trim the point off at about half-way along the V joint. And repeated with another V set. I them put both sets into a special jig I had made up to hold them at the correct inwards angle, and glued them.

At right, a drawing of the Tower Jig (at 1/19.75 scale, for printing at 50%).

Below that is a photo of the real jig. To the left of the jig is a two-leg tower side assembly. To the right of the jig, a partially assembled four-sided Tower.

As described earlier, the printed pattern was glued to a plastic sheet. Pieces of Plastruct "U" Channel (dark gray in the photo) were glued into place as jig guides. The tower legs, cut oversized, were taped in place. The horizontal struts were cut to length and glued in using Liquid Cement. A printed pattern helped in determining the length to cut the horizontal struts, an also for the 45 degree braces which were glued in later. The last step was cutting out and gluing in the diameter brace, not seen in the photo at right.

Once one of the 2-leg assemblies was done, it was removed and a second two-leg assembly made in the same manner. When fully dry, then both sets of assemblies were placed into the jig, on their sides, set at 90 degrees, and taped in place so that the third of four sides could be built. I found it useful to use Tweezers to put the parts into place. Once that was dried enough o be structurally sound , the tape was removed and the tower rotated 80 degrees so that the 4th side could be built.

Once the fourth side was done and dried, it was removed from the jig. Then I trimmed the "X" braces to the correct angles and lengths (using a printed pattern guide) and glued an X brace in, one at a time.

After they were all done, I applied some extra coats of liquid cement to the joints, to help build them up. Care was needed since the liquid cement could also soften the joints and make them let go. To get a nice build-up of plastic at the joints, to help fill in any crevices, I used a near-empty bottle of liquid cement to put some scraps of plastic into, so the plastic would dissolve, so that could be brushed on as a sort of liquid filler. It was still more liquid cement than plastic.

At right is the NARAM model's BPC/LES, as seen at NARAM-34 (Tom Beach photo). The BPC Splice joints were simulated with a thick type of white decal material, cut into strips (Sig had some thick solid color decal sheet, I do not know the current status). The white decal strips simulating the BPC splices were applied before painting.

The scimitar antennas were cut from styrene plastic. By the time this model had been built in 1990, there was still lot of data to compile, so there was some detailing that either I did not know of at the time, or I did not go quite into that detail on this model.

The LES nozzles were vac-formed.

The black roll pattern markings on the BPC and SM were not painted. They were cut out from solid black decal material. A rollout pattern was drawn up for the BPC, with the markings drawn into it. Then a printout of the pattern was glued to .04" plastic, and the .04" plastic cut out to act as cutting patterns. The plastic cutting patterns were placed onto the black decal film and cut out by hand.

The same method was done for the Service Module roll patterns, cutting guides made up and cut from black decal.

The round dots on the SM were rub-on circles that Wayne Hendricks had found. Those worked out great. The silver area on the SM was cut from silver decal. The gold dots for the SM were punched from gold decal (brass tubing ground to a beveled edge all around).

The Thruster Quads were cast resin, before I knew of Alumilite. The 16 thrusters were individually vac-formed. If I make another Little Joe A-004, those thrusters will be cast.

Back to Top

Back to SCALE
Back to Little Joe Main