A Space Shuttle




Introduction: A Space Shuttle

About: In my free time, I enjoy building/modifying/dismantling anything I can get my hands on. I am currently an engineering student at UCLA and look forward to sharing more projects with the Instructables community…

My 1:78 scale model of the NASA Space Shuttle made completely out of recycled materials that can be found in a typical household (although my family is far from that...).  

A great project to do if you are interested in stretching the limits of your abilities and learning new or honing your skills.  

What did you make?
-I made a 1:78 scale model of the NASA Space Shuttle completely out of recycled materials using tools that are common and can be found in an average house.  I mainly used cardboard and Elmer's glue.  

How did you make it?
-I got the idea for the project soon after the Space Shuttle Endeavor made its final journey to the California Science Center, it's final resting spot.  As a full time high school student, I had little time that I could devote to making this build.  Once I designed the model from pictures and videos online and gathered the needed tools and materials, I stuck with the design only doing slight tweaks here and there to accommodate with the situation.  

Where did you make it?
-Being a busy student, I made this at home at night times and weekends after completing homework.  This project taught me many skills that I was able to incorporate into my other activities from school such as Science Olympiad and Robotics.  In addition, I was able to demo the model at an exhibit to generate publicity about the importance of recycling.

What did you learn?
-I've learned a lot from this build, but if I were to choose one, I would say that it is important to realize what you want to do in life early on by trying out different activities.  For example, before making this model, I was interested in planes and space but that was because of the books and movies that I would watch about them.  I've never really experience a moment where I've had to make my own thing and overcome challenges and obstacles like the scientists who build these magnificent machines.  The biggest obstacle I've overcome in this build was the scale and accuracy of the model.  Having never seen a Space Shuttle for myself physically  I've had to base my knowledge off of images and videos.  I'm proud that I have inspired others interest in space (hopefully) and if I were to do this again, I would not change one bit of it (experience-wise) but would change the accuracy of my model. 

Step 1: Why Build the Model?

Although this looks fun to do, why should I make one?

My main reason for making it is to commemorate the end of the Space Shuttle era.  I remember being a kid and watching these launches and being inspired to want to be an astronaut or pursue a STEM related field of research and be the scientist that designs the rockets.  Space has always been really appealing to me since I grew up reading and watching stuff like Ender's game, Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman, etc.  I've always thought of it as a place where mankind can put aside our differences and be a greater part of the bigger picture.  Now that I've gotten older, I realize that although space was not exactly what I thought it was, but it does capture the primeval characteristic of human beings of curiosity, cooperation, exploration and innovation.  With the Space Shuttle program, we, as human beings, have been able to satisfy our desire to seek the unknown and explore "space, the final frontier. . . to boldly go where no man has gone before" (As Captain Kirk famously says in Star Trek).  With the Space Shuttle program, we've been able to work with other countries to create the International Space Station, a symbol of our representation in the universe, an example of what we can accomplish if we put our differences aside.  

I felt as if this was the least I could do to give back to what the Space Shuttle program has done to me.  To continue to inspire future generations of Innovators, Explorers, and Leaders.  

-Astemoi, The Cosmic Wind

Step 2: Tools+ Materials

These are the tools I used
- Pencil / Pen / Eraser
- Scissors (I have two pictured, one for small places and the other for big jobs)
- Exacto knife 
- Sand paper
- Measuring device (tape or ruler)
- Calculator
- Clamps
- Safety glasses
- Gloves

I recommend using these if you have them to replace 
- Jigsaw - replace exacto knife + scissors (still need them for small jobs)
- Dremmel - replace sand paper, even cutter? 

- Cardboard , different types (tons I got mine at a local Costco)
- Elmer's glue
- Toothpicks
- Popsicle sticks
- Tape (masking and electrical)

Step 3: Design the Model

- A quick search on Google returns diagrams with 4 or more viewpoints.  Since the Space Shuttle isn't some classified government project, you can access the blueprints with the dimensions easily.  Be sure to reference as many different pictures/diagrams as possible and choose the ones you prefer.  

- After that, print out a few of the diagrams to reference. I also prefer having a physical model on hand to refer to so I broke out an old paper model from the local science museum.  Additionally, it is nice to have a color picture on hand.   

- Now is the part where you determine the type of model you want to make.  I personally took a relatively middle approach  not making the model have the exact details as the shuttle but not making it too simple.  After that, you also determine from your cardboard cache how big you want the model to be, mine turned out to be 45cm or so at the longest single piece since I did not want to bother finding a ruler longer than my 45 centimeterer (new word?).  Now that you've got an idea of how big you want the mode to be, get your specs from the diagram of how long the body is from nose to nozzle.  If that isn't included, you could also measure the length of the picture and make that as your mark.  

Step 4: My Design

This is the design that I came up with after going through pictures, videos, diagrams, charts, and blueprints of the Space Shuttle.  This is how I made my model but I would recommend using this as a reference if you are seeking to make your own because it is cool to experiment and my design is not extremely accurate.  If I were to rate this design, I would say it is a mid ranged design in terms of difficulty, time, materials & skills needed. 

Step 5: Main Body

This is the basis of your model.  I started off by cutting pieces of cardboard that decreased in length (longest to shortest) and stacking them together to create a layered effect.  After eight different pieces, I decided that since I did not have as much cardboard left, I would finish off the body with a hollowed top to both save time and emulate the cavity of the cargo bay.  Although I could have easily made the top hinged and open up like a flower, I decided to keep the top flap open to make it simpler.  Also, aside from tape and slitted there is no is no real way of ensuring that the joint would not come off after opening and closing it many times.  

Depending on how accurate you want your model to be, you can choose to do more layers of thinner material.  Now that I look back at it, I think that going with the hollow cavity did made the model look mode impressive.  

Step 6: Wings

To keep with the layered effect, I made the wing 3 separate parts indicated by the drawing.  I arrived at my design by looking at top views of the space shuttle and doing some research as to what kind of wing the shuttle had.  I came to the conclusion that it had sort of a delta shape with a combination of a trapezoid.  There is no real way to do the wing as long as it is in the general shape of the shuttle.  I also realized that the flat part of the wing that is furthest from the body is a bit too long but it's fine.  

If you are following the layered approach, I would recommend doing anywhere from 2-5 layers depending on how thick the cardboard is in relation to the body you made.  

Step 7: Wheels (optional)

Making the wheels can be quite hard.  Although it may be hard, the rewards of someone telling you how cool they are when you have them retract are worth more than the work it takes to make it.  I started off watching a few videos of the space shuttle landing to get and idea of how the landing gears work.  Although my design is inaccurate (the sheer resistance on the flaps at high speed would rip them off their hinges), I chose to do it that way since it was easier to have the wheels perpendicular to the part that holds up the wheels (suspension?) vs it being parallel.  

As for actually making the wheels, I cut out a template of a diameter of 2cm and using that drew around 36 of them (9 for each wheel).  
I then glued the 9 together, drilled a hole into the center using the bit that is appx the same size as a toothpick.  I then cut the cavity's for the wheels to fit in, test fitted it, and glued it to the body.  Also, the front had two wheels and the back one each.  

I added the wheels for a purely demonstrational purpose, not intending for them to be able to support the weight of the model.  

If there are any questions about this step, please comment below, thanks. 

Step 8: Tail + Fin

When I deigned the tail, I added an extra piece that capped off the hollow area of the body.  I also made the three nozzles (design on represented on drawing page) that represents the main engines.  As for the fin, I knew it would be cool to have a design that had a rudder that could be moved.  I came to the conclusion that I needed a multi-layered design in order to keep the fin stiff and compensate for the constant bending of the cardboard.

Step 9: Sanding + Polishing Up + Painting (optional)

For a crisp, clean look buffer up the sides of the model.  If you've been sanding after each cut, this step shouldn't be that bad.  

As for painting, I chose not to paint it since I knew that it would look worse if I did the paint job.  If you chose to paint it, I would recommend finding a non-water based spray paint since soggy models don't look nice. 

If using the Dremmel, always remember to wear safety glasses!  Pieces can irritate eyes and even worse things can happen!  

Step 10: Stand Design (optional)

Taking a look online, the stands that people sell are both expensive and fancy.  Since I wanted the model to fit in with the stand (it would be odd to have a polished shiny metal stand with some cheap cardboard model above), I decided to make my own, after all, how hard could it be?  I also wanted to replicate a stand that give the model the effect that it is in full flight with a relatively high angle of attack (without it slipping off) to make it look awesome.  

Poking around at what was inside the house to use, I was looking for materials that would give the effect of the stand in the first picture.  

Step 11: Making the Stand (optional)

- Log
- Branch
- Popsicle sticks (I used 8)
- Wood glue
- Old mouse pad
- Nail/ Wood screw

- Saw
- Scissors
- Hammer
- Sand paper 
- Sharpie or pen

1. Start by taking the log and sawing off a small sliver about 2.5 cm wide.  This will be your base piece.

2. Take the branch and saw off a part from the right tip to the intersection (in the case of my branch).

3. Trace the shape of your sawed off log onto the mouse pad and cut it out.  This will be your base of the stand to prevent scratches on surfaces and make it have grip.

4. Make the main stand with Popsicle sticks that will distribute the area of the stand and hold up the model. 

5. Attach the branch to the log by either glue or wood screw.  I did both for safe measure. 

6. Wait for that to dry if needed and glue the mouse pad to the bottom.  

7. Glue the Popsicle configuration to the top and let it dry.

8. Done! 

9. (Optional) Add varnish and reinforce the joints by gluing from the outside. 

Step 12: Thanks for Checking This Out!

For those out there who set out to make something similar, best of luck!  This took me about a month to make, working after doing hw and doing a little at a time. 

If you are interested in my other projects, check out my profile and my blog,

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    10 Discussions


    Question 2 years ago

    I was also wondering how you made the fin, especially the wood part....???


    Question 2 years ago

    Hi, this model is really good. I was just wondering what measurements you used for the part2 of the wing....???, if you could get back soon, that would be great!!! Thank you!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey man, Im going to use this for my school project, it looks awesome. When i'm finished do you want me to post a pic?



    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I would be honored if you did this for your school project. If you need any further help, please feel free to message me or comment again. I would love to see what improvements you add and what things you modify! Be sure to post a pic! :)

    1GB ofP
    1GB ofP

    Reply 4 years ago

    imma do it for sk00l too


    6 years ago

    I'm going to try to freestyle one!!! Great job!!!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I made a similar version of this see it here


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I remember before making this instructable, I search to see if anyone has done anything similar. I was disappointed at the low amounts of hits so I decided to post my own. Let's spread the word about the awesomeness of these machines to those out there!