Vintage Mars Lander Model Rocket Reproduction

by mechg, published

Vintage Mars Lander Model Rocket Reproduction by mechg Dec 12, 2017
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The Mars Lander model rocket was introduced by Estes in 1969. It featured shock-absorbing landing gear that allowed it to land upright without damage (usually). When Estes stopped making the kit, Semroc began offering a nearly identical replacement kit that is still available today.

This 3D-printable reproduction has the advantage of allowing easy replacement of the springs/rubber bands used on the landing gear - something that was difficult to do on the original. Most parts connect via twist-lock fittings. Only the landing pads (feet) need to be super-glued together and glued onto the landing gear (legs). The landing gear shown are red PLA and everything else is white PLA, with the pads spray-painted silver.

I have not flown this model, but I have included features that should make it possible. There is a shock-cord attachment lug inside the rocket, just below the nose cone base. There is a launch lug tube that runs the entire length of the rocket that should accept a 1/8" launch rod. The ejection baffle should protect the parachute somewhat, although, depending on the material used, it may need replacing after one or more flights.

The nose cone base has a compartment that is the same diameter as U.S. copper pennies, so that nose weight can be added as necessary. Wadded paper can be used to fill out the remaining space in the compartment.

An engine mount tube with centering rings would need to be built, with rings spaced so the entire mount is held in place between the ejection baffle and the flange on the bottom of the lower core tube. If standard model rocket materials like wooden centering rings and paper tube are used for the engine mount, it would ensure that it could withstand the heat of the engine. You could design and print an engine mount if you select material that can stand the heat, or be prepared to replace it if it warps.

Note that the price you pay for easy assembly/disassembly is a heavier rocket. Even though it is 1:1 scale, the PLA-printed one came out to 6 oz compared to 3 oz for the balsa/paper model. If you fly it, you will need to adjust engine rating accordingly, and check the CG/CP relationship. The site linked below has some RockSim info to help with that.

The embossed patterns on the ascent stage should be deep enough to survive sanding and painting. The embossing on the cardstock wraps on the original kit was fairly shallow.

A warning about the decals: If you use water-slide decals on raw printed plastic, they go on nicely, but after they dry they will come off easily if disturbed since the layer lines make for minimal contact with the decal. You might want to either sand and paint the model before applying them, or possibly use clearcoat after applying the decals to keep them secure.

Update: 12/19/2017: Added file "Full Landing Pad.stl" - This combines upper and lower parts for people who want to print them together as one and use some infill to support the upper portion. To minimize weight, the upper and lower portions can be printed separately with no infill and then super-glued together.

Update 1/24/2018: Uploaded a new Descent Stage file. This has changes that allow for better external appearance. Internal ribs and external fillets now force start/stop points for Slic3r travel moves. This reduces horizontal line artifacts that were caused by travel moves landing on the external perimeters. You can now set "Extra Length on Restart" to zero.

Semroc kit available here:

Decals available here:

Rocksim info:

Print Settings

Printer Brand:






Doesn't Matter


.2mm layers


See uploaded zip file with Slic3r settings for each part.

The Descent Stage is meant to be printed with Zero Infill so it will be lightweight.

See photo for how to orient the parts on your build plate to avoid need for support.

The landing gear can be printed at about 20% infill. Honeycomb looks nice.

The nose cone base may be a tight fit into the ascent stage, so it might need a bit of sanding.

The nose cone itself has an internal support column that can be removed after printing.

The descent stage has designed-in supports for the axles - they should easily break off.

Follow the diagrams that show the four steps for installing the landing gear onto the Descent Stage.

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Hi. I wanted to print at 50%, butthere was a problem with it. Can you help me?

The embossed areas are too thin to let you scale it down that much. Maybe Simplify3D has some option to detect this and fill in the gaps? I don't know. I do not use Simplify3D. If you have a .3mm nozzle, and set .3mm extrusion width, it should fill in those gaps.

Thanks, if it works out, I'll be sure to share as a remix

Hi, this is so cool. I had one of these when I was a kid, but the big bad tree apparantlly wanted it more :) . Anyways, I saw this and had to print one and try it again.I was looking at parts and saw that the ascent section is to tall to print in my printer (monoprice mini). I would like to modify that section in 2 pieces that I could print and add overlap sections for glueing. Maybe even try enlarging later. Modifying a part with that many triangles in almost impossible to do in Solidworks. I was wondering if you could post or send a .stp file of the ascent and decent sections so I can shorten the acsent section and try and add/ subract areas on the surface for the letttering and checkerboard, so I can just paint the area instead of adding decals. I have already started working on the simpler parts to either enhance their looks or remove weight where possible. thanks in advance

I have uploaded a zip file with both ascent and descent sections in .step format. Let me know if they work for you. You could also try MeshMixer. I understand it allows editing of .stl format objects. And if you are successful with your mods, please upload them as a remix so that others might benefit.

Oh my acscent finished. The damned thing slotted into place like a well machined part. Tolerances and fit & finish are astonishing.

Truly amazing!

mechg. this model is simply ridiculous. insane even. I can't get over how freaking nice it looks and I have only made 2 prints so far!! printing the baffle now will do the ascent over night (the correct orientation nose down :-) and the wee parts tomorrow.

but. WOW so far. I freaked at first when I broke off the tab and realized it was break away support. Glorious.


Oh my I can not wait till its done!! I am SO freaking excited! just had to find some decals! oh my I want to upscale this soooooo badly now! coming out much lighter than I thought.

I think I can print the legs lighter without infill and with 2 walls instead of 3. will be a lot weaker but so much lighter. just compensate with a larger parachute if I have to. but damn does the infill look sweat as hell in the crystal red! the hex infill "fits" the mars theme well.

ohhh SO excited!

I sooo sooo soooooooo hope you do some more. oh my do I hope you do some other models!

That does look good. Your Ender does precise work.

I hope you will post a quick "thing made" photo when done.

It is my favorite printer almost zero noise ringing or ghosting :-)

You bet your ass I'll post a picture :-) and when spring time comes you'll get some pictures and video at flying

I really like taking pictures of rockets :-)


12/17/2017: I replaced the Ascent Stage and Landing Gear files with versions that now have the parts rotated correctly for printing, just to avoid possible confusion.

Actually that's a lot more helpful than you might think a lot of the beginning 3D printer Critters are hesitant to mess with files so they will try to print them exactly as they appear in the software

can you repair the ascent stage stl file. the center core is 1.8mm too high so its "NOT" on the print bed when it starts to print. its 9 layers up at .2mm so 1.8mm too high.

Thank you so much for making this. its GORGEOUS. I can't wait to finish printing it and then mess with SCALING IT!! Ohhh tingling with excitement.

and I can do ALL the parts on my enders! which is good its my highest resolution lowest noise fabricator.

I just dropped the part 1.8mm into the bed for now so it will print right. hopefully it still fits right.

You need flip it 180 degrees to print it with the small end down as shown in the third photo. It would never print correctly the other way, even if I did what you asked, because the edge of the outer shell juts out over the bayonet (twist lock) fittings and they would have no support. Just make sure you are confident with it sticking to the build plate - in other words, use whatever glue, hairspray, etc that you normally use to get good first layer adhesion to the bed.

By the way, what are "enders" ?

oh my how silly. while that overhang would probably print just fine at this scale (Just be a little sloppy) I just assumed the models were in their needed orientations :-) I am glad I skipped to another part first though I would have seen that pretty quickly :-) Stiction won't be a problem.

personally? (Just a suggestion) add a bevel to both of these parts so it can print in THIS orientation (big side down) that wee tiny little edge is the only part that would have trouble. make it a 45' bevel and a matching bevel on the other part and poof. problem goes away. when I upscale this thing massively I would not want to print it little side down. too much chance of wobble at 400mm across :-)

I will flip it. My Ender army. My Little Critters. Creality Ender 2 printers.

Or use a raft when you scale it. The bayonet fitting kind of depends on having the outer shells butt against each other flat. Having them beveled could cause issues, especially when the shell is only 2 extrusions thick. It might work scaled up though.

I would be happy to post a .step file or other format if you want to try modifying it for your purposes.

Yeah, you wouldn't want to cut the last 1/8" off the outer bayonet if you intended to fly this thing. It has to support all the inertial and drag stress of the lower half of the rocket.

the first part came out so damned perfectly I am going to trust your methodology and just print it nose down.

I am able to get 3 extrusions on most walls. should help with strength. so far it seems strong enough to me. I am actually trying to come up with ways to lighten it.

use a raft? what for? do you mean support? (for the lip) ?? if I manage to super size this I will print it nose up and use support for the hard lip. the extra stability of the larger base will be needed at 300-400mm across to avoid the model itself flexing since it will be very thin.

I was thinking that a single layer raft, maybe 3-4mm wide, around the nose end, would help with "stiction" when printing it nose-end-down.

Oh don't worry stiction is not a problem the bed surface I use is very good for that I have never had a part come loose :-) the problem is when I supersize this part the actual part itself will physically begin to wiggle and wobble at that scale :-) maybe. :-)

Looks a lot like the Dragon from Space X. Thanks for a great model.

Nice. I currently have a Semroc and a 2X upscale kit. I have flown a Semroc, and a 1.6X and a 2X Upscale. The Upscales fly on H motors.
I lightened the 2X kit a lot to make that happen but it is plenty strong, I swapped in Carbon fiber arrow shafts for the leg reinforcements that were aluminum ! That let me leave out all the nose weight. It's barely any heavier than he 1.6X. NTW, I got my lvl 1 Cert with the 1.6X Upscale, the RSO was flipping out.