|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The SM-65D Atlas, or Atlas D, was the first operational version of the U.S. Atlas missile. Atlas D was first used as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to deliver a nuclear weapon payload on a suborbital trajectory. It was later developed as a launch vehicle to carry a payload to low Earth orbit on its own, and later to geosynchronous orbit, to the Moon, Venus, or Mars with the Agena or Centaur upper stage.
Atlas D was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, at Launch Complexes 11, 12, 13 and 14, and Vandenberg Air Force Base at Launch Complex 576.
The fully operational D-series Atlas was similar to the R&D model Atlas B and C, but incorporated a number of design changes implemented as a result of lessons learned during test flights. In addition, the D-series had the full-up Rocketdyne propulsion system with 360,000 pounds of thrust versus the 275,000 pounds of thrust in the Atlas B/C's engines. As with all new systems, there were a considerable number of failures early in the program that were quickly cured and the Atlas D became a reliable launch vehicle. The last 'classic Atlas' launch was in 2004.
If you are familiar with Horizon's previous Mercury Atlas kit, then you are aware of what most of this one is like. The 'civilianized' Atlas D was used as the main launch vehicle for orbital Mercury launches. Big rockets like this are generally pretty unencumbered with 'fiddly bits' and so it is with this one. I should point out that prior to this kit, the only Atlas in this scale was by Anigrand, and it was considerably higher in price and more difficult to build.
You get three sprues, two of which are identical. The identical sprues contain the rocket nozzles, main body, lower nozzle assembly halves, nose cones and piping. The third sprue includes a nice base, the skirt between the nozzle assembly and the rest of the rocket, the nozzle attachment section, the fuel vent pipe, a nice base, and the different length 'side pods'. The detailing on the parts is superb with engraved panel lines were appropriate and raised detail where it should be. I should mention that the launch gantry is not included. It would be nice to see one, so perhaps the aftermarket crowd could help out.
The builder can do one of three different missiles. One is 57-2630 with the short Mk.2 R/V (which I think means re-entry vehicle) that was the first Atlas D. This one differs in markings from the others by having a big SAC band on one side and small insignia on the side pods. The other two are quite similar but not exactly the same with one being 58-7096 with a Mk.3 R/V and the other 58-7078 with a Mk.4 R/V. All of these rockets were launched in the 1959-61 time period. There is a superb decal sheet with placement instructions both on the back of the box and in the instructions. Color info is on the back of the box and these are basically different shades of metal. Note that with the Mk.2 option that the SAC band is only on one side with the other bare of such markings aside from the general ones all three carried. I see that additional serials are provided so that you can model other rockets.
I am a fan of things like this and have been told that other variants will be done in the coming years depending on sales. This one is headed straight for the work bench once a project or two clear it.
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