Animatronic Saturn V Launch Tower Sends Lego Model To The Moon

When it comes to their more adult-oriented models, Lego really knocked it out of the park with their Saturn V rocket model. Within the constraints of the universe of Lego parts, the one-meter-tall model is incredibly detailed, and thousands of space fans eagerly snapped up the kit when it came out.

But a rocket without a launchpad is just a little sad, which is why [Mark Howe] came up with this animatronic Saturn V launch pad and gantry for his rocket model. The level of detail in the launchpad complements the features of the Saturn V model perfectly, and highlights just what it took to service the crew and the rocket once it was rolled out to the pad. As you can imagine, extensive use of 3D-printed parts was the key to getting the look just right, and to making parts that actually move.

When it’s time for a launch, the sway control arm and hammerhead crane swing out of the way under servo control as the Arduino embedded in the base plays authentic countdown audio. The crew catwalk swings away, the engines light, and the service arms swing back. Then for the pièce de résistance, the Saturn V begins rising slowly from the pad on five columns of flame. [Mark] uses a trio of steppers driving linear actuators to lift the model; the flame effect is cleverly provided by strings of WS2812s inside five clear plastic tubes. We have to say it took some guts to put the precious 1,969-piece model on a lift like that, but the effect was well worth the risk.

This project has a great look and is obviously a labor of love, and a great homage to the Apollo program’s many successes. We’ve got a ton of other Apollo-era hacks on our pages, including a replica DSKY, a rejuvenated AGC, and a look behind the big boards of mission control.

9 thoughts on “Animatronic Saturn V Launch Tower Sends Lego Model To The Moon

  1. Worthy of a museum display someplace. Simply wonderful.

    Part of me says all that’s missing is a sonic mister puck to add some “smoke”. Then again, part of creating a masterpiece is knowing when to stop.

  2. The model is actually secured to the lifter with a copper tube that I embeded into the first stage. The few inches that stick out then slide over a tube that is fixed to the lifter. Since it’s in the back it’s just not easily visible to anyone and short of a serious hit, the model is safe.

      1. You could imagine various ways to embed parts of a custom lifter inside the rocket (a pneumatic piston, or a screw rod with one or more anti-rotation rods, or a belt & pulley, for instance). Perhaps something to think about for the next version…

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