As most of you know already I am a big fan of space launches, and launchers, of course. The first launch of a Space Shuttle actually blowed my mind when I was a charming little boy (in a way that I really, really had to watch the very final one live in 2011 in Florida). And I love to build models. Therefore it was very obvious for me to build launcher models. Model rocketry is a fantastic hobby – I really love it. But I do that a bit differently than most of the model rocketeers: building space launcher models that actually look like the real deal – nothing more, nothing less.
Well, I did it my own way – not following all of the rules given by the model rocket communities. That self-limiting approach is not my cup of me, to be honest. You are just ending up in building rockets that look like weapons and you go bigger, faster and higher. Due to all these limitations the public can hardly follow what you are doing.
I am following the KISS approach – also known as “Keep It Simple, Stupid”! And I try to avoid to run into to many legal obstructions. I do not try to launch my models to a few kms altitude. My approach is to be able to launch my models from an area of the size of a football (soccer for my many American friends) field, or smaller, and not to need any airspace closure.
And in some sense I am following a similar approach as Elon Musk & Co are doing with their launchers: do not obey many of these limitations that are obstructed by other people. If something seems to be impossible on the first look then please think about again and again to try to find a solution. Very often there is one.
And this is the approach I am using to build my launcher models. And of course, I had to build a Falcon 9 model at some time. That time was already some years ago, of course. I have built my first Falcon 9 model in 2016, and it was launchable, of course. And it had 9 (NINE!!!) motors, of course, as every great Falcon NINE model should have, because the 9 motors are the key to the success of this incredibale launcher. 9 engines (in the liquid propulsion world in contrast to the solid motors in the model rocketry world) or 7 engines are necessary to be able to land the almost empty first stage propulsively. It’s just a matter of fact that you cannot throttle down an enigne more than 50 to 30 percent without risking instabilties in the burning process, and therefore an explosion of the engine. Thus, all the girls and boys demanding resuability for Ariane 5, Ariane 6, Atlas, Vulcan, the Japanese H2 and H3 and all the other existing launchers with only one ore two main engines in the main stage and so on show clearly that they have no clue about physics and rocket science generally. Sorry to say that, but this is just the simple truth. You have to develop a new class of low cost engines for that, and ESA is doing just doing that with the Prometheus engine. That might seem to be a little bit too late, but they are in good company with ULA, Russia, China, Japan, India …
Back to the model rocket business. The Falcon 9 model that I have built in 2016 had the purpose to serve in the MoonDot program – a program that serves mainly for STEM education purposes. In this program for kids, we have a small space station called MoonDotStation in cisluner space (simulated of course). We need cargo to be delivered to that station, of course. We used a Cygnus cargo ship for that launched by an Atlas V 541 launcher for that, an Japanese HTV-X ship launched by an HIIA launcher and a cargo version of the CrewDragon ship launched by a Falcon 9, of course.
As I mentioned already, a Falcon 9 model should have 9 motors. And so has my model. The simultaneous ignition of 9 motors is a bit of a challenge but doable if you look a bit into the past. Fireworks staff has a lot of experience with that, and not only for decades but for centuries already. Electric igniters work quite well for the ignition of a single motor, but for igniting several motors things get complicated. The safe way is to ignite the motors pyrotechnically. Just put a stick mainly consisting of black powder into the nozzles of your motors, and connect the motors with some tape contained a lot of black powder, too. And then you ignite the tape with an electric igniter. All motors will ignite within a few milliseconds. Problem solved!
A nice side effect is the beautiful ignition fireball that you can observe when the black powder of the tape and in the ignition sticks is burning up below your rocket model. But you have to look quite fast for that for sure. 😉
The Falcon 9 block 3 model made actually one launch in 2016, and another one in 2017.
Now in 2019 some mayor progress was made by SpaceX. The new man-rated block 5 Falcon 9 launcher is fully operational, and has started to launch the new CrewDragon spaceship. Therefore, I have upgraded my Falcon 9 block 3 model to a block 5 model. And we have performed an impressive mini CrewDragon launch, of course. Here is the cool footage:
The next step was to build a payload fairing for the Falcon 9 model. I have 3D designed the cone of that fairing with the OpenSCAD software, and then it was 3D printed. By the way, the grid fines of the model are 3D printed as well.
The image above was taken from a short video to introduce this new variant of my Falcon 9 model giving some insights how this model works and more:
And here is finally the stunning launch footage of launch #4 of my mini Falcon 9 – the first launch with a payload fairing:
To be continued …
P.S.: You may have noticed that I have not build a Falcon Heavy model, yet. To do this is indeed very feasible. Igniting 9 or 27 motors in the way described above has no main difference. If you are interested in this (or even want to own such a model, or even a Falcon 9 model like the one I have built) please contact me. Everything is possible.
To be honest: For me the real Falcon Heavy still seems to be a launcher without a real mission yet (see also this post). Only a fully reusable version makes sense and does not provide that much more payload mass than an expendable Falcon 9. The missions for Falcon Heavy may still come in the future, maybe when a second launcher of this class becomes available. But who does really know what the future may hold?!