Apparently, my subconscious didn’t think that this build was challenging enough. My conscious mind disagrees, but my subconscious had it out for me. Because it would not let go of the fact that I discovered, after the first build session, that there were spacecraft docked to the ISS, and that was just begging to be a mod. It sounds insane, but I actually listened to it. Of course, it helped that I had some magnets that looked about the right size and if I did mod it, I could justify not having to build part 25 as a single piece. Yeah, the thought of repeating part 18 was enough to tip me over the edge.

So, yeah, I’ve done almost two more hours of building on this model, and I’m only formed one more part than last time. I didn’t even bother building the steps in between part 18 (where I left off last time) and part 25. Nope, I just did the modification and forming part 25 ahead of time, so when I get there, I’ll be ready to attach it. As a result, I now have 3 space craft / resupply vehicles that can be attached in whatever configuration I like. Yes, I know I’m insane.

The process of accomplishing this can be broken down into a few steps, though some were repeated. The first step was taking things apart and cutting some pieces up. After that, I focused on modifying the Progress resupply vehicle, then the docking port at the back of the Service Module. Next up was figuring out how to embed a magnet in the docking port in the middle of part 18 and how to “dock” the Soyuz spacecraft to that. Finally, I cut up part 25 and formed it to match part 18, complete with dock-ability. However, I think it will be easier to read if I cover what I did by section, rather than by order.

all-in-one pseudo-instructions for Progress dock

So I’ll start with the Progress vehicle / docking port. The first task was to detach part 1 from part 2. I had folded / rolled over these tabs, so I used my hobby knife to pry the tip of the tab out, then some super-needly-nose pliers to gently unfold it back so I could slide the tabs out of their slots. Once I’d accomplished this, I needed to decouple parts 2 and 3, so I could reattach part 2 to part 1. Yeah, seems silly, but that was the order of operations that was required, because I couldn’t get to the tabs of part 3 without removing part 1. I made the mistake of thinking I could just clip the twisted tabs off flush with the surface of part 2, but they were still twisted just enough to hold on. I should have untwisted first, then clipped. Nevertheless, I was able to get it apart.

From there, finishing up the modifications to the Progress craft was pretty easy. I straightened out the tabs of part 1, and flattened the slots that they would pass through in part 2. Using some UV-cured glue (5-second fix) I secured a 3mm round / 1mm thick magnet to center of the inside surface of part 2. Finish that up with re-securing the tabs of part 1 through part 2 (gently, so as not to break the tabs), and the Progress resupply vehicle was ready for docking!

Modifying the port on the service module was not nearly as easy. In fact, it was quite messy. Originally, I was optimistic and thought that one of the tiny button magnets I had would fit inside the connector (part 3). I was completely wrong. It wasn’t even close. But I had a plan for if that were true. I would use a little metal file I had to reshape the magnet to make it fit. That process accounts for quite a bit of the time I spent in this build session. It didn’t help that I was trying to reshape a round magnet into a square-ish magnet. Nor did it help that the magnet had some sort of surface finish metal that preferred to flake or slip over the file, rather than grind down.

Oh, and did I mention it was a round magnet that I was trying to shape into a square? It’s hard to keep a good grip on a round magnet while trying to flatten out the edges while drawing it across a metal file repeatedly. And then there was the fact that the shavings / chippings / flakes I managed to grind off were all magnetic and wanting to stick to everything I was using to shape the magnet. However, though sheer powers of stubbornness, I finally managed to shape it down to a size that would fit and get it inside of part 3 flat to the opening (that was fun) and I glued it in place. Thankfully, it went in with the correct polar alignment to match the magnet in the Progress spacecraft. A couple of tiny drops of UV-glue at the corners secured the magnet in place.

Whoops, forgot a step in there… I also had to clip off the remnants of the tabs on part 3, and then grind it smooth with the metal file. I did several trial “fits” of the Progress attaching to that, since the magnet was just strong enough on it’s own to the docking sleeve (though quite loosely). So, in the end, after I was able to “dock” the Progress to the service module at will, with the two magnets providing a solid connection.

Now it was time for the Soyuz spacecraft / dock, aka part 18, aka the nightmare from my first build session. I have to admit that I took a little bit of joy clipping the tiny metal connector strip between the Soyuz craft and the MSM / docking module. But then I realized that I had two challenges ahead of me. First off, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze one of my button magnets into the end of the Soyuz – the hole was way too small, and if I put it in the middle of the “sphere” instead, it would just trying to “dock” sideways. No good. On the other hand, the hole at the end of the MRM was almost perfectly sized to the button magnet – but I had no idea how to get it to stay in a flat alignment, since I would only be gluing to the tips of the “petals” that were folded in (usually I call them flaps, but saw Disorderly Cone, of Groove Builders, calling them petals, and I like that term).

With the good news section standing out to me, I decided to tackle the MRM dock first. I tried placing the magnet in by hand, but it went in super crooked every time. I tried using my hobby knife to hold the magnet while applying some UV-glue to secure it in place. That sorta worked, but I didn’t want a “sorta” straight dock. Finally, I was inspired by a comment on my last post, left by fellow builder Thierry. He made this great suggestion of using some foil to “plug” the hole that you usually end up with at the center of cones (so that it looks more solid), pushing it in with toothpicks. I didn’t need to do that here, but I did realize I could pack some foil into the inside of the MRM with a toothpick to prevent the magnet from being accidentally pushed too far into the hole (which happened a lot). So that’s what I did. packed in a bunch of teeny tiny clumps of foil. Then I took a stack of magnets, inserted it into the open hole so just one was actually in there, and applied some UV-cured glue. It wasn’t perfectly flat, but it was close enough!

all-in-one pseudo-instructions for Soyuz

So, what to do with the Soyuz? Well, I thought… it’s a pretty strong magnet, maybe I can just stick it on there. And… it sorta worked. It wasn’t a strong connection, but it held. Of course, I wasn’t super satisfied with that, but it gave me an idea. Since the full face of the magnet was exposed in the MSM port, I could get a solid magnetic connection if I had a flat metal “top” on the end of the Soyuz. I pulled out my “Spare Parts Bin” and started digging, and found that I had an extra side-cylinder for R2-D2’s feet that had almost perfectly sized circles on them. I clipped a circle off, glued it to the front of the Soyuz (using UV-glue) and it worked! Yay!

Now repeat the Soyuz process with part 25, but while forming the part this time around. So much easier forming this part as two separate parts. In addition, since it wasn’t attached to anything, I was able to stick the magnets to the end of my forming tool (a center punch tool) while it was inserted through the MSM to hold it straight while gluing the magnet in place. No foil needed this time!

As a bonus feature, I placed a couple of the magnets on the surface of the display stand base, on either side of the globe, that can be used to host the Soyuz crafts when they are not docked. The progress craft will stick to the base on it’s own, since it has a magnet in it, but the Soyuz’s won’t. I’ll probably glue those magnets in place once I finish the whole build and decide exactly where on the base I want them to be.

So… even though the majority of the video is probably me scraping a magnet back and forth across a metal file, I actually recorded the entire process of enacting this modification. This is a first for me (recording a mod), so I’m kinda-excited, kinda-nervous about it. Nevertheless, I’m going to share it, all two silent hours of it. Right here: