(Contributed - by Gary Sinclair)
PML's Little Lunar Express is a well known HPR kit which has a 50's SciFi look.
Recovery is via parachute which is ejected from the airframe using a PML
This kit comes with the following components:
- (1) 4" OD Ogive nosecone (a good one too) which has NO bottom (i.e.
the bottom of the shoulder is missing allowing access to the inside of the
- (1) 4" OD , 5.5" long section of PML Quantum airframe tubing.
- (1) 4" OD plastic tailcone which has been pre-slotted for through the
wall fin attachment.
- (2) large G10 fins
- (2) small G10 fins
- (4) urethane fin-pods which attach to the tip of each fin.
- (1) elastic shockcord
- (1) PML Piston with piston strap and D-ring assembly
- (1) PML parachute
- (1) 17" long 3"OD used as the 'recovery tube' --
piston goes inside of this.
- (1) 1 centering ring to fit over 'recovery tube'
- (1) 1 centering ring to fit over motor mount.
- (1) 10" long 38mm motor mount.
- (1) internal nosecone bulkhead with hardware.
- (1) set of sticky-back decals
Pros: ----- The
instructions were extensive and easy to follow. The order of assembly was
logical but you should read the entire instruction set first at least two times
to get the flow of how it all goes together. Since this is a 4 fin (though of
different sizes) design the alignment of the fins is no problem. I use West
Systems epoxy for my rockets and a Dremel to cut and sand when necessary. In
this case (and usually for PML kits) there is no need to cut or sand anything
(except the piston prior to launching). I really liked the way the recovery
tube connected to the airframe and motor mount assembly. This was well thought
out and I have subsequently used ideas from this in a design for modification
of my KingBlobbo (when I submit my MOD of this I will detail the design then).
Lots of decals were included to give it the advertised finish but I decided to
finish my differently (see below).
Cons: ----- The G10 fins are really striking but I found that mine
had a slight wobble in them once they were attached to the tailcone. The
urethane pods are a nice touch but I wasn't holding out any hopes that they
would stay on after a landing. I hate painting plastic and this rocket was a
nightmare to paint (I will discuss more below). I can't blame PML for this
since the basic design can only be realized using plastic or fiberglass.
The decals supplied are meant to give the LLE an 'Earth to Moon' spaceship
look. There is sufficient instruction supplied to achieve this look with ease.
I however decided to model mine on the Tintin story 'Destination Moon' where
Tintin and his trusted companions travel in their red and white checked
spaceship to the moon. The two spaceships where similar enough that I felt
confident of a successful outcome. So with the picture taken from the book
cover in mind I set about finishing the LLE as the 'Tintin Express'.
To start with I rough sanded both the nosecone and tailcone. I then applied
then sanded filler-primer several times to give a smooth transition between
sections (I had to fill in the seem between the airframe and the tailcone with
resin first). I first painted the whole rocket RED several coats until it
Next came the task of masking out a surface which was reducing in size (i.e.
the nosecone and tailcone) into four regions round (i.e. there are four
'checked' areas in the circumference of the rocket at any point along the
airframe) and four regions long (the actual Tintin rocket has five checked
sections but four seemed to work better on mine). This is the point where
things started to get complicated. I had no problem in masking off the proper
areas (even taking into account the changing geometry of the nose and
tailcones) and painting the white gloss. It was the pulling off of the mask (I
used clear 'scotch' tape) where things went wrong. Well needless to say the
paint just pulled off 'here and there' leaving patches of bare nosecone and
tailcone. Alas it took me several attempts to get it even close to looking
In the end it turned out OK but has really turned me off of painting
plastic. My final touch was to have some
decals made up which mark
the ship as the 'Tintin Express'. I even change the PML LLE ship ID to a PML
½ out of 5
(Please note the launch photos are by Bob Arnott (firstname.lastname@example.org) who takes
I decided to use an I161W-10 on its maiden voyage with the usual prep
routine of talc'ing my parachute and testing the piston (it was a bit cool so I
wanted to check for shrinkage of the recovery tube) which was fine (slid right
out when I turned the rocket up side down). Well the time for the countdown
came and when I pressed the button it took no time to blast (and I mean blast)
off the pad. It seemed to scream off the pad and then coast forever before the
ejection charge deployed the chute perfectly.
I had put in a smaller chute to avoid the long walk the wind was going to
provide. I was also rather cynical about the prospects of this rocket landing
without mishap. So I figured if its going to break it might as well do it near
the pad. It landed about 1/4 mile down range and upon inspection had chipped
one fin-pod, loosened another and completely dislodged one of the big fins from
its mooring (no damage, just pulled the fin and its fillets from the tail cone
--- more plastic...). Well, it wasn't too bad and I can fix almost everything
(I can get a replacement pod) so it will fly again. Next time I am putting in
out of 5
I can't give it a 5 for flight as the fins and fin pods are too susceptible to
landing damage. PROS: Despite its faults I really like this rocket. Its design
and flight characteristics are great. CONS: The large fins don't give you that
solid feeling when mounted to the airframe. Painting plastic... well you know
what I mean.
out of 5
(Contributed- by Robert A. Morstadt)
The Lunar Express Jr. is a model based on the 1950's Sci-Fi concept of a single
stage rocket that could go to the moon and back. The model is capable of taking
a 38mm motor, but has an adapter to accommodate a 29mm motor.
The kit has high quality like all the PML kits and the completed rocket is
capable of taking a beating without damage. There are some tricky steps in the
directions, where epoxy must be poured into the model between some small gaps.
Be sure to follow the directions carefully. The model has no motor retention
system, so be aware of this short-coming at the beginning of the construction.
I used the 29mm adapter kit and made a retro-fit for the motor retention
system. I drilled a 3/32 inch hole through the body and the adaptor tube 1/2
inch from the end of the rocket with the adapter tube in place. I then made a
bracket 2-3/8 inch long from 1/16" x 1/4" brass stock that I bought
from a local hobby shop. A 3/32 inch metal drill bit was used to drill a hole
through the brass stock about 7/16" from the forward end. I bent the strip
at about 2" to form a retraining hook for the motor. A 3/32" x
1/2" threaded bolt completes the retention system.
As usual one should use disposable rubber gloves to build the fillets on the
fins. The short main body tube required sanding in order to have a good match
with the nose cone and the boat-tail part. I did not use the kit decals. I
wanted a 1950's Sci-Fi look, so I painted the model with Dutch Boy Instant
Chrome (chrome aluminum 4101) paint. This gave the desired look, but the finish
was susceptible to finger-prints no matter how long the the paint dried.
Currently, I am thinking of trying clear coat on top of the chrome, but this
will require some experimentation to be sure that it will work.
out of 5
The rocket flies straight with 6 oz. of weight added to the nose.
My retention system worked well on the maiden flight. I used an H180-M for
the maiden flight, but this time delay is too long. An H180-S should work
better. As a result the elastic came undone from the nose cone
"Kwik-Link". The nose cone buried itself in dirt, but did survive the
fall. Obviously, this is something that should not be repeated.
The piston ejection system works great. Be sure to choose a time delay that is
not too long. Otherwise, too much stress may cause the nose cone to separate. A
separate parachute for the nose cone and body might be a good idea.
out of 5
The design of the rocket is a real eye-catcher and will appeal to the nostalgic
Sci-Fi and fun days of the 1950's. A retention system is needed and separate
parachutes for the nose cone and body might be a good idea.
out of 5