Building the Estes Photon Disruptor (part 1)

When I “finished” the Yankee in January I’d had kits sitting in my build pile waiting for me since summer, but for some reason — unknown to the part of my brain that’s speaking to me these days — I wanted to build the Estes Photon Disruptor I bought in December first. And I never argue with myself. Hardly ever.

Then I started thinking about filling and priming and sanding those weird-ass fins and said to myself, self, that might be a whole lot easier if I did it before gluing them to the body tube. Also masking for the orange finish on the upper body tube might be best done before gluing in the lower body tube. How about you wait until painting weather to start this?

Self agreed.

Self also told self to remember to shift the launch lug forward slightly so self won’t have to mask it.

Self then went on to other things for the rest of the winter and spring and most of the summer. Now self is starting to see the end of the painting season looming, and much to paint. (Yankee, and repaired Ventris, and Saber except I still have no idea what paint scheme I want to use; self would like to paint some of the Sea Sting pieces before gluing, too.)

Self is aware that next month’s contest is plastic model conversion, and probably really should be working on that, but after all the time spent on that odd-roc, self would like to relax with a fairly normal kit right now. You know, balsa, cardboard, wood glue, that stuff.

The MLAS may be balsa and cardboard, but there’s also foam, and it’s just not very normal overall; and the Sea Sting’s not that normal either, nor the Xarconian Cruiser. And the D-Region Tomahawk has lots of plastic bits. So self is starting on the Photon Disruptor. For which here are the parts.IMG_3076

Upon opening the bag I found a note explaining that due to the worldwide balsa shortage (which made no headlines, but apparently was going on in 2010) they’d replaced the balsa nose cone shown in the instructions with a plastic one.

Well, plastic’s not exactly untraditional. This is actually the third Estes kit to bear the name of “Photon Disruptor”, and unlike some Estes names I could mention this one’s always been attached to rockets that bear some resemblance to one another. The first, the Photon Disruptor (1282), was produced from 1976 to 1981. It had a BT-20 lower body tube and a BT-50 upper; the motor hook was external. The nose cone was plastic, PNC-50X. It stood 18.25″ tall. Second was the Photon Disruptor II (2052), from 1991 to 1992. Lower body tube was BT-50, carrying a BT-20 motor mount, and the upper was BT-55. Again a plastic nose cone, PNC-55AO. Height 24.6″. Essentially it was a 35% upscale (more or less) of the original.

This third one is the Photon Disruptor (3025), 2010–present. (Or almost present. It’s in the 2014 catalog and price list but seems to have disappeared from the Estes web site sometime before May.) They dropped the “II” but it’s essentially a reissue of 2052. Most of the components’ part numbers are the same. Laser cut fins instead of die cut, and they added a thrust ring — the 2052 just had the top of the hook to keep the motor in place. The shock cord and parachute have different part numbers, for whatever reason, and in the instructions a balsa nose cone and screw eye are shown. And in some kits Estes shipped that was correct, but what was supplied in mine, as I said above, is plastic. I guess it’s still a PNC-55AO.

OK. Even if I were a slave to purism, I wouldn’t need to go looking for a balsa nose cone for this thing. And I’m not a slave to purism, or balsaism.

To start with, the fins. I decided papering them would be a little more complicated than I felt like facing, so I’ve opted for filling with thinned wood filler and sanding.IMG_3077

After filling I found some of the big fins were a little warped, even though I did both sides at nearly the same time. I pressed them overnight with some heavy books and they’ve flattened out pretty well. There were laser-marked lines on the rounded fins (which I call “transverse”) for aligning the “radial” fins, which were somewhat obscured by filling and sanding, but not entirely; anyway I made a tracing showing the position of the lines and I’ll be able to restore them in pencil.

Meanwhile I built the motor mount. It’d be hard, I think, to put a replaceable Kevlar leader in this model, so I’m just going to glue Kevlar between the centering rings that hold the lower body tube into the upper; that means the motor mount is built per instructions.IMG_3078

That’ll do for today. So far so normal, but you know that won’t last.



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