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X-20 Dyna-Soar and Transtage

By David Hanners

The X-20 is one of the great “what if” questions of America’s manned space program, and I’ve always wanted to model one. It’s never been available in styrene, to my knowledge, and the resin kits (especially in 1/48th scale) always seemed pricey to me. Maybe I’m just cheap.

Once I got into card modeling, though, I found a quarter-scale X-20 online for free. I believe it was designed by a card modeler in Japan. Although it is engineered pretty well, the English translation of the instructions left a lot to be desired and are virtually useless. I had a couple of false starts, but that’s one of the nice things about card modeling: If you screw up a piece, just print out a new one.

I made several changes from the “stock” online kit. Although the X-20 was a USAF project, I wanted to model one in civil NASA markings and I also wanted to add markings for various warning, rescue and other instructional placards. I added those using the “Draw” function of Word. While I was at it, I also added “rivet” detail using lines made out of gray dots. Construction was fairly straightforward, but I added a cardboard piece to beef up the X-20’s “belly” and improved the design of the triangular-shaped “spine” the model’s designer had come up with.

The X-20 itself is all paper except for a ball bearing I used for the nose and aluminum foil (which I tinted by boiling it with eggs) used on the fairing right behind the ball nose.

The transtage is entirely scratchbuilt of paper, using my own design based on reference drawings I found online. It uses a combination of heavy gray stock as well as a silver-colored paper that I found at an art supply store. I designed the basic skin of the transtage and printed it out onto the silver paper. The adapter between the round section and the X-20 was built from heavy gray stock.

The twin nozzles were made using a scaled-up version of the Gemini-Titan II nozzles available on Delta 7 Studio’s “Project Gemini” CD. The struts holding the rocket motors are made from toothpicks. The reaction control quads were scratchbuilt from paper, and the RCS nozzles were made from paper covered with aluminum foil and wrapped around the end of a toothpick to get the proper “bell” shape.

The finished model is 11½ inches long and the X-20 has a wingspan of 5 inches.

Image: Front/left view

Image: Engines

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