By Nick Esselman
The SpaceLiner 100 was/is a NASA concept vehicle that
anticipated using a magnetic track to levitate and accelerate it for launch.
The SpaceLiner 100 is not often seen, but was featured for some time. I learned
about it in a book by Tim McElyea called A Vision of Future Space
Transportation. I liked the design and set forth to build one.
While searching the Web, I discovered a couple variations to
the SpaceLiner 100's configuration. The one described in Tim McElyea's book,
was like the one on the right, with two vertical fins and the wings centered
with the engines.
So with a few drawing, I began to scale this rocket. I
determined it was best to use 2.6" body tubing and I had a nose cone that
would fit the bill. The project was a go!
After scaling all the drawing, I cut all
the pieces needed to make the rocket. The tail cone shape was the toughest to
cut, but I did that right in the main 2.6" body tubing.
The main wing fins were cut from 1/4" Balsa and then a
layer of printing paper was laminated on them using 5-minute epoxy. The
vertical fins were cut from 1/8" balsa and laminated as well.
The Engine tubes are 1.6". They had a custom rear, outer
centering ring made to support the outer shroud. The two hard-balsa engine
cones are also custom made to the dimensions derived from scaling the drawings.
I utilized two CR5060 centering rings for recessing/mounting these nose cones
to the engine tubes. These custom parts were made by
Balsa Machining Service. The
shroud (not shown) was made by using VCP and printing onto 110lb Card Stock
(Georgia Pacific brand purchased from WalMart).
Perhaps a unique technique was used to attach the wings to the
engine tubes. Here it can be seen, that large (1/8") holes were drilled in
the body tube along the glue line (but not up onto the shroud). Holes were also
drilled into the root edge of the 1/4" balsa fin. The holes in the fin
were then filled with Gorilla Polyurethane glue and it was also thinning
applied to the root edge. Each hole on the tube had a small amount of Gorilla
glue put into it using a toothpick. Then the fin was placed onto the line and
moved slightly back and forth. It was then taped into place and stood on end.
Standing it on end, allowed the glue to flow into the hole and then flow
downward, creating a glue "hook". A lot of is not needed
since it expands.
This technique was repeated for attaching the fins to the main
The 29mm Motor Mount
was installed and using 110lb Card Stock, the tail cone was formed. This was
glued in place with wood glue and once dried the back of it was coated with
Gorilla glue for strength. This made it rigid enough to allow filling and
smoothing on the outside.
I also took and old windshield wiper metal strip, cut and bent
it in shape to form the motor retaining hook. I had to push the expanding
Gorilla glue away from where the hook flexes.
The Nose Cone's Should-end was cut out, but I'll talk more
about that later.
The rest of the construction was straightforward. I did not
glue the Engine Nose Cones in place to make finishing easier. From here I moved
Using too many to count coats of Gray Plasti-Kote Sandable
Primer and sanding between each coat, I was able to work out all the issues. It
then was painted using only $0.98/can Wal-Mart Paint. This means that each
color was done 1 week after the prior.
I made decals and printed them on Papa-Tango decal paper and
applied them. I then installed the Engine Nose Cones. Lastly, I clear-coated
the entire rocket with Wal-Mart Clear Coat.
I'm pleased with my finish.
Not the easiest model to RockSim, but I made an attempt to
determine how much nose weight I needed. I had already prepped the nose cone by
cutting out shoulder's bottom. I had found a large eye-bolt and had BB's and
epoxy ready. From RockSim, it determined I needed 4 oz of nose weight with a
I took a drill and long bit and gouged/roughed up the inside of
the nose cone where the nose weight was going to be glued in place. After this
is tied my shock cord to the eye-bolt and stood it up in the center of the nose
cone. I poured in 2 ounces of BB's (for future reference that is about a 1
Liter Wide-mount Pepsi Cap full of BB's). I then mixed up a lot of 5-minute
epoxy and poured it in. This was repeated with another 2 ounces of BB's. So I
actually ended up adding 4 ounces of BB's, 1.8 ounces from the eye-bolt and all
I added a parachute and heat shield and RailButtons... now it's
- 14 3/4" Wing Span
- 18 1/8" Length
- 2.6" Body Tube
- 1.6" Engines going to 1 15/16" flared back
- 21 Ounces
- 28" Parachute
- 29mm Motor Mount
After creating a form of a RockSIM, I determined that it should
fly nicely with an F52-5 (although I set the CG up to fly with a G80).
A perfect morning in Vermont, allowed me to get out to the
field. I went with one purpose... fly the SpaceLiner 100.
The F52-5 was loaded and the rocket was placed on a Rail. I set
up my camera to make a movie clip (wmv -
It was fast off the pad and flew straight up with a very slow
spin. The parachute ejected a bit early. Could have used another 1-2 seconds
perhaps. Hard to tell. Descent was excellent and it landed about 20 feet from
It was begging to be flown again, so I loaded an EconoJet
A bit slower coming off the pad. I actually got 5 sequential
pictures, but I had set the aperture too low and they are washed out.
I'm very pleased with my rendition of the SpaceLiner 100. It is
an excellent flier and looks unique. The painting was the greatest challenge,
but it turned out to nicely (my own opinion).