Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

21 November 2021

X-20 Dyna Soar (part 4): What if?

Spring, 1980. On the long runway of Kennedy Space Center a horde of photographers stands around two small space planes together with one impressive big one behind them. One of the small planes is faded black all over, the other one looks like it is a child of the big one, although it is the other way around.
This photo-op is the last chance to see the two Dyna Soars and the result of their effort, the Rockwell Space Shuttle Orbiter OV101, together. The black Dyna Soar is shown in its former USAF livery. The black and white one is called Enterprise and the big Space Shuttle Orbiter is called Constitution.

More on the story and the build after the jump.

31 October 2021

X-20 Dyna Soar with Transtage 1/48 (3)

Well, one moment you have all the time in the world and next it's like a pandemonium. We're working on the last bits of the documentary film about ANS, the first Dutch satellite, and we both have our daily jobs to do too. So there's little time to glue some paper there days.

Anyway, it did so happen this week I actually made some time and the Dyna Soar is finished.

Here's a picture of the finished model, for those who want to see more, just click on where it says "Click here to read the rest of the story!" and voilà.

06 October 2021

Life sometimes takes over...

One moment you are living in seas of time. Maybe even some sort of vacuum. The next, it is perhaps even busier than before Covid struck our planet down to almost a halt. Our film is nearing completion and I had a film job for the regional archives. So The X-20 had to stay on the backburner for a while. It still is a little hectic, and I presume it is because I am not used to anything any more after almost two years of isolation and relative quietness. But soon, I will pick up the build. Don't worry. And I will keep you informed about the upcoming film.

Thanks for the patience.


07 September 2021

X-20 Dyna Soar with Transtage 1/48 (2)

Where were we?
Oh yes. Wings. The X-20 was a sturdy little wedge shaped machine. The paper wings were cut out and with the help of a little dab of water on a wetted Q-tip, traced one time along the back of the paper where the wing needs to be curved works miracles. I should do a little tutorial about that one day.

You can read the rest of this story when you click on the orange text below, saying  "Click here to read the rest of this story!" 

27 August 2021

Een heldere hemel, Jan.


Jan de Koomen, 2016 © De Loods mediaproducties / Stichting Beeldlijn

As a filmmaker you often have the weird experience to feel acquainted to someone without really actually knowing them.
For most of the persons who are being filmed for a documentary, their experience with the makers mainly is just a couple of phone calls, an initial conversation and the film session, which often is not more than one or two days in total.
But the filmmaker on the other hand, has to work with that material to create the film. And by doing so, they are working with the filmed people for a much longer time. Sometimes months. You get to know their little gestures, their way of speaking, their way with words. And they become a part of your life for quite some time.
We initiated the ANS film project back in 2014. In 2016 we filmed the first three interviews. One of them was with Jan de Koomen, the engineer at Fokker Aircraft who, as project manager, supervised the construction of the first Dutch satellite.
When we were at his home to film the interview, he initially had a little trouble remembering stuff, but when we started getting into the matter of things, he still was clear and bright. He told great stories and anecdotes with a lot of insight into how the satellite worked and came to be. And with that, he provided us with a great foundation for our movie.

He has told his story often, for space enthusiasts, at lectures about the Dutch space-efforts, but I like to think he was happy to tell his story one more time to have it on record for, well, eternity.
When Jan started work at Fokker he was involved in the process of designing the Fokker F.27 Friendship. He told us how he always has been fascinated by spaceflight and, as a young and curious engineer at Fokker, he wanted to know how to build a satellite. He was sent to Republic Aviation in the U.S. to learn about all the ins and outs of satellites and came back as maybe the only Dutch engineer at that time who really knew how to build a satellite. He could put his knowledge to the test a couple of years later, when Fokker and Philips got to build the first Dutch satellite, which would become known as ANS. 

Jan de Koomen in 1974, in the Scout Launch Control Center at the Western Test Range in California,
during the countdown of ANS' launch into orbit.
(a still from a NASA-made film about the ANS)

After ANS, Jan de Koomen also supervised the construction of IRAS, the second satellite built in the Netherlands, this time together with the U.S. and the U.K. After he retired, he got involved in the National Space Museum, together with a group of retired aerospace engineers and space enthusiasts. It was there, in Lelystad that I met him for the first time, in january 2014, when I brought one of my paper models to have on display in their museum. He pointed at ANS, the spare one, that was suspended from the ceiling and told me he helped in building it.
He was, in fact, the one that sparked the beginning of this film.

After the interview, we did not have much contact, but I did see him lots of times, during the editing process, on screen. And I had the feeling I knew him a little more than I perhaps actually did. At least I knew a part of him which was a very important piece of his life.
Early this morning, I was saddened to read in an email that he passed away.

I am very grateful I had the chance to meet him and talk to him. Jan de Koomen is one of the people that actually opened the door to space for The Netherlands.
As a boy he wanted to become a pilot. but because of his bad eyesight that wasn’t possible and he became an aeronautical engineer instead. I hope he’s flying free now.
Clear skies, Jan.

22 August 2021

X-20 Dyna Soar & Transtage 1/48 (1)

A legendary spaceplane. Never flown, never realised. In the late 1950s, when the X-15 made its first powered flights, the U.S. Ministry of Defense already dreamt about spying on the Russians from outer space. And what would be a nicer idea than a reusable space plane? Long story short, Boeing was chosen to create the little manned space plane called the X-20 Dyna Soar (dynamic soaring). But after creating a full scale mockup, selecting six Air Force pilots to become astronauts for the plane and lots of training equipment and space suit designs, senator MacNamara cancelled the project.  Reason: spysats had become very efficient and cheap(ish) and otherwise Gemini spacecraft could do the job equally well. No need for a space plane. Bye bye Dyna Soar.

Dyna Soar mock up with two suited men, presumably Boeing officials.
Photo: Wikimedia commons

But look at it. Just. Look. At. It. Isn't is beautiful? Paper model designer Mark Cable designed a beautiful 1/48th scale model with the so-called Transtage, a kind of kick-booster stage of the large Titan rocket family. A weird-looking contraption with protruding tanks having pointy ends, rocket engine bells on a trapezium tube construction and checkers on the sides. Hypergolically fueled, it had a simple and reliable propulsion method. No need for elaborate turbo pumps, the rocket was just pressure-fed and the fuel ignited when mixed.

Dyna Soar and its transtage in orbit. The forward facing windows were covered with a protective shield that would
be jettisoned after re-entry. The X-20 would land on a dry Californian lakebed using metal skids.


This is how the X-20 might have looked when arriving in orbit.
And that is how I am going to build it. Here's an initial photo, after the jump you can see the rest of the first session of building the Dyna Soar.

11 August 2021

Yay, a rant!

Space tourism versus space exploration - Let’s differentiate!

Lots of people, those who say to be in the know and those who plainly aren’t, have shown their outrage and discontent against billionaires going into space in their suborbital toy spacecraft.
And I can’t not agree, actually.  The gratuitous display of wealth and decadence is too much. The necessity for this is non-existent. Apart from showing off your wealth and waste it on silly stuff. But let’s make things a little more clear.  Although Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are doing their silly suborbital microgravity hops, people also rant aggressively about billionaire Elon Musk’s space efforts.
And I think that just is wrong.
Let’s make one thing clear beforehand, I am not an Elonite, I don’t really care whether he calls his child F-16 º40##9%5f((()))<>”\|/?jhdhldlk8*- C 34384738, ɯnsK, or Johnnnny, I don’t care about his personal life at all. I am also not a fan of Tesla and I do not care in general for the cult of personality around Musk. I do however, admire SpaceX’s giant steps in the common space effort.

SpaceX is a company, founded by billionaire Musk, but he stepped back as CEO some time ago and the company now is run by Gwynne Shotwell, a very capable woman. But Musk still is involved in the development of the rockets. He also actually really knows a lot about aerospace technology, orbital mechanics and other techniques involved in the launch and space industry. He also is constantly keeping ahead of things. And that is where the big difference is in comparison to Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.
SpaceX builds actual useful and technically advanced rockets for spaceflight. Actual professional spaceflight. The Falcon 9 launch vehicle is now getting close to 100 perfect flights. It has delivered hundreds of satellites into orbit and is used for manned and unmanned flights to the ISS and back. SpaceX develops hardware to get humankind further into space, is actually innovating space hardware and very rapidly indeed. Something NASA is not capable of doing any more.

Nevermind Musk is a billionaire, his company is way ahead of those little toys of Bezos and Branson. And SpaceX is important for NASA in a way B-boys Bezos’ and Branson are not. Bezos might be developing a big launch vehicle too, but there’s nothing to be seen yet and Blue Origin has yet to reach orbital capacity. Besides, that, Musk isn’t flaunting his wealth with his rocketry in the way the other two are doing.
Musk invests in new engine developments, he hugely invests in the Starship and Superheavy development (which isn’t profitable, it just costs money, because it all is test material). He might be miles ahead of NASA in the sense of NASA being incapacitated to be able to  innovate, rejuvenate and plan ahead.

Nevertheless, journalists and ignorami all around are generalising “The Billionaires”. They’re all Dr. Evil. They all should stop wasting tax payer’s money. (They don’t. It’s their own money and that of tourists who are foolish enough to pay millions for 5 minutes of micro-gravity.) NASA granted SpaceX millions, but only after they had proven themselves a space-worthy company with an orbital rocket and with the grant also came assignments to fulfill. (any company involved in a governmentally organised challenge can apply for subsidies.)
They should all stop flaunting their wealth like that. (That only goes for the B-boys, Musk isn’t planning a space trip any time soon.)
And they should stop polluting the environment with those polluting rocket exhaust gases. How polluting are they? Branson uses a rubber compound for his rocket. Which is very polluting indeed, and a flight up in a jet-powered aircraft. Less polluting, but still polluting. Bezos is flying on Liquid oxygen and hydrogen (Hydrolox) which, in the end, produce only steam so that is not polluting at all, or you should incorporate the production process of liquidising the gases, which is not polluting itself but costs lots of energy.). Musk is using RP1 (kerosene, basically) and oxygen, so SpaceX might be a little polluting, but all in all, with their rocket efforts, none of them aren’t really big polluters. Not as much as those big oil tankers are, or all the airlines are. So pollution is realtive and more or less negligible. Only Branson should think and should switch to Hydrolox.

Where the B-boys are just having fun with their toys, SpaceX is developing material to get humanity ahead. Something NASA cannot do, like I said before. NASA nowadays is a slow moving, Red tape top-heavy, politically dependent organisation, where decisions take years, decades, sometimes. And NASA has their arms and legs tied to senate and aerospace companies.
SLS is a dead end but NASA is forced to build and launch it because that way the former Space Shuttle builders people keep their jobs. It is extremely expensive and if you compare the development costs of SLS to SpaceX’ Starship and Superheavy, the latter is almost peanuts.
Okay, SpaceX did sell a spaceflight on a Falcon 9 to some millionaire. But that isn’t a SpaceX effort in itself. They just sell rockets and rides. But selling flights to millionaires is not even their main business model. NASA also buys lots of flights on Falcon 9’s, as do commercial companies that build satellites. SpaceX too is a commercial company and so private persons should perhaps also be able to buy a ride. The money will be mainly invested in the development of new hardware. The Russian Space Agency also sold seats to space tourists.

Even more so, if the US wants to keep going into space, I think they need to rely on SpaceX. Boeing’s euphemistically named Starliner capsule keeps having troubles with its operating systems .Starliner appears to me as a messy engineering project by a company who trusted too much on their reputation in the past,  and is resting on its laurels, but now gets careless and sloppy and makes mistake upon mistake. Blue Origin is developing a big new engine for the new rocket in development by ULA, the Old-Space company pact between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. But neither Vulcan, the rocket, nor the engine are anywhere near a first launch. From the pathetic little suborbital hops of tourist vehicle New Shepard to the launch of orbit-capable New Glenn (nowhere near launch either), Blue Origin still has a very long way to go. And Branson’s toy is forgettable. It isn’t innovating, it isn’t lucrative, it just is a very expensive fairground attraction.

If you want to boo unnecessary space-related things, boo the B-boys. Do not boo SpaceX. I think they are really useful. More useful in launching capabilities, and much, much faster than NASA will ever be in the development of new rocketry. and (human) spaceflight.
They might have their own sometimes unsympathetic ways of doing things too, like every company has, but SpaceX really is a company that is innovating the orbital space market.
Boo to Branson, boo to Bezos. Two flaunting billionaires with too much money on their hands, one parasitising on his employees in giant warehouses, one being just an obnoxious boomer. Boo. Boo. Boo to space tourism. Boo to billionaires. But...
Viva SpaceX.

09 August 2021

Fokker F. XXXVI - 1/100 (4)

Yeah, I guess we'll speed things up a little. Why not? So there we go:

Yay! it’s finished! I finished it yesterday, to be honest. Really. True.

The almost finished model.

Here's a nice picture of the finished model. The process of how I finally got there is after the jump.

08 August 2021

Fokker F.XXXVI - 1/100 (3)

Well, that was not what I intended. Hiatus after hiatus. On the other hand, not a lot was happening build-wise, too. Anyway, here’s a follow-up.
Here’s a nice photo for you to enjoy, after the jump you’ll read the rest of the story.

Look! It's a propeller!

14 June 2021

Fokker F. XXXVI - 1/100 (2)


Time for wings. 

I glued a strip of sturdy paper on the wing skeleton over the place where the two wing parts will meet. This way they'll have more grip and glue surface. Careful not to press too hard, you don’t want to show the frame through the wing.  The wings actually were really thick on this big Fokker. In fact, it had one of the biggest wing surfaces of its time. While folding the wing over the leading edge, some wrinkles appeared in the (just a little) too sturdy paper. Drat! Expletive!

But Chris told in his thread on Papermodelers he used a little water to bend the paper at the leading edge. Water? Yes. Well, I had to give that a try. Never tried it before so what did I have to lose?
I poured some water in a little cup and dipped a Q-tip in it to apply it to the inside of surface I needed to fold over without a crease. Just a little, one quick streak over the complete run of the inside of the leading edge. And it worked a charm. Just calmly curve the paper and lay it, curved, to rest with a little weight on the trailing edge. It will dry in the new shape and from there is is easy to bend around the wing frame. Great technique! No wrinkles, and even nicer, it is actually just like plywood is bent, of which the Fokker wings originally were made.
Then I glued the wing’s trailing edge carefully, just the outmost edge of it, and shoved the wing structure slowly inside. Empennage is done later on with the same principle. 
With my first build I found the placement of the wing into the fuselage a little tricky. It is shoved between two bulkheads and the skin has a little of the curvature of the wing in it, so you know where the wing should go. (orange side down!) I reinforced the inside of the upper part of the skin a little to help carry the wing and not bending when it is pushed into place. That went all right. The second version had a better fit, too and didn't need any encouragement to go into place.