Building a Mars Lander Model Rocket

I saw this 3D printed, Estes Mars Lander clone on Facebook. I contacted the poster and ended up buying a printed kit from him. It is beautifully detailed and is basically a Skill Level 1, as it pretty much just snaps and twists together. I flew it and came up with a couple of issues that he will be working on with his next 3D print. I used too small a chute so it broke a leg, which he had included extra. Here is how it went.

Here are all the parts, instructions and water slide decals. He did include extra legs, leg feet, nose cone and baffles.

You simply line up the little bumps and insert them into the four groves and twist. You need to make sure that the twisting motion lines up the launch lugs. If not, you simply pull it apart and re-align.

This is the properly aligned position of these two pieces. Notice that the launch lugs are aligned.

Notice the beautiful detailing. Now, even though it is white, I decided to use the Rust-oluem Painters Touch 2X Ultracover Paint + Primer.

Here it is from another angle showing all the details.

This kit is going to need to fly on D and E motors so I chose to to use the Estes 24mm Engine Retainer Set.

I used CA to attach the screw part of the retainer to the rear portion of the motor tube.

I glued a 24mm motor stop into the upper end, making the tube long enough to support the Estes black powder E motors. An adapter will be necessary to use a an Estes D12-3, which will be its first flight. I used some Gorilla Wood Glue to make a filet around the ring.

Once dry, I used the CA to attach the motor inside the Mars Lander body. The little notch is for the engine hook that I chose not to use.

I had a beautiful day so the painting went really well.

While the paint was drying I glued the feet onto the legs used the CA.

I used a right angle pick to enlarge the shock cord hole. It is just below the nose cone.

I threaded a piece of Kevlar cord though it. I then attached an elastic cord to the Kevlar.

The legs snap into the openings. I then put rubber bands on them and added a drop of CA to the little ledges to keep then from falling off. The rubber bands act as shock absorbers for the legs.

I added the water slide decals using the original Estes K43 instructions at I then sprayed the model with Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane. I waited 24 hours before touching it again to make sure the clear coat was dry.

The flight was perfect on the D12-3, pretty straight (the wind was awful) and high. The nose cones open and allow you to add nose weight. One has room to add a stack of dimes, the other a stack of quarters. I used the quarter one with 2.5 ounces.

There were a few problems. The nose cone was loose, should have added a little tape for a snug fit. It came off just before the ejection charge, but caused no incident. The second issue was that I chose too small a parachute. it opened perfectly but it descended way to fast, breaking a leg. My fault.

The baffle, which is at the end of the motor tube, couldn’t take the heat. As you can see, it melted the inside of the baffle.

I decided to cut the center out of the melted baffle to hold this adapter for the 24mm motor tube. I used my drill press and and a large step drill bit to accomplish this.

Here the baffle is at the end of the motor tube. It pushed back into the rocket perfectly. I used CA to glue it into place.

Now a launch will require a Nomex sheet or recovery wadding but I believe this will work fine. The person I bought this from is going to update the baffle to accept an extended 24mm body tube.

I had to launch from an 1/8″ rod because the intended 3/16″ launch lug is too tight. He will be working on this also. I will post an update after the next launches. I’ll try to include any 3D printing updates to the model and the contact information for the designer if he wishes. Sorry the video was into the Sun.

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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