The information provided is based on data taken from many resources including real Mercury capsules. The goal in building any replica is to reproduce every possible part to exact dimensions. However, in practical terms, this is not possible in many circumstances. The first goal of this project it to build an exterior replica as accurate as possible. All the different shingles are molded in plastic to cover a basic structure. This project should be considered a co-op and anyone may participate. Here is a chance to build/own your own Mercury replica. Please contact us for more information.
This site is going to be the starting point for all things relative to building a full size Mercury Capsule replica. We may be a little slow getting to major construction but there is some cool stuff here related to the Mercury project. There are some good construction projects to get you started. And of course, the more feedback and help we get, the faster it will move along.
It’s important to recognize all the efforts many people have contributed. We’ll have a special section for this but for now we would like to thank Win P. for his kind contribution of thousands of Mercury Capsule photos. Colin B. has done all the 3-D computer modeling so far and has prototyped many parts. Jim D. has literally burned up several router motors making all those shingle molds. And of course, I would like to thank everyone that maintains a website with Mercury related information. There are some great ones out there and the ones I have found the most informative are linked. PLEASE let me know if you know of more.
Why would you want to build a Mercury Capsule? I grew up in the Space race and always dreamed of having my own spaceship. I became interested in Mercury very early as it was the original, and it had to be flown alone. People, including me, have spent thousands of hours building single seat airplanes. Its just something that is hard to explain. One day, many years ago, I decided I could build a replica. I have always been a space modeler and this is just another model, only full size.
Why did you start now? I have been collecting information all my life. When I retired from my Aerospace Engineering job to open a Hobby shop, I just started looking at priorities different. I realized how much I enjoy modeling, particularly space modeling. My hobby shop specialized in R/C but we had a small section for space toys and models. I started pursuing my Mercury dream a little harder and started thinking more serious about my Mercury Capsule..
Where did you start collecting information? I have been collecting Mercury stuff all my life. I scrounged everywhere. I collected all the photos I could, some various drawings, every model ever made, etc. I am considered an above average modeler and have scratch built many flying R/C models over my lifetime. Designing scale models has always been a favorite part of my hobby. The list includes Flying Space shuttles, SS1, White knight, and many others. Years ago I stumbled across a program for Macs called A-OK. It was a fantastic simulator for the Mercury Capsule. The programmer promised a windows version so I held out for years. About the time the windows version came out, I found another great program called Orbiter. I also switched to a Mac about this time. My newest hero, Rob Conley, came out with an add-on for the Mercury program. It was VERY cool! Through these programs, I found access to ‘The Mercury Familiarization Manual’. It was the bible of the mercury capsule! I read every page (nearly 500 of them) over, and over, and over, and over…All of a sudden, I realized I had a major piece to my giant puzzle.It wasn’t long before I found the Mercury Maintenance Manual. This was another big piece. Curt Newport found the Liberty Bell 7 and released some MD drawings on the CD in his book. Those drawings contain a lot more than meets the eye!
What light switch came on that really started the ball rolling? .I met someone over the internet, Win P, that had thousands of Mercury Capsule photos to complement my thousands. He knew the right people and was in the right places at the right time to get some great hi-res shots, from inside capsule #1 while it was being refurbished. Everything had been removed except the structure! Win’s photos are what really got me started and for this, I will be forever in debt to him. Win, e-mail me!
Where did you start? I laid out some basic sketches and some dimensions that I had. I started filling in the missing dimensions scaling from the thousands of photographs I had. Win had provided some photos with a ruler laying along the outside of a capsule so I started there. I knew the shingles would be the hardest part so I started laying them out first. My friend Colin had built a small CNC router and we talked about the possibility of making shingle molds that I could vacuum form plastic panels from. I gave Colin all the photos, dimensions, and sketches. A few days later he stopped by with a mold. It was great! I decided to jump in head first. I looked for what I thought would be an accessible Mercury capsule and found the Kansas Cosmosphere had unflown SN 20 and it wasn’t in plastic. I had seen several capsule before but I was never allowed to ‘touch’ one. I contacted them and told them what I wanted to do. I sent my Resume, photos of the full size airplanes I had built, and a shingle I made from Colin’s mold. I also volunteered to pick up trash for a day, clean exhibits, or whatever else they might need some monkey labor for. They were very receptive so I immediately bought some plane tickets and Colin and I went to Kansas to get dimensions from a real Mercury Capsule! They gave us first class access and I could touch and measure anything I wanted, inside or out. It turned out our expert modeling skills came in handy. The Curator contacted the Smithsonian while we were there and we got to do some VERY special favors for them from inside the capsule.
What section did you design first? Well we thought we had the shingles licked. Another friend has a larger router and volunteered to make all the full size molds if Colin did the computer solid modeling. We ran some sample molds and decided to wait until I could verify the dimensions and fit before we made 20 more molds. While at the Cosmosphere, I took a bunch of photos of the Antenna Fairing. I didn’t know much about it and started some more research. I found a cut-away drawing in the maintenance manual and decided to start laying out the internal structure. I was having trouble visualizing how the 3-D structure went together (the cut-away drawing wasn’t that great). I decided to start a crude paper model to see if I could lay out all the parts. The paper model and some clever photographs I took allowed me to design/draw all the major components inside the Antenna Fairing.
Why are you modeling the internal structure? The other replicas I have seen are very crude and ‘fake’ looking. I’m not sure how detailed I want to get as this could be a lifelong project. However, I knew I wanted it to look better than the other replicas. Win gave me some great photos of the original Engineering mock-up and I knew my model could be close to this. I figured if I make the original structure look as close to the real thing as possible, it would be easier to make the later details more accurate. I might not model every fastener, wire, and other pieces, but I really want it to look the part.
Why build the paper model? After the Antenna Fairing came out so well, I decided it was a good tool to verify parts before I went out to the garage and started major construction. I decided every major part I was going to make in full size, I could easily make in paper at 1/4 scale. This will allow me to keep track of part numbers and assembly order. Paper is an easy, inexpensive medium to work in and the parts I design can easily be modified to be printed out. I can make sample or prototype parts of major pieces in just a few minutes.
Why go to all the trouble of putting all this on the web? Part of my dream is to share my work with others. I want a detailed description so your average handyman/modeler could one day build his own capsule. The builder may choose to leave out as many details as they like. For example, lets say a space buff wanted to build a crude wood-mockup to put in the back yard for his kids to play in. My work will allow him to do just that, and if it all works out, he could get an inexpensive set of shingles to really give his kids new play toy that authentic look. It just shouldn’t be that difficult or expensive to keep the dream alive in the young minds of today.
When will you finish it? Hopefully never! Once I start major construction, the basic frame and exterior should only take a few weeks to assemble. If I had the room, I would already have one. However, my goal is to make a good replica, so I’ll wait until I have verified all the major structural components and decide if I am going to build in Fiberglass and wood or aluminum. I think the Fiberglas and wood will be heavier but quicker and easier and more practical for your average builder. The aluminum would be more accurate but I think I can build a good looking model either way.
When will you start major construction? Once I get the basic interior of the paper model done. I want the bulkheads, instrument panel and major assemblies done before I start the full size capsule. I need to make sure I know where these major parts go and how to attach them. Some of them will need to be removable so I can work around them to add later details.
When will you finish the paper model? Hopefully never! I plan on the paper model staying ahead of the full size replica but I’m not sure how much time I will spend on it once I start full size construction. You can only do so much in paper and my goal is to build a full size replica. If the individual paper builders want to customize their own paper capsule, they can go off on their own. Hopefully they share their work as I have and we can post it for others,
What do you model/draw? Most of the work is done in Autosketch. Its one of the few CAD packages I own a license to. Its easy to use and accurate. I learned Drafting and Design the old fashioned way (I am a semi-retired Aerospace Engineer) so even doing the 3-D parts is no problem for me. They all end up on 2-D paper and besides, we sent Men to the moon this way…I use Adobe (own the license) to create the PDF files and do any final manipulation. The 3-D modeling is done by a Certified SolidWorks Professional. He also helps with the CAM to make the parts. I (and Colin) use Mach3 to run the CNC routers. We use various CAM programs including LazyCam, DeskCNC, Meshcam, and a few others we have licenses to.
Will you post the files? As I build the full size model, I’ll post detailed drawings to allow others to build the same model. Remember, this is a model that I mostly scaled from photographs that happens to resemble a 50 year old spacecraft. I don’t really see the need to post dozens of CAD files. If someone wants to modify a particular part or section and needs the files, I’ll make them available as needed.
If you have any other questions that I have not answered, feel free to e-mail me. I don’t mind the correspondence and will gladly talk on the phone. I have received several requests to sell files, shingles, and molds. I’m not really interested in the money. Its my hobby. I’m also not really interested in giving away hundreds or thousands of hours of work so someone else can make money. For the right project, I’ll help as much as I can.