Dragon 1/72 Redstone Rocket w/ Mercury Spacecraft

KIT #: 11014
PRICE: $52.99 SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: New Tool Kit

 

HISTORY

The Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, designed for NASA's Project Mercury, was the first American manned space booster. It was used for six sub-orbital Mercury flights from 196061; culminating with the launch of the first, and 11 weeks later, the second American (and the second and third humans) in space.

A member of the Redstone rocket family, it was derived from the U.S. Army's Redstone ballistic missile and the first stage of the related Jupiter-C launch vehicle; but to make it man-rated, its structure and systems were modified to improve safety and reliability.

The four subsequent Mercury manned flights used the more powerful Atlas booster to enter low Earth orbit.

THE KIT

Dragon is very much committed to providing the real space modeler with some fine kits and that continues with this one of the Mercury-Redstone. This kit's capsule does seem to have a window as used on many of the flights. There are markings for both Freedom 7 and Liberty Bell 7. One thing I did notice is that the lower part of the fins are solid (as in no 'cut out' from the steering portion of the fins to the booster body). I looked at this area as shown for all the Mercury-Redstone flights in Wikipedia and noticed that only  rocket designation MR-5 and Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 seemed to have had this more solid look. I'm sure those who know more could chime in on this. The decals also have the little square 'MR7' markings as used on Shepard's flight. Grissom's would have had 'MR8'. Regardless, is nice to have this kit.

Simplicity is the keyword for this kit. So basic is the kit in terms of parts, that the instructions and color guide are printed on the back of the box. What one gets are four plastic tubes on which one attached the fins and the spacecraft. The spacecraft is a single mold as sanding a seam with all those corrugations would be quite a feat. The escape tower with its rocket on top will take up most of the building process.

One builds up the lower section of the rocket, then the upper section, the tower, and the rocket pack, assembling them all in the last step. There is a nicely done plastic base (actually three of them but two are not required) and a metal rod on which to put the model. The lower stage has a reinforced area to accept this rod, thanks to modern slide mold technology.

There are decals for one version and while the upper black and white areas are part of the decal, the lower stage sections will need to be painted.

CONSTRUCTION

Every once in a while there are those kits that psychically send 'build me', waves into one's brain. This is one of those kits. As soon as I saw it, I knew that it would be going immediately to the work bench. And that is exactly what happened.

Now one would think that this kit would be almost a snap to assemble, but that is not exactly how it turned out as there is more to this one than meets the eye. Naturally, the initial assembly was the lower and upper halves of the rocket body. These have mold seams that will need to be cleaned off before going too far. I also test fit a fin to the lower section, and it showed that one cannot install the rocket nozzle with any fins in place. Basically means that the fins will need to be painted prior to installation.

Moving on to the capsule, I cemented the two bits atop it that would be painted black along with the capsule. I also glued the small rocket nozzles to the fuel and parachute pack part of the escape tower. These fit on small nubs and seem to properly align themselves. The trickiest part of construction was the tower itself. You basically have three uprights and three cross-member sections. The latter slot into openings on the inside of the uprights. These are not self-aligning and the uprights have to be at an angle to fit onto the top of the capsule.

What I did to ensure this alignment, was to glue two of the uprights and one cross-member together. Then those two  upright pieces were placed into the holes for them in the top of the capsule. Before they had a chance to dry, the other two cross-member pieces were glued in place and finally the third upright was installed and the cross-members glued to it. This was a time when having three very small hands would have been nice! I then set the rocket pack atop it to let the glue dry. Once that happened, I finished adding the bits to the rocket pack and then glued that to the tower. Once dry, I will be able take the tower assembly off and paint it.

I finished assembling the main body of the rocket and figured it was time for painting.
COLORS & MARKINGS

To no one's surprise, the first color to be painted was white. In fact, pretty much everything got at least one coat. This is especially needed for anything that was going to be painted red. The initial coat of white was with Tamiya white primer to be sure the following coats would stick. Then, using Floquil white, I sprayed all of the fins and the main body. The capsule sections were painted flat black. For the red sections on the booster and the tower, I used Tamiya Red.

Much masking was done to get the proper black/white markings on the fins. These were simply slotted into the booster and painted along with the lower booster section. I painted the very upper capsule attachment band in red. When that was done, the fins were removed and then masked for the grey parts. I used Light Aircraft Grey on these areas using Model Master enamels. The rocket nozzle was painted burnt metal. There is a white band on the capsule that needed to be painted and that was masked then painted white.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

Some detail painting was done on the tower connections and then that was glued on to the capsule. It was really a difficult procedure to get it in place once it was already assembled and much fussing went on in the process. Then the decals were attached. They all fit quite well and reacted well with Mr Mark Softener setting solution. The upper booster band is a bit too large so you will have an area where the stripes are a tad small. There is no decal given for the black stripe at the very top and lower section of the booster, though the broader one half way up is included.

The actual placement of markings on the capsule is impossible to determine from the placement guide as the capsule is just a featureless black shape. I also had to drill out the placement hole for the metal rod. I used a #35 drill bit and got a smooth installation. For something a bit tighter a #36 or perhaps #37 might be a good idea. I would suggest reaming out this mounting hole on the booster before assembly starts. Eventually, all was done and the fins glued in. Some of the usual touchup painting was required, but after that, it was done. Total assembly time under a week, most of it spent masking and painting. There are still a lot of parts left over so I can anticipate perhaps a Little Joe being part of Dragon's line-up in the future or more likely a Mercury-Atlas combo. Having built a 1/72 Atlas using the Anigrand kit, it will not be small.

CONCLUSIONS

Despite a few self-inflicted glitches (smearing a decal, for instance), the kit was a pleasure to build. Its quick construction makes for something that will be quite a break from a 700 piece armor kit and it looks great when you are done. Judging by how quickly this kit has been selling out, you might want to grab one while the grabbing is good.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury-Redstone_Launch_Vehicle

February 2012 

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