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Building The Aardvark

A project which started out as a concept by Simon Atkinson for a proposed Graphic novel & TV proposal called MMAG 2 for the US company Videotopia in the early 2000's. The spacecraft was designed with future merchandising in mind, in particular that the entire 'Hero' spacecraft was a modular design that could be produced as a toy. Simon designed all the elements of the ship - at that time called the Valance.

This design was very much influenced by the work of Century 21 designer Derek Meddings who's iconic designs for THUNDERBIRDS, STINGRAY, UFO and FIREBALL XL5 were so influential - Simon's other major design influence is Ron Cobb.

After a lengthy period the design has now been refurbished and the front section of the ship, renamed the Ardvark 1 is now under construction by Simon.

Check back as the progress pictures are added.

Original concept for the Aardvark 1. This is the intended configuration of the 1:20 scale model detailed in the following photographs. Landing gear down and doorway open with steps extended. It is not intended to feature any figures on the model.

Side Elevation showing shortened version without side door.

A vac-form master produced from Tooling Board (Chemi - Wood) The top and bottom of the hull are the same basic shape so two formings have been made in 2mm thick HIP Styrene sheet.

The two halves have been trimmed and roughly assembled to check the fit.

The top cockpit canopy outline has been drawn onto the upper hull.

The top and bottom hull sections cut away for the side window areas. Note the temporary support piece in position to space the sections apart accurately.

The side door is marked out and the front observation window - originally intended to be central

Upper cockpit in position - a separate vac-forming with framing cut out and let into a cut-out in the upper hull.

Note the repositioned front window.

Sections cut-out from side door opening will be reused at a later stage to form the open upper hatch, the lower section will form the entrance steps.

A card test bulkhead has been laser cut and fitted temporarily.

More laser cut card test pieces, this time to check the accuracy of the artwork to ensure the side window framing and main hull structure fits the vac-formed hull sections.

Laser cut layers for the side frames. 1 and 2mm cast acrylic sheet are used for a sharp crisp finish. Location hols which will ultimately become the seat fixings are used to ensure an accurate alignment of the various layers.

Parts are pre-sanded then glued with Dichloromehane solvent.

Test fitting assembled side frames and main bulkhead sections.

Side frame - sprayed with primer test fitted inside the hull and viewed her from the opposite side. The cutout in the lower section will feature a level section of floor to house the forward seat.

The brackets to the left will support the pilot seat which is cantilevered outwards from the side frame into the side blister.

The cabin floor is fitted. This is a lamination of two sections of 1mm acrylic with a .5mm top layer with laser cut detail.

These sections were assembled over a former to ensure the correct curvature.

The cutout to the right will be filled by a level floor section.

The cabin interior - sub assembly.

The Cabin viewed from the interior

Forward seating position platform completed and assembled.

Progress as of 6th February 2015 - vac-form master and styrene formings for the four engine pods - later intake cutouts completed.

Test fit of engine pods - next stage is to develop master to create engine intake section to transition between hull shape and twin intakes.

Process for producing the Engine Pod intake sections - A Tooling Board and acrylic vac form master is used to create the intake housing in two parts. This is then fitted into the main engine pod fairing. Excess styrene is trimmed back then a hole cut into the main hull and the unit test fitted. One down - three to go!

Construction of three remaining Engine Intakes

Test fit of all four engine pods. Doorway sections cut from outer shell in place - these will feature detail structure at a later stage.

Laser cut rear bulkhead detailing including main rear airlock bulkhead.

Airlock completed and attached to rear bulkhead along with engine mounts

Additional surface detailing to airlock section.

Engine Bell master - Tooling board and styrene detailing.

Engine cowlings are fitted to the rear bulkhead.

Four completed and fitted cowlings.

Test fitting resin cast engine bells.

Engine sections prior to fitting Engine Bell bases.

First coat of primer over the completed rear end of the spacecraft. Engine Bell bases fitted.

Primered rear section with engine bells test fitted.

Side airlock and steps almost completed.

Concepts for landing gear being considered. Although the gear will be fixed in the down position, its nice to be able to design how it would fold away in 'reality'

Landing gear geometry try out - Coreldraw drawing. Includes design for additional housing on the underside to accommodate the main gear. The front gear will be integrated into a narrower fairing.

Footpad 3D model drawn up in Autodesk Inventor. The footpad will be modelled in two halves to enable the main leg to locate between.

The completed main gear design. This will be printed via Stereolithography with joints pinned with brass rod to ensure strength as the resin can be quite brittle.

Test print of a landing leg and support structure. Some modifications were made to the artwork after this, as some clearances were insufficient and some elements appeared too flimsy for the size of the craft.

A housing for the landing gear is now resolved and construction gets underway to build a vac form master from which to create the styrene hull.

The vac forming is trimmed to fit onto the existing lower hull. Not an easy shape to cut and fit!!

Holes for landing gear wells are cut out.

Artwork for the landing gear wells is prepared on Coreldraw for laser cutting. The walls are then cut in 2mm and 1mm cast acrylic sheet.

Fitting the nose gear well 'box' into position

Pipework detail is added in styrene strip and shape to the acrylic parts and the 3D printed gear is test fitted. The angled tracks are also 3D printed parts which sit into recesses in the laser cut panels.

Assembling the layered laser cut side walls of the main gear wells. These are then fitted to the underside of the vac formed styrene hull.

Styrene strip and rod detailing added to the base and walls of the wells. A curved bulkhead is also fitted to match the curve of the adjacent engine cowling.

A test fit of front and rear landing gear - the ride will be a little higher when completed as the gear supports are not in the extended position at this stage.

Thoughts now turned to the provision of vertical landing thrusters - the design that has evolved is based on the V-Tol Lightning aircraft with its vectored main engine exhaust. 

Engine and vectored thrust nozzle drawn up on Autodesk Inventor. These parts will be 3D Printed.

Recesses cut out for vectored landing thruster engines and nozzles. Liners made from sheet styrene with strip and kit parts added for detail and texture. 3D printed engines and nozzles are cleaned up and detailed with styrene strip prior to priming.

To Be Continued.........!!

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