Scale model rocketry

The entire IXV mission of ESA in 1:36 scale

The IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) was successfully flown on February 11, 2015. This suborbital mission was a unique chance for a model project covering not only the launch of a mission but the entire mission. Thus I have built a 1:36 model of the IXV and the Vega launcher – and then the mission was successfully flown – as the real one.

For more information about the IXV mission please have a look here: .


2-stage launch of the 1:50 Ariane 6 PPH model

Finally I was able to launch this nice model for a two stage flight. During the first stage phase three motors were burning at the same time. At the burnout of the central motors this motor ignited the motor of the second stage in about 20 cm distance. The hot gases were then separating stage 1 and 2. Stage 2 continued the flight while stage 1 was on the down …


December 8, 2014: The new owner of the 1:50 Soyuz-FG model is …

… ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. I was invited to join his Welcome-back party at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn. Then I had the idea to give him the model as a thank-you for publishing videos about its launch on his Blue Dot blog during his space mission. Probably he has a few Soyuz models already, but none of these are able to be launched. He told me that he did model rocketry, too, but not very successful (he was joking I guess). He was very interested to take part in STEM activities in the future. Later on he told me that the model has now a special place in his living room. I will need to show him how to ignite 5 motors simultaneously … If this will really happen I will let you know. 😉 Be aware that the video above is in German. Germans talk in German in Germany. 😉



October 28, 2014: Celebrating five months of the Blue Dot mission of Alex Gerst

Five months ago, the German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst blasted off from Kazakstan on-board of a Russian Soyuz launcher to begin his #BlueDot mission at the International Space Station (ISS). To celebrate his very successful mission at this special date I have modified the 1:50 Soyuz 2 rocket into a Soyuz FG model. The upper stage and the payload section were completely rebuilt. The lower part was heavily modified. A smaller motor is now used in the central stage. To compensate that loss in thrust all the four boosters are now equipped with one motor each. Thus, we have five motors now running during the launch of this 1m tall scale model. Now the launch is even more of a spectacle. Enjoy!

By the way, this video was also published on the BlueDot mission blog of Alex Gerst:
Many thanks for this!


How do we ignite 5 motors simultaneously?

There is a new and simple method for this. An ignition stick was used for each motor of the Soyuz FG model. This are small sticks containing some black powder. And these sticks are connected by tapematch which is also containing black powder. For the Soyuz model it looks like this: CIMG5569


Finally, you can ignite this with an electric ignition or in the traditional way like here:
It is safe, simple and looks spectacular. Provider is the German company Raketenmodellbau Klima. In the future Quest may provide these stuff in the US.

More about this endeavour soon ...

More about this endeavour soon …     … not too soon – hopefully in October after the holiday season is over. I am waiting for the approval for the publication from the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) Berlin. I was tasked to launch a new space mission … somehow. 😉



Launch video dedicated to the launch of the ESA Blue Dot mission watched on-board the ISS

I was informed that my launch video dedicated to the Blue dot mission of the ESA/German astronaut Alexander Gerst was watched in orbit by the ISS crew. This is how I was getting the surprising news:

The video was also published at the blog of Alexander Gerst at:

Nice, strange things can happen sometimes. 😉


Ariane 5 ES model launches the final ATV

Launch of a 1:50 Ariane 5 ES model with the payload ATV-5, the final Automated Transfer Vehicle of ESA. The real launch from the European spaceport is planned for July 24/25 to bring ATV-5 on its flight towards the ISS supporting the Blue Dot mission of the German astronaut Alexander Gerst.
The model is about 1m tall with a weight of 1.1 kg. This was the first launch using the new launch tower giving some more realistic views. The rocket was powered by a 29 mm reloadable motor system of Aerotech with propellant as used in the solid rocket booster of the Ariane 5 or the Space Shuttle. The total impulse of the loaded “White lightning” motor was about 80 Ns. The altitude reached during this flight was about 130 meters. The core stage landed safely with help of a parachute. The booster separated as planned during the flight and were falling down to the ground. All parts were recovered in perfect shape ready for another flight.

Models in the same scale are available for the ESA/Arianespace launchers Vega and Soyuz-Fregat. For more details about these models please see below.
Thank you! Grazie! Gracias! Danke!

Update: The video was published by ESA at their blog for the final launch of the ATV: .

Thank you! And all the best for the real launch! Go Ariane 5! Go ATV-5!



First test flight of the Ariane 5 ES model resembling the ATV-4 launch

The completed 1m tall Ariane 5 model has made its maiden flight recently. With 1100 g this is the heaviest rocket I have built (so far ;)). It was flying on a single Aerotech G64-4 White Lightning motor delivering a total thrust of about 120 Ns. During the 2 seconds of powered flight the model was accelerated to about 10 g.

You may recognize the configuration of the launcher model. It is the ES version of the Ariane 5 used to loft the Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV) towards the ISS. The decals are the one used for the launch of ATV-4 “Albert Einstein”.


Arianespace/ESA launcher fleet completed


The 1:50 fleet of Arianespace/ESA launcher models is finally completed. The Ariane 5 ES was finished and is joining the Soyuz-Fregat and the Vega model. The Ariane 5 ES model is about 1m tall and has a launch weight of 1.1 kg. It will fly with an Aerotech G64 reloadable motor in the near future – eventually at an ESA/Arianespace launch event with all three models flying.

Future plans include the construction an Ariane 5 ECA upper composite (exchangeable with the current ES upper composite), and a 1:50 Ariane 6 model with four active motors – three for the first stage and one for the second stage. Obviously, the latter includes a staging event. 😉


My new development is an Ariane 6 scale model. For the first time I used a spider ignition system to ignite several motors simultaneously. As the Ariane 6 will be powered by three similar solid rocket motors as the first stage it was an optimal choice for testing. This 1:72 scale model delivers spectacular launches. Nevertheless, it is a test version only. A 1:50 scale model will be build soon to complete the 1:50 scale model fleet of Arianespace/ESA launchers. Eventually, launch towers will be added in the future to give a more realistic launch impression – in a small mini-Kourou. Well, and things could be upscaled, too ;).

And no, there is no connection to the Gaia mission. Well, maybe a very weak one is there. Ariane 6 is planned to be the baseline launcher for ESA missions from the middle of the next decade. The payload mass that can be delivered to orbit is about twice as much as the one of a Soyuz-Fregat. The targeted price for a launch of an Ariane 6 is with 70 million Euro only a little bit above the current price for a Soyuz launch. Thus, a science mission like Gaia could weight also much more for only a very small additional price for the launch vehicle. The science of Gaia could have benefited well from this just by adding radiation shielding and more fuel for the thrusters allowing a longer mission duration and images less damaged by radiation.


Here is a summary of the recent activities with three Soyuz-Fregat launcher models. The models are of 1:100, 1:72 and 1:50 scale. The two small ones fly with Estes black powder motors. The large model is using a 29 mm reloadable motor system of Aerotech with propellant as used in the solid rocket booster of the Ariane 5 or the Space Shuttle. Altitudes reached are about 200 meters. We also had a transmission of a launch live in the internet (please see below) . Furthermore, the models are used for display during classes in schools and the university as part of the outreach activities in connection with our involvement in the Gaia satellite project of ESA. Two of them were seen during the prelaunch press conference of the Universitat de Barcelona in the news of some Spanish TV channels. Note that the Gaia satellite will be launched by a Soyuz-Fregat from the European spaceport in Kourou.

This is a summary of our live transmission of two model rocket launches. The first rocket launched was a 1:50 scale version of the Vega rocket of ESA/Arianespace. The second flight was performed by a 1:50 scale Soyuz-Fregat rocket model. This rocket unfortunately landed in a raspberry bush. But I was able to finish the painful recovery mission.

Video about smaller versions of the model rockets I was flying before I started to upgrade to 1:50 scale. Two different Soyuz-Fregat launchers can be seen in the video. 1:100 versions of Ariane 5, SLS and Space Shuttle are included, too.

Updates of this page are planned in the future.

7 thoughts on “Scale model rocketry

  1. Pingback: Final practice run before the important Gaia Soyuz-Fregat launch | ... in the world of Gaia ...

  2. Excellent rockets, and a nice launch! I would like to know if those are cardstock models, and if so will you be sharing them?

    • Thanks! Well, I am using a mixture of building techniques here. Some examples:
      1.) The boosters of the Ariane 5 model are somehow cardstock models – a layer of paper with a self-glewing foil as outer layer. The nose cones are painted over.
      2.) The nose cone of the Ariane 5 core stage consists of a grid made from balsa wood with 1mm layer of balsa sheets glued on top – again painted.
      3.) For smaller rockets like the Vega I use SEMROC balsa nose cones. For larger models with a diameter > 7.5cm (3 inches) these cones are not available and I need to construct the cones by myself (see point 2).
      What I can do is to post some images how I build some parts of the rockets. Please let me know if you are interested in the construction of a special part. Many thanks.

  3. Pingback: Scale-model Blue Dot launch | Alexander Gerst's Blue Dot blog

  4. Pingback: Remembering Blue Dot launch | Alexander Gerst's Blue Dot blog

  5. Pingback: … One-year anniversary of the launch of Gaia … | ... in the world of Gaia ...

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