I spent many nights lying awake trying to figure out how to make a man-shaped model rocket flight-stable, how and what to make him out of (to keep the weight down), how to construct the parachute deployment system, how to mount him onto a launch rod, what kind of launcher I would have to make, and on and on. I resolved most of the issues, and I'll show you how all of these ideas came together.
There were plenty of missteps and failures along the way throughout this project, but I've cut most of that out in order to keep this as straight-forward as possible. Please excuse the shoddiness of the exterior details on the finished rocket. This is less about the actual Iron Man character, and more about my journey and the process of trying to make and fly a crazy man-shaped rocket. In the end, you'll see that I had mixed results with this project.
I began by making the head, which I figured would be the hardest part. You can see the details of that here.
Step 1: Body
I ordered rocket supplies from apogeerockets.com, which has been a very nice company to work with. I ordered a bunch of 24mm tubes (which hold D- and E-size Estes model rocket engines), some tube couplers, engine block rings, launch lugs, and kevlar cord.
My first attempt at making the body was with layers of pink insulation foam glued together with the rocket tube structure sandwiched inside. I used a sharp knife to carve out the body shape, which was tedious and messy. In the end it weighed too much to use and I had miscalculated the proportions, so the head which I had already finished was too small for the body. After plenty of cursing, the pink foam body ended up in the trash... in very tiny pieces. I re-sized the lay-out, and waited a few months till I was ready to work on it again.
For my second attempt, I decided to build the body up using foam board (1/4-inch foam sandwiched between paper). This proved to work very nicely for making a lightweight skeletal-type structure, but led to some difficulties in covering.
Step 2: Rocket Tube Structure
The parachute deployment system I came up with is basically a hatch attached to the back of the rocket with a long cord that is shot off when the engines backfire. The parachute is attached to the cord, but is stored in a compartment all its own outside of the actual rocket tubes. This is a technique I've used on other oddball rockets and it seems to work well, if I make sure there is no way for the parachute to get stuck once the hatch is blown out of the way.
Step 3: Exhaust Tube
Step 4: Building Up the Body
There was a lot of shaping, reshaping, and moving things around from this point on. This was very much a sculpture, and required quite a bit of eyeballing and continually adjusting things to suit my tastes.
Step 5: The Launcher
I paused here and built a launcher, and figured out how to have the rod go right up through the middle of the rocket without coming out the top of Iron Man's head.
This launcher design was made specifically to accommodate some giant removable fins I was going place underneath Iron Man's feet when it was time to fly. These were going to be added to increase flight stability.
Step 6: Finishing Up the Skeletal Structure
I've included a couple of photos of some failed tries at finishing the body. For various reasons, neither idea worked very well.
Step 7: A Layer of Skin
Step 8: Craft Foam Covering
I cut individual pieces to fit and used 3M 77 spray adhesive to glue them in place.
I thought the legs turned out looking pretty slick. But I realized how dumb it was to add this extra weight to a thing that was probably going to crash, so I didn't completely finish covering the body with the craft foam.
Step 9: Painting
Even though it seemed like I was trying to make this look crappy, it still turned out decent... if you're squinting from about 10 feet away.
Step 10: Flight Damage
It was a fun project anyway, and one I'd like to revisit some time.