KIT: Monogram 1/72 Space Shuttle
KIT #: 5904
PRICE: 27,00 MSRP
DECALS: options
REVIEWER: Peter Marshall
NOTES: Cutting Edge Nozzles (CELO72001 - 15)), Realspace Payload Bay (40), Cutting Edge Tile Pattern (CED72083 - ) and Marking Variants (CED72012 - 8) decals (and CMK U-Boat crew (CMF72118 - 5) with 72nd scale Mig heads (MP72.077 - 4))

 

HISTORY

Many (MANY!) years ago, before the first Shuttle launch, I promised myself that if the first mission was a success I would treat myself to the 72nd scale kit I had seen in the local shop (when there WERE local shops).  And much to my relief it did all go OK, but for some reason I didn't buy the kit.  I can't remember why though might have been the cost which would have been significant for my then parlous finances.  Anyway, fast forward to 2001 and it's on offer at Squadron at a price I can't resist so it joins my loft insulation.  And onto 2006 and one of the club contests is for "civilian vehicles" and I thought why not?  But before you read any further I should warn you, it's not really for the purist who likes historical accuracy.  I will warn you as each point approaches so you can look away.  Anyway.....

I had, over time, also picked up the various Cutting Edge decals sheets, the Black Magic masks and the nozzle set, unaware that the tile decals and the Black magic masks are somewhat exclusive of each other and also intended for the Revell kit.  Who would have thought they were different kits?  For those interested, the main differences between the two are (as found on the internet).

THE KIT


The Monogram has relatively few "panel" lines on it and is overall a smooth surfaced model. The cargo bay doors are hinged over the length of the doors similar to the real shuttle however, the windows are out of proportion and need to be modified or just painted over properly if you want a realistic model, though the cockpit is more accurate than the Revell kit.

The Revell kit has raised tile lines in all the areas that it should, but they are over sized by about a factor of 2 (and who wants raised tile lines anyway?). The windows are better sized, but the cargo bay doors are hinged only at the ends of the cargo bay and the mechanism make for an unrealistic cargo bay. Also, the Revell kit has movable rudder and body flap.

Overall the Monogram kit is considered more accurate, but the Revell kit is more detailed.  I hope that helps :-)

I wanted to make the kit in "flight" as I had a "satellite servicing mission" kind of set up in mind, plus the undercarriage/wheel bays didn't look that detailed.  That said, neither did the payload bay.  But some searching pointed me in the direction of RealSpace models and their payload bay set.  Hummmm, kind of expensive so I prevaricated, started building the kit and then succumbed, having established that it should be possible to fit the resin payload bay from the rear.

CONSTRUCTION

Construction started, not surprisingly, with the cockpit, as that would have to go in between the two fuselage halves.  Or so I thought.  As it turned out I was able to build the bulk of the shuttle first (helpful to make time for all the filling and sanding) and then slot both the cockpit and payload bay in afterwards.  But the cockpit got done first anyway, from the box, painted more or less in line with various pics off the web and shown here with the later addition of a crewman.  (pic 01 and 02)   Actually a U-Boat crewman, from the CMK set of loafing loaders, with a bare head from another set (I REALLY struggled to find civilian type figures in 72nd!).  And can you see him?  Or the other guy in there (more on him later)?  Can you thump......

So the body of the shuttle was together by now, not glued at the top rear to enable the payload bay to slip in when available, but I wasn't happy with the kit's representation of the Reaction Control System (RCS).  At the nose it was merely slight indentations or raised lines where the nozzles should be and on the Orbital Manoeuvring System (OMS) pods at the rear Monogram supplied round, black decals.   So I packed the areas behind the all the RCS nozzles with miliput (and while I was at it, the areas behind the umbilical connections) so I would have something to drill into.  (pic 03, 04 and 05)  The wooden block was intended to be used as a point to drill into for the eventual display mounting, similar blocks being epoxied into the main wheel bays.

With the backing in place I started the drilling.  And what a lot of drilling there was.....  The front RCS was done first, various sized drills being used to reproduce the very obvious holes all round the front end (NASA have some very good websites, lots and lots of pictures were downloaded before actually getting this far).  (pics 06 and 07)  The rear end was easier, all the holes being straight into the kit, rather than the angled affairs at the front.  (pics 08 and 09).  But my fingers did hurt at the end of all this, I even raised a few blisters :-(  Some kind of power tool would seem to be in order...

The two fuselage halves, main wheel bays and wings were now all together, making for a pretty large lump.  A fair bit of filling and sanding was required to get a reasonable fit in some areas, but considering the size and age of this kit it wasn't that bad.  The gear bay doors were a different matter and didn't really fit and so were replaced with sheet plastic.  (pics 10 and 11).  It was about this stage that the Realspace payload bay arrived so my attention moved to that for a little while.  The contents of the box are a major improvement over the kit parts, giving you much better internal bay detail, a positionable arm and a k-band antenna that actually looks like the real thing (rather than the shapeless, undersized blob that came with the kit pic 16) and some etch for detailing the bay and the door radiators.  (pics 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17).  The etch includes a set of window framing to correct the shape and proportion of the kit windows, as mentioned earlier this area is wrong on the kit.  Looking at photos, the etch is much closer to the real thing so despite the extra work this was undoubtedly going to create I cut the kit framing out and started the install of the etch.  Initially attached with superglue and filed down to a better fit (pic 18 and 20) and then blended in with miliput and  sanded and refilled with correction fluid and resanded and filled etc until the blending was pretty good (pic 21, 2, 23 and 23a).

The payload bay consists of two large bits of resin and these were joined ready to inserting into the shuttle body.  Before that could go in the front bulkhead needed installing and before that the cockpit had to be fitted.  There was a picture of Atlantis taken from an EVA that showed a crew member looking out of one of the upper windows and I liked that, so another of the U-Boat crew got to go into space, albeit with a different head.  The  window was fitted and he was carefully fastened into position before the cockpit (with the addition of a couple of bits of clear sheet to represent the HUDs) was added.  (pic 24).  And with the cockpit in place the bulkhead, with various etched details and the relevant kit clear parts fitted, was superglued into place ready for the bay itself which was slid into place and copious amounts of superglue applied. (pic 25, 26, 26a and 26b).  To get the kit sides to fit to the payload bay involved a lot of clamping and, you guessed, a lot more superglue.... (pic 27) but at the end of this operation the whole thing felt much more solid and together (and heavy!).  The rear bulkhead was next and after attaching all the required etched bits this too slotted into place with the requisite superglue. (pic 28)

Other bits of the build had been progressing in parallel with the main assembly, one of these being the main engine nozzles and the mounting structure.  The Cutting Edge nozzles are a major improvement over the kit parts and had been painted using several metallic shades (pic 29) and the mount part had been modified accordingly (pic 30), scored with a (less than totally accurate) representation of the tiles, painted black and white and this was now added to the rear end of the Shuttle (pic 31).  Other "parallel" builds were the slight detailing of the supplied astronauts and the modification of one to go on the end of the service arm (pics 32 and 33), the construction of the satellite (pic 34), the K-band antenna (seen earlier) and the payload bay cameras (pic 35).  The gold insulation material was fake gold leaf (VERY thin stuff, bits kept floating round the room for weeks afterwards) applied onto a dab of future, though I suspect any sort of varnish would work just as well.

COLORS & MARKINGS


So it was time for painting.  As mentioned, the Black Magic masks (and the decals) were intended for the Revell kit and in the end I only used a few of the masks, those for the vertical tail and the wing control surfaces, and even there they needed to be supplemented with masking tape.  And I masked the rear wing markings, which in retrospect would have been better done with strips of black decal.  (pic 36)  The wing leading edge and the nose were painted grey and the upper part of the airframe painted white, the lower part black, in preparation for the tile decals. (pic 37 and 38).  And so to the decals.  Again, the decals are sized for the Revell kit though the instructions do say something like "can be adapted to other models".  What that means is you can stick them on but they don't fit and you'll have to hack them around.  And while they are beautifully printed and strong they are rather too thick, don't conform well and are (to my way of thinking) too light in colour.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going to be doing this any other way, I have read articles by people who are applying each tile, individually, from thin plastic strip!  WOW!!!   So this is really one of those look away moments I mentioned.  The tile pattern isn't right, in that it doesn't accurately represent any Shuttle on any given mission.  It's an approximation of what the Shuttle looks like now, the patterns have changed quite a lot over the years and the instructions do reflect this quite well.  But I'll live with myself, life's too short...

And these decals are BIG, the four that cover the lower surface include the two biggest decals I've ever used (pic 39) but apart from the ones going round the curves of the nose they all went on pretty well and even the ones round the nose, with much slicing and setting compound, went down.  (pic 40 and 41).  Cutting Edge supply some spare bits of both light and dark tile pattern and these came in very handy to fill in a few gaps and compensate for me using the wrong kit.  To tone down the overly light tiles the relevant areas were masked off and several thin coats of very dark grey were misted over them until it looked more like the pictures.  You can see the difference in pic 41, there being a few of the original coloured decals applied after the toning down had been finished (though having just watched the latest Shuttle launch the light grey is certainly relevant for some areas:  http://mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov/detail.cfm?mediaid=30823 .  And then it was onto individual Shuttle markings.

Seriously, look away now, you have been warned.  On the Marking Variants sheet (CED72012) CE supply various styles of name decals, hatch patterns and NASA logos to reflect the changes over the years for the wholef leet, including Enterprise.  And I went with Enterprise.  I warned you to look away!  As I said, the tile pattern doesn't reflect a particular mission as much as it should, the payload/mission didn't exist, my crew members aren't accurate and I like Star Trek.  There, I've said it.  Also I'm going to make four other Enterprises (in 350th, NX-01, NCC-1701, CV-6 and CVN-65) so there you go.  I like Enterprise too.  These decals are excellent and there were no issues.  (pics 42, 43, 44 and 45)

FINAL CONSTRUCTION


So with a coat of matt to seal it all in, all the masking removed and things like the payload (using the kit ESA module, cos it filled a lot of space, had to use the kit decals, not the best..), tail, engines and rear OMS pods (pic 46), windows (pic 47) (carefully cut from clear sheet and remarkably fitted without them falling inside too often) payload doors etc fitted it was time for the rest of the etched details.  The payload bay radiators were bent to shape using an appropriately sized rod and attached (but be careful, they are quite sharp) and the etch door actuators and handrails all glued in place (more superglue!) (pics 48 and 49).  The EVA safety wire was put in place down each side and the Antenna attached and the main Shuttle was finished!

My modified astronaut needed something to stand on at the end of the arm, the resin item from RealSpace being nicely positionable but devoid of anything really useful at the end.  So using several photos and some plastic rod, sheet and wire etc I made a platform (pic 50).  And then it was just a matter of putting it all together.  I had in mind a stand that would let both top and bottom be seen (it would be a shame not to be able to see all those tiles) so, using some clear acrylic rod I fashioned three posts with steeply angled tops each with a short metal rod set into it, the intent bring that this rod would locate into small holes drilled into the wooden blocks positioned in the wheel bays for this purpose.  The holes for the rods were drilled in the base and a print of the mission patch for STS-107 was glued onto it as I felt some recognition was in order.   Then the rods were glued into the holes and the shuttle offered up to it.  In the event the mounting posts didn't quite line up with the wheel bays and I ended up just drilling into the plastic, but it seems to be coping OK with the weight.  The satellite was mounted on another rod and the arm positioned so that the astronaut on the end just reached it and the other guy was attached by one hand to one of the handholds.  And that was that!  (Pics 51 to 56)

CONCLUSIONS


So would I do anything different?  I wouldn't bother with the masks or the interior crew, the rest of the after market stuff is probably worthwhile though, and I'm pleased to have actually finished something before it's retired, becoming less frequent all the time :-(

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