Category Archives: Building

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module (Again): Part 4

So last time I left you with a cliff-hanger. Sorry about that—the opportunity so rarely presents itself on this blog.

You may recall that things were coming along well with my re-do of the paintwork on this kit, and I’d got to the point of masking off some of the RCS thrusters on the Command Module, so that I could reproduce the red-brown areas around them, visible in this reference photograph:

Reference image detail from AS10-27-3873
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(Detail from AS10-27-3873)

To that end, I’d used a set of round and elliptical hole punches to make appropriately sized holes in a sheet of Bare-Metal Foil I was using for masking:

1/96 RealSpace CSM, masked with Bare-Metal Foil for nozzle painting
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Bare-Metal Foil is good stuff for this job, and I decided to use it because it’s a little less sticky than Tamiya tape. Which was a mistake, because it turns out that the hole punch slightly stretched the foil, so that it didn’t smooth down perfectly around the area to be painted. Which led to a collection of monstrous and irreparable paint leaks on to my lovely chrome finish.

So I popped off all my 3D-printed detailing, and stripped the damn thing down again. The difference this time was that, after stripping it down to its bare resin last time, I’d built an extension to the aft bulkhead using styrene. And the Xtreme Metal thinner I used to remove the paint also partially melted the styrene, which then required some filling and sanding and was never quite the same again.

I’ll spare you the next cycle of painting, which went fine. I’d had the presence of mind to test the previous chrome surface with hole-punched Tamiya tape before I stripped it down, and knew that I could produce good masking for my thruster nozzles without damaging the metal finish.

Creating masks with a 2mm hole punch on Tamiya tape stuck to styrene sheet
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I’d also established that, while resistant to buffing and masking, the Xtreme Metal Chrome was sensitive to being handled with bare fingers. So I was wearing cotton gloves to handle the model while applying the paint. And it all went swimmingly. Here are the thrusters, all painted up, with the chrome still gleaming:

1/96 RealSpace CSM with RCS nozzles painted
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What could go wrong now? Dear Reader, taking a firm grip on a shiny cylindrical object while wearing cotton gloves is not without risk. And so I missed my grip and fired the thing, like a lemon pip, across the room in a flat arc that connected with a concrete floor. Pretty much everything was irreparably damaged, except the New Ware photoetch hatch, optics penetration and umbilical connection, and the little Aerospace Place umbilical fairing. (The New Ware scimitar antennae for the Service Module both catapulted off somewhere—I’ve never seen them again. But my High Gain Antenna array was still safely sitting in a pot on the window-ledge, not yet attached.)

So that was … discouraging.

Someone less stupidly persistent than I would probably have given up at this point. But I’d recently had blog-related contact from someone who was also building the RealSpace CSM, who revealed that the current version of the kit is a big improvement on the original I’d been wrangling. So I ordered one:

Box art of current RealSpace 1/96 CSM kit

And indeed it was an improvement:

New version of RealSpace 1/96 CSM
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There’s a nice 3D-printed SPS nozzle, which is much better proportioned than the old resin version, and is separate from the aft heatshield, making painting easier. There’s a set of nice RCS thrusters for the Service Module, and a well-proportioned umbilical fairing, albeit without surface detail. No High Gain Antenna, though.

The CM and SM are separate, but not in a particularly useful way—no attempt to model the CM heatshield or the SM interior.

New version of RealSpace 1/96 CSM detail
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And the surface finish of the SM is horrible, full of ridges and furrows and lacking even the few panel lines of the old kit. The CM likewise has a rather rough surface, and still has its inadequate docking probe. But it seemed like the only additional part I was going to have to reorder was the Aerospace Place’s docking probe, which had smashed as part of the general carnage.

The aft heatshield was better proportioned and detailed except at the fill and drain ports, for which I had to manufacture a little raised rim from styrene strip, and paint on the circular ports themselves.

After a considerable amount of filling and sanding, I scribed a few panel lines on to the service module. Here’s the result, with the aft heatshield in place and a coat of Tamiya primer:

RealSpace 1/96 Service Module initial prep 2
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You can see that there’s a neat rectangular recess for the umbilical connector (the one that connected the Service Module to the Launch Umbilical Tower), and my little photoetch New Ware detail dropped neatly inside that with only a minimal amount of trimming, so that’s a nice feature.

And on the other side there’s a recess representing the umbilical connection between the SM and CM—and it’s in the right place, glory be.

RealSpace 1/96 Service Module initial prep 1
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So the SM got a coat of paint. (Are you counting? That’s the fourth time I’ve masked off the radiator panels.)

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo Service Module basic painting 3
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo Service Module basic painting 2
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo Service Module basic painting 1
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The scimitar antennae are punched out of styrene sheet, and are better proportioned than the photoetch New Ware parts I lost in the previous catastrophe.

The CM got its coat of Black Base, and was left to cure for a week.

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo Command Module with Xtreme Metal Black Base coat
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Here it is, chromed up and detailed, with its new Aerospace Place docking probe.

RealSpace 1/96 CM painted
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(The cocktail sticks are temporarily glued to the back surface, so that I didn’t need to handle it while painting.)

The Service Module got its RCS quads attached, and its decals applied while I waited for my replacement decal sheet to arrive, having lost all the CM decals during an earlier round of destruction.

RealSpace 1/96 Service Module decalled
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The CM went on without mishap, the decals arrived and were applied, and the High Gain Antenna was finally attached. There was a final debate over whether to use the umbilical fairing from The Aerospace Place (left) or the one that came with the kit (right, with a tiny bit of surface detail added in the form of styrene strip):

Comparison of 3D-printed umbilical fairings from The Aerospace Place and RealSpace
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The RealSpace part had the better proportions, and (after sanding off the surface irregularity visible above) I opted to use that.

And, at long bleedin’ last, it was finished. Here’s the final result:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 1
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 2
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 3
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 4
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 5
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 6
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RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM completed 9
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Bearing in mind that the thing is just 4cm across, it turned out OK in the end, I think.

Finally, a comparison of the old and new versions of the kit, using the original I built back in 2016 (on the left):

Comparison of old and new version of RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM
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Here’s a reference image:

Apollo 15 CSM
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(Detail from NASA image AS15-88-11963)

You can see how misproportioned the original was—short and fat, missing the region behind the aft radiators, the SPS bell too thick at its base, the aft heatshield too thick, the umbilical fairing the wrong shape. The RCS quads from the Revell kit were all wrong, and the HGA array ridiculously small. The new kit is, if anything, a little too slim. It could do with adding a 3D printed docking probe and HGA, and improving the surface of the Service Module. But it’s definitely an improvement. Unfortunately, when mounted on the Revell Saturn V, it’s a poor fit—the old version fitted snugly; the new one leaves a rim about a half-millimetre wide all round.

Now I’m off for a lie down in a darkened room.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module (Again): Part 3

Last time, I was contemplating how to add feedhorns to my High Gain Antennae from The Aerospace Place. The solution I eventually came up with was to use some 0.25mm fibreoptic strands, and to melt the ends into a blob by holding them close to a hot soldering iron. Sprayed white, these gave me something like the appearance I wanted.

Meanwhile, I’d begun to suspect that my Aerospace Place HGA was mounted on too long a supporting rod. To check, I scanned the relevant section of David Weeks’s drawings, halved the scale, and printed it out. Sure enough, the rod was too long, by about 5mm:

1/96 Apollo High Gain Antenna from The Aerospace Place, compared to rescaled drawings by David Weeks
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If you peer, you’ll also be able to discern my little feedhorns. Which are, if you compare them to the drawings. Mounted on the wrong dish ribs. Sigh. I’ll pop them off, repair the damage with new white decal strips, and then attach them where they should have been in the first place. And I’ll snip a bit of length off the HGA arm.

Then my revised umbilical fairing from The Aerospace Place arrived, and it was the right size:

The Aerospace Place correctly scaled 1/96 umbilical fairing
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There’s a roughened area on the “underside” of the CSM, evidently intended as a marker for where the fairing should sit. You can see it here, on a photograph taken a little earlier in the build:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM showing misplaced attachment area for umbilical fairing
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The Z-plane of the CSM runs more or less through the vertical row of embossed circular features on the Command Module, to the right of the RCS thrusters, and the umbilical fairing is offset a couple of degrees from that line, so that all looks fine. If you’re not paying attention.

I actually had the fairing glued in place before I realized that it was offset in the wrong direction.

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM with umbilical fairing attached in WRONG LOCATION
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Aaargh. The fairing should actually be offset clockwise (as you look from the nose). It should be sitting more or less hard against the little radiator panel to the left.

Popping it off to resite it of course damaged my fragile Xtreme Metal paint, and I needed to do a bit of sanding to abolish the misleading rough area:

Sanding off the umbilical fairing attachment area in RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM
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So now there’s a problem. You’ll see I’ve already applied some decals to the Command Module—a set of labels from Space Model Systems. I didn’t want to disrupt those, so I was faced with trying to mask off and patch the delicate chrome finish.

Repaired umbilical attachment area on RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM
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It went OK, I felt, though not perfectly, and I got the umbilical fairing in the right place:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM with Aerospace Place umbilical fairing attached in correct location
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Here’s a photo of the real thing, for comparison:

Reference image detail from AS10-27-3873
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(Detail from AS10-27-3873)

So a sensible person would have accepted this as a half-way decent save, and moved on. Instead, I decided I’d try to rectify a little flaw on the surface of the CM—a blob of glue that had extruded from the edge of the photoetch optics penetration. So I sanded the area down and set about doing another patching job. But this time, my masking didn’t work—it peeled off the chrome paint underneath it when removed. Another attempt to patch the problem, and I had more paint peeled off.

So I admitted defeat. And this is what defeat looks like:

RealSpace 1/96 CSM stripped back
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I popped off all the 3D printed detail, and stripped the thing back to the bare resin using Xtreme Metal thinners, sacrificing my decals (and ordering a replacement set).

At which point I decided I might as well do the little job that I’d previously shirked—building up the region behind the rear radiators, which I did with some styrene strip and thin styrene sheet.

RealSpace 1/96 CSM, aft extension
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Then I went through the whole build again. The rear extension turned out fairly well:

RealSpace 1/96 CSM with redone paint 3
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This time I let my Xtreme Metal Black Base coat sit for three or four days before applying the Chrome, and suddenly it was adherent enough to be polished as advertised! Which meant I wasn’t going to need to apply a sealant coat, and could preserve my nice specular finish:

RealSpace 1/96 CSM with redone paint 2
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RealSpace 1/96 CSM with redone paint 1
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Which also meant that I could do some decent masking without damaging the paintwork, this time, so that I could paint on the red-brown finish around the CM thrusters. This would be more satisfactory than my own printed decals, which (you may recall) turned out to be a deep translucent red once in contact with the reflective surface of the Command Module.

So I used a set of appropriately sized hole punches—a 2mm round punch, and a 2x3mm oval punch, to make holes in my masking material. Still leery of using Tamiya tape, I opted for Bare-Metal Foil again, this time using gold to contrast with the chrome paint. Here’s the first set of roll thrusters masked off:

1/96 RealSpace CSM, masked with Bare-Metal Foil for nozzle painting
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And it was at this point that things really hit the fan. More next time.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module (Again): Part 2

Last time, I was about to embark on applying the bright chrome finish to the Command Module. This went on over a coat of Xtreme Metal’s Black Base, and turned out looking pretty good. Deceptively so, as it turned out.

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM Command Module basic paint 2
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There were some nice specular metallic reflections:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM Command Module basic paint 1
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I set it aside to cure for a week or so, before deciding whether I needed to seal it with a transparent overcoat, and turned my attention to some of the 3D printed parts:

3D printed replacement parts from The Aerospace Place for RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM
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The Aerospace Place’s umbilical fairing was finished in Xtreme Metal Aluminium, which showed up a curiously corrugated surface on its exterior curve. I presume this is an artefact of the 3D printing process, since this surface appears to have been smoothly finished in photographs of the real thing:

Detailed reference view of CSM umbilical tunnel, Apollo 15
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Detail from Apollo image AS15-88-11961

So I sanded it lightly and repainted. The Reaction Control System quads for the Service Module, also from The Aerospace Place, are a much better match for the real thing than the Revell kit parts. They got a coat of Xtreme Metal Aluminium, and then I brush-painted the nozzles with a mixture of Tamiya Flat Aluminium and Bronze to produce the appearance in the photograph above. This was a poor match for the odd sheen of the real thing, so I ended up redoing the paint job with an admixture of Tamiya Gold Leaf.

As the tilt of the parts in the photograph suggests, they come with locating pins, so I drilled out corresponding holes in the Service Module resin, making them easier to locate precisely.

I forgot to photograph The Aerospace Place’s neat little docking probe. There’s a right way up and a wrong way up to fit this to the model, since it consists of a triangular array of fairly chunky pitch arms, interleaved with another triangular array of slimmer support beams. A look at reference photographs, like the one below, shows that if we look at the CSM from the front, with the CM hatch “up”, the docking probe is orientated so that the thicker pitch arms form an upright “Y”, while the interleaved support beams are in an inverted “Y”.

AS17-145-22275 reference image for orientation of docking probe
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Apollo 17, AS17-145-22275

Going back to the CSM part, I discovered that the chrome finish rubbed through to the black base coat on only minimal handling. (I gently rubbed the area that would be concealed by the docking probe with a cotton bud.) This was a disappointment, because the manufacturer, and various end users, are vocal about how robust Xtreme Metal finishes are—buffing them up to a high shine almost as soon as they’ve dried.

So I needed to apply some sealant:

AK Interactive's "Intermediate Gauzy Agent" to seal chrome finish
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This comes from AK Interactive, who make the Xtreme Metal range. A bottle of unpromising looking stuff with a very strange name, so I tested it on some painted scrap styrene, and it seemed to work fine. When I applied it to the chrome finish on my model, it very definitely subdued the metallic specular reflections, replacing them with a more diffuse glossy finish. But it did produce a much more robust surface, so … swings and roundabouts:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM with Aerospace Place docking probe and RCS quads
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Notice that the docking probe and RCS quads are now in place, and I’ve applied black paint to the windows (gloss) and anti-dazzle panels (matt).

Then there was a hitch. I hadn’t trial-fitted my Aerospace Place umbilical fairing, and when I did it seemed far too large. I checked its dimensions by scanning David Weeks’s excellent 1/48 drawing of the CSM, and printing it at 1/96 scale:

Oversized Aerospace Place umbilical tunnel compared to David Weeks drawing rescaled to 1/96
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For comparison, here’s the rather battered resin version that comes with the RealSpace kit, and an unused New Ware replacement part from my Saturn V build that I belatedly remembered and dug out of the attic:

Selection of 1/96 umbilical tunnels: RealSpace, New Ware, Aerospace Place
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So I contacted The Aerospace Place via the Shapeways website, and got a prompt reply acknowledging that the part was oversized, and promising to send my a correctly sized replacement.

While waiting for that, I addressed the problem of the little patches of paint around the Reaction Control System nozzles of the Command Module. You can see them here:

Reference image detail from AS10-27-3873
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(Detail from AS10-27-3873)

Red-brown circles around the yaw and pitch thrusters, and paired ellipses around the roll thrusters. So I printed up some red-brown decals of the appropriate size:

1/96 RealSpace Apollo CSM, decalling of command module thrusters
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This wasn’t a great result—even very dark brown decals developed a red tint when applied to the metallic surface of the CSM, but it was certainly a better result than the bright red paintwork on my previous build of this kit.

And I did some work on The Aerospace Place’s High Gain Antenna array. The usual guidance is that the four mesh dishes should be painted black, including their support struts. And that’s certainly what the dishes looked like when they were photographed in shadow. But photographs of a real item held at the Stafford Air & Space Museum show dark mesh and pale struts.

Maybe the dishes that flew on real Apollo missions were painted differently? I think not. Here are some reference images of the Apollo 11 HGA, directly illuminated (left) and shadowed (right):

Apollo 11 HGA in sunlight and shadow
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Detail from AS11-37-5443 and AS11-37-5444

So I elected to paint my HGA array in black and white:

The Aerospace Place 1/96 Apollo CSM High Gain Antenna
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The crisp finish to the radial struts comes from Xtradecal fine white lines (I think about 0.25mm), rather than my steady hand.

What the antenna dishes need now is some feedhorns (the prominent objects poking out of the middle of the dishes in my reference photos above), though it’s a bit of a puzzle how I’m going to make them. More on that next time.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module (Again): Part 1

RealSpace Models Apollo CSM

Those of you who’ve been following my build logs for a very long time will recall that I’ve built this model before, back in 2016, when I started assembling the Revell 1/96 Saturn V—which I completed three years later, putting the finishing touches to the last component just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. The RealSpace resin replacement was necessary because the Revell kit provides a Block I Command/Service Module, whereas the manned Apollo missions all used Block II CSMs.

Here’s how my previous RealSpace CSM turned out:

RealSpace 1/96 CSM (2)
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RealSpace 1/96 CSM (1)
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There were things I didn’t like about it at the time, and I’ve become progressively more unhappy with it as time has gone by. The RealSpace kit doesn’t provide parts for the Reaction Control System thruster quads, or for the High Gain Antenna at the rear of the Service Module, which means using the parts provided for the inaccurate Revell CSM. The Revell RCS thrusters weren’t quite the right shape, and the HGA was grotesquely undersized. I used Bare-Metal Foil to produce the bright finish on the Command Module, but had to punch holes in it for the CM’s RCS, and at this scale it was difficult to do that accurately. And the kit’s docking probe was damaged when it arrived, so needed some repair work. And since completing the build I’ve convinced myself that the red CM thruster surrounds are too bright, and that the areas around the CM hatch and optics array are incorrectly raised.

So almost immediately after I finished the first build, I ordered another RealSpace CSM, which has languished in my stash ever since, primarily for lack of a good solution to the underscale High Gain Antenna. But I was inspired to dig it out and start work when I discovered that Shapeways offered an array of 3D-printed Apollo replacement parts at 1/96 scale, provided by The Aerospace Place—including an appropriately sized HGA, and a very nice docking probe which disposes of the need to do delicate surgery on RealSpace’s resin probe, which is both extremely fragile and filled with flash that needs to be trimmed away.

I understand that newer versions of this RealSpace kit are somewhat different, but here are the three parts I’ve got:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM parts
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The CSM is a single unit, the aft heatshield and the engine bell of the Service Propulsion System are another, and there’s a rather chewed-looking umbilical tunnel as a small separate part. You can see the raised Command Module hatch, above—this should be flush-fitting, so I needed to do a bit of sanding, while trying hard not to damage any of the moulded EVA handles in the hatch area.

As with my previous kit, the docking probe is damaged:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM damaged docking mechanism
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But this won’t be an issue this time because I have a replacement part—so I’ll just sand off the kit probe.

The scimitar antennae on the Service module are likewise fragile and damaged:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM damaged scimitar antenna
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That little rectangular stub (next to the “75” on the cutting mat) should be a half-circular protrusion. This would be fairly easily fixed with a bit of sheet styrene, but instead I used some photoetch parts from the New Ware Saturn V detail set.

New Ware Saturn V Detail Kit

I used one of these sets for my Saturn V, and was very pleased with it, but I didn’t propose buying another set just for the CSM parts it contained. Fortunately, I found someone on eBay who was selling off some “partially used” photoetch frets from this set at an understandably low price. From the photographs, it was evident that someone had started building the Saturn V from the bottom up, and all the parts for the CSM were unused. So that was handy.

Then there was the problem of the rear pour surface, which needed a bit of filling and sanding.

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM pour surface flaws
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This is a real problem with this kit—the aft bulkhead of the Service Module is formed by the pour surface of the resin. In both my kits, this surface has been incomplete, making the CSM too short overall. The situation with this one is slightly better than with my original, but there is still insufficient depth behind the rear radiator panels. I hummed and hawed a bit over whether I could build up the rear surface with styrene in some way, but eventually decided to just accept the defect, rather than ending up with an eye-catchingly ugly extension.

Here’s the CSM with New Ware photoetch parts in place. I’ve sanded down the inappropriately raised hatch and optics areas, and replaced them with New Ware parts. Also visible, if you peer, is the New Ware umbilical connector, and one of the scimitar antennae. And you’ll notice that the damaged docking probe has been removed.

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM with New Ware photoetch parts
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I’ll add the hatch handle using a sliver of styrene in due course.

The whole thing then got a coat of Tamiya white primer, which will serve to provide the white areas of the Service Module (mainly the radiator panels). Here’s the primed part, with the white surfaces masked with Bare-Metal Foil.

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM Service Module primed and masked
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This is handy stuff, because I was able to rub it down over the raised edges of the radiator panels, and then gently slice it away around the panel edges using a fresh scalpel blade and minimal pressure. (Also evident, above, is the shallow area behind the lower radiator panels, which at this scale should extend for about 2½mm, but barely manages 1mm.) I also masked off the scimitar antennae, which were also white, with a couple of slips of Bare-Metal Foil just before painting.

I’d found painting the combined engine bell and aft heatshield a little awkward, last time, so opted to replace the RealSpace part with 3D printed parts from The Aerospace Place—it was easier to mask and paint the engine bell and heatshield separately. Here’s the result:

3D printed 1/96 SM aft heatshield and engine from the Aerospace Place, painted
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Also visible is one of the two little panels I cut from sheet styrene, to detail the aft SM bulkhead on either side of the heatshield. I finished the heatshield using AK Interactive’s Xtreme Metal range—Chrome for the heatshield itself, and Gold for the flexible boot around the base of the SPS bell. After a day or two I decided that the chrome finish was too bright, and also discovered that some of the chrome had already rubbed down to the black base coat after minimal handling, so I brushed on a layer of Tamiya Chrome. The masked Service Module got a coat of Xtreme Metal Aluminium, which I’d previously established bonded very nicely to the Tamiya Primer. Here are the two components, finally assembled:

RealSpace 1/96 Apollo CSM Service Module basic paint 2
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Getting the heatshield correctly orientated relative to the principal axes of the CSM requires care. There are two arched structures at neighbouring corners of the heatshield, which were the ports through which engine fuel and oxidizer were filled and drained. My photographs above don’t show them to their best advantage, but they’re easily identifiable if you’re handling the kit part. The correct orientation of the heatshield can be established using these ports as a reference. Here’s a diagram showing an early version of the heatshield, but with the ports in their final positions. We’re looking at the Service Module from behind:

The -Z position marks the centre-line of the Command Module hatch. Don’t use the Service Module Reaction Control System quads as landmarks for the Z and Y axes—as I detailed in my first post about The Coordinate Axes Of Apollo-Saturn, the RCS quads were offset from the principal axes by 7º15′ in a clockwise direction when viewed from ahead:

Command/Service Module principal axes
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That’s it for this time. Next time, I’ll be applying a bright chrome finish to the Command Module, and (I hope) finding a way to prevent it rubbing off again.

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 7

Last time, I finished wiring and lighting the interior of the command sphere, and had it assembled and preshaded.

The final part of the build was to put together all the various cargo pods along the spine of the spacecraft, as well as the dish antennae that featured as a plot device in the film.

By my reckoning 358 parts had to be built into 71 subassemblies for the cargo pods:

Subassemblies for Moebius Discovery cargo modules
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These assemble, around the spine sections at bottom right above, into ten separate units of triangular cross-section, and one square-section unit that supports the dish antennae. All the units are different, and I had to annotate my instruction sheet to keep them all in the right order, assigning numbers from 1 to 10 as I constructed each one. For ease of painting, I initially left them partially assembled:

Partially assembled cargo modules for Moebius Discovery
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And once I’d got the base coat and preshading done, I completed each unit, sticking a number on it as I went along.

Completed and preshaded cargo modules for Moebius Discovery
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I used some more of Aztek Dummy’s rectilinear masks to produce a bit of surface mottling, and a dark grey wash to emphasize the surface detail.

Preshaded cargo modules for Moebius Discovery
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The small antenna dishes needed a slight modification—the kit parts inaccurately give them each a central spike, but in the “real thing” the central spike was a feature of only the large, central dish:

Reference image for Discovery dish antennae
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it was easy enough to omit the small central spikes and blank off their locating holes with a suitable small disc of thin styrene sheet (punched out with a leather punch), to reproduce the appearance in the film.

At this point I decided that my final blending coat needed to go on while the individual components were still separate, to ensure good coverage—so I treated the command sphere, the engine compartment, the engine bells, and all the cargo units individually, but with the same mix of paint—two pots of Tamiya flat white, with some German Grey stirred in incrementally until I had the very light grey finish I wanted, and then a few drops of Blue just to nudge it towards a cold white point.

Finally, everything was slid on to the steel spine, and the spinal rods were cemented to the command sphere, the central sleeve, and the engine block—bearing in mind that I’d shortened one of them and it needed to go at the back of the assembly! The final act for the model itself was to connect the command sphere wiring to the battery pack in the engine compartment:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery battery stowage
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Then I needed to set about getting it properly displayed. The kit comes with three stands, each supported by a steel rod, so I had no worries about their ability to bear the extra weight I’d loaded into the engine compartment and command sphere. There’s a flat tripod for the engine compartment, a broad shallow dish for the command sphere, and a little intermediate cradle to stop the central spine from sagging. I finished these in matt black, except for the support cradles, which were painted to match the model itself.

Moebius 1/144 Discovery display stands
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It’s not immediately obvious how to position the engine compartment cradle, but a bit of experimentation finds the sweet spot:

Moebius Discovery fit for rear stand
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The subtle shading of the command sphere panels shows up best when photographed against a neutral grey background:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery shading view 1
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The rectilinear mottling on the engine compartment is sufficiently subtle to be almost subliminal, which is more or less what I wanted:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery shading view 2
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And the primary effect of preshading on the cargo modules is to enhance some of surface detail:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery shading view 3
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Although the kit instructions position the central stand directly under the antenna module, it fits anywhere along the spine. Obviously it needs to be somewhere fairly central, but for me the most aesthetic result was to place it equidistant between the two other stands, slightly behind the antennae.

Here’s the completed model on its display base, with the three stands cemented in position:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery on stand 2
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery on stand 1
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The base comes from a UK company called Lasacryl, who make gorgeous custom display cases.

The mission patches that complete the display are from an Etsy seller called Demogorgon.

Demogorgon Discovery patches
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They’re a good match for the mission patches featured in the film:

Reference images for 2001 Discovery mission badges
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Here are the engine lights in action:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery engines lit 1
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery engines lit 2
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The completed cockpit is difficult to photograph, but you should be able to see my little Frank Poole figure peering out at you from the pilot’s seat:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery cockpit lighting
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And the pod on its extended platform:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery pod lighting 1
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery pod lighting 4
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery pod lighting 5
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With the extended pod removed, we can peer inside the pod bay:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Green Strawberry pod bay 1
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery Green Strawberry pod bay 2
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery Green Strawberry pod bay 3
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And the whole thing in its display case:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery in case
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Moebius 1/144 Discovery in case 2
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Finally, I couldn’t resist placing my model against a couple of more dramatic backgrounds. First, heading for Jupiter:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery approaching Jupiter
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And an homage to Peter Hyams’ film, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, in which the abandoned Discovery is found “parked” close to Jupiter’s moon Io, and discoloured by the sulphur erupting from Io’s volcanoes:

Moebius 1/144 Discovery 2010 homage
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(I’ve composited my Discovery model with images from this random starfield generator, Celestia, and some NASA photographs.)

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 6

Last time, I completed the wiring of individual sections of my Green Strawberry pod bay, and the neat little Falconware pods. This time, I’m assembling the bay and the extended pod platform, adding ceiling lights, and cramming everything into the Moebius command sphere.

First, though, I needed to do a little surgery on one of the Moebius kit parts. One of my few complaints about this kit is that Moebius have moulded the pod bay door and the door surround as a single part. Because I was modelling the Discovery with a pod bay door open, I needed to scribe, drill, file and sand one of the doors out of its frame.

Opening the central pod bay door on Moebius Discovery
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With the open door frame in place, I could then slot the assembled pod bay walls and floor into the lower half of the kit command sphere, for a dry fit.

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery overview 2
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It takes up a lot of space! One of the problems with modelling this spacecraft is that the movie interior sets weren’t a great match for the exterior model views—in particular, here, the interior wall of the pod bay film-set curved rather less than is evident in exterior views of the Discovery model. So there’s a bit of fudging evident in Green Strawberry’s side walls when compared to the “real thing”, and the assembled pod bay fills so much of the model interior that there would be no room for the centrifuge and airlock that featured in the film.

Here’s a rear view with the ceiling dry-fitted.

Green Strawberry pod bay roof in place in Moebius Discovery hull
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There’s very little clearance between this ceiling and the underside of the Paragrafix cockpit in the upper hemisphere. I wondered about replacing the thick Green Strawberry resin ceiling with the thin photoetch brass ceiling from Paragrafix, but decided against it because I preferred Green Strawberry’s detailing. In retrospect I might go with the Paragrafix part, because its thinness might have solved a problem that developed later in the build.

At this point I was finally able to judge the length of brass tubing I needed to use for the supports of my extended pod platform.

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery overview 3
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With the brass cut to length, I could slot it into place on the underside of my pod platform:

Connecting the Falconware pod lighting to Green Strawberry pod pad
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This involved a bit of high-stakes wiring. I had to trim the wires for my pod LED unforgivingly short, and then solder them to the interior of the brass tubing with my soldering iron very close to the resin part.

But the end result was a pod positioned exactly where I wanted it, and electrically connected to the rest of the command sphere.

Falconware pod in position in Green Strawberry pod bay and Moebius Discovery hull
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Falconware pod lit via Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery
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The Green Strawberry platform includes a brass plate that seals over the end of the platform supports—I replaced this with styrene in order to avoid a short circuit.

Sealing the underside of the wired Green Strawberry pod pad
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Next I needed to complete my other two Falconware pods, but without the palaver of having to light them. (Because I was feeling lazy, I only detailed the side of each pod that would be visible in the assembled model.) I also put together the spacesuit rack. The Green Strawberry vertical supports are brass photoetch strips that locate in shallow indentations in the floor and ceiling. I couldn’t see a way to locate these easily and securely, so I replaced them with 0.5mm brass rod, on which I mounted the spacesuit and helmets as they were seen in the film during Bowman’s first EVA, and then I drilled holes in the floor and ceiling so that I could thread the brass through and epoxy it in position.

Here’s the pod bay with the pods and suit rack in position, and the lighting on:

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery lit 1
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Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery lit 2
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Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery lit 3
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Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery lit 4
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Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery lit 5
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And positioned inside the hull:

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery in place
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Then I wired up the ceiling lights—eight little low-profile light boxes that would just fit into the space between pod bay and cockpit, and an additional downlight to illuminate the ladder-well in the laboratory.

This was when the problem with the thick resin ceiling manifested itself. The light openings are small, and the thickness of the resin converted them into fairly constrained downlights, rather than general illuminants. With the extended pod removed, and peering in through the open doorway, the resulting illumination was pretty murky, particular at the rear wall, which was getting hardly any light at all.

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery with overhead illumination only
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So I decided I need to cheat, and mount some concealed lights either side of the door, to push light into the back of the pod bay:

Installing additional concealed lights for pod bay of Moebius Discovery
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On first testing, this produced a bit of a thermonuclear result:

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery, overlit
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The additional illuminants were producing noticeable bright spots and shadows, and overwhelming some of the detail lighting. With a couple of little baffles and some black paint, I then toned down my extra lights until I got the effect i wanted:

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery, revised lighting 1
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There are still a couple of anomalous shadows behind the suit rack, but they’re not overly eye-catching. And the additional light doesn’t drown out my feature lighting, like the octagonal corridor:

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery, revised lighting 2
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So then it was time to glue everything in place, and bundle up the wiring in the two halves of the command sphere:

Wiring of Moebius Discovery command sphere before assembly
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And then it all had to be stowed away neatly without nipping anything between the two halves as they were glued together:

Wiring of Moebius Discovery command sphere, assembled and stowed
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Finally, I did a check of the complete wiring run, from the batteries in the engine compartment, through the two steel spinal rods, to a connection block mounted in the rear of the command sphere.

Wiring of Moebius Discovery command sphere, test of full wiring run
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Improbably enough, it all worked!

To complete work on the command sphere, I masked off the cockpit windows and the pod bay door, and started airbrushing on layers of paint, from a dark grey base layer through progressively lighter coats, adding Aztek Dummy panel masks as I went along:

Aztek Dummy masks on Moebius Discovery panels
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The final result was a rather boldly variegated command sphere, which I’ll tone down when I apply my final blending coat to the whole model:

Preshaded command sphere parts for Moebius Discovery
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Next time: all the fiddly cargo pods for the long spine, final assembly, painting, and mounting on a display base.

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 5

By the end of my previous post in this build log, I’d finished lighting the Paragrafix cockpit for my Moebius Discovery spacecraft. Now it was time for the pod bay. When I first bought the Discovery kit, I acquired the Paragrafix photoetch pod bay to go with it, but was a little disappointed with its general flatness. To be honest, that shouldn’t be a big issue in practice, because in the completed kit the view through the pod bay doors is pretty limited. But after a while, as the Discovery kit languished unbuilt in my stash, I became aware of the Green Strawberry pod bay, which is a mix of resin and photoetch that promised to give a much more three-dimensional result. So I acquired that, too.

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery

I hoped to build this model with one pod extended on its platform in front of the open central door, like the iconic scene in the film when Dave Bowman leaves the Discovery for the first time.

Reference image for pod on platform
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I’d set myself the task of having the pod lights illuminated, but also to be able to remove the pod and its platform to make it possible to inspect my (hopefully) gorgeously lit pod bay interior more easily.

I had an idea for this, but it needed a bit of proof-of-concept work. Key to the process was some square-section brass tubing from Albion Alloys. I got some lengths of their 1.6mm and 2.4mm tubes (codes SSB1M and SSB2M)—the smaller slides fairly neatly inside the latter, meaning I could (in theory) produce a conductive pathway from the pod bay to the pod platform, while being able to remove the pod platform and its supporting brass tubing as required.

So first I needed a bit of surgery on the underside of the Green Strawberry pod bay floor and pod platform, carving out channels for my brass tubing, soldering the wiring in place where it will be concealed under the pod bay floor, and drilling out a hole in the pod platform so that I could eventually run wiring to an LED inside my pod:

Green Strawberry resin pod-bay floor for Moebius Discovery, wiring pod platform 1
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Green Strawberry resin pod-bay floor for Moebius Discovery, wiring pod platform 2
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At this point, I merely pressed the brass tubing into place on the underside of the pod platform to check fit—I’ll need to get the pod bay to the point of fitting it inside the command sphere before I can decide on the right length for my sliding brass platform supports.

Another bit of wiring has to run through the pod bay floor, to light up the test bench, which is visible in my film still, above. Green Strawberry provides a resin bench, but I decided to use the hollow, folded photoetch version provided by Paragrafix. This is pierced in strategic locations, and HDA Modelworx provides a decal that covers the piercing and can be transilluminated by an LED concealed inside the bench—so the same effect as I’d previously exploited when illuminating the Paragrafix cockpit.

Here’s the bench, lit up:

Paragrafix photoetch pod-bay console for Moebius Discovery, lit
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Then I constructed the resin pod bay floor, painted it white, applied Green Strawberry’s black decals, and attached the test bench, running its wires through a hole in the floor and light-sealing the join between bench and floor with a dollop of plastic filler smeared around the bench’s interior edges.

Then I pushed a couple of balls of screwed-up kitchen foil into my under-floor brass tubes, to improve electrical contact, slide in some test lengths of the finer brass tube and an LED, and wired the whole thing up to a battery for a test:

Green Strawberry and Paragrafix parts for Moebius Discovery, wired for lights
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Yay, it works.

As you can see, Green Strawberry provides a trio of fiddly support structures to sit under each retracted pod platform. These don’t seem to be visible in the film, and for a long time I wondered what reference source Green Strawberry had used. I think they may come from pictures of the pod bay set taken during filming:

Pod bay set for 2001
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It makes a lot of sense that hidden support structures were required for the pods on the set, but they make much less sense in the “real” thing—the pod bay is supposed to be in zero gravity, after all. They’re a bugger to assemble and position, each consisting of one fragile resin part and five photoetch struts, and mine required to be slightly shortened so that the pod platforms could sit level with the pod bay floor. If I were building this again, I’d be strongly tempted to omit them.

For my illuminated pod, I used one of the excellent 3D-printed Falconware pods distributed by Shapeways. These come with premoulded channels for 0.75mm fibreoptics, so that the four headlights can be illuminated with one LED in the hollow interior. I drilled a fifth 0.25mm channel in the location of the red “HAL eye” on the front of the pod, so that I could light that up, too. The pods come with a selection of extremely delicate arms, which are initially protected inside the hollow pod, and need to be carefully extracted. The locating channels for the arms are the same diameter as those for the fibreoptic headlights, and also extend into the interior space, so there’s definite potential for absent-mindedly attaching an arm to a headlight channel, or vice versa.

The pods are moulded in translucent plastic, so I brush-painted the interior with four coats of white primer, then a couple of coats of black, then a couple of coats of white to provide a reflective surface for my LED. All this tended to clog up the fibreoptic channels, so I ran them through regularly with an interdental brush, and intermittently cleared my 0.25mm channel by poking it with my fine drill bit.

With that done, I painted up the exterior in white, and then applied fine detail with a mixture of hand-painting and some custom decals I printed to reproduce the larger detail visible in the film. Here’s the final version (still without arms and lights) poised on a UK penny for scale:

Falconware pod for Moebius Discovery, painted 2
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Falconware pod for Moebius Discovery, painted 3
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Falconware pod for Moebius Discovery, painted 1
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Falconware pod for Moebius Discovery, painted 4
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Here’s the decal sheet, for anyone who’s interested in using it—the resolution for printing is 600dpi:

Decals for Falconware Discovery pods, 600dpi
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With the pod painted, I cut some short lengths of 0.75mm optical fibre, and melted the ends by holding them close to a hot soldering iron. This makes the ends blob up into nice curved surfaces:

Fibreoptics prepared for Falconware pod for Moebius Discovery
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The fine “red eye” fibre got a blob of red paint over its interior end, once threaded. I placed my LED in the pod interior, and threaded its wires out through small hole in a piece of thin styrene sheet I’d cut to form a base for the pod. Adding this base made the job of eliminating light leaks between pod and platform easier. Here’s the final result, mounted and tested:

Falconware pod for Moebius Discovery, with lights
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(The red light has inevitably bleached in the photo—it’s redder than that in real life.)

On, then to prepare the various pod bay parts for lighting.

There’s a little lab area on the starboard side of the pod bay, accessed by a ladder, and rather dimly lit in the film—a few instrument screens, a downlight above the ladder, and light from the pod bay itself coming in through a large window:

Reference view of 2001 lab area, beside pod bay
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Here it is from outside, seen behind the astronauts;

Reference view of 2001 pod-bay interior, looking to starboard
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Green Strawberry provides some solid resin parts, with photoetch and decals for the instruments. I chiselled out a hole in the resin behind the photoetch computer screens, so I could mount a light box behind the wall to transilluminate the decal and simulate the screens, which will then shine visibly through the lab window. I also drilled a small hole through the lab wall so that I could illuminate the door-control panel, reproducing the prominent red light visible in the film still above.

Green Strawberry lab area for Moebius Discovery pod-bay, modified for lighting
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The main lighting challenge, however, is the iconic illuminated octagonal tunnel that enters the rear of the pod bay:

Reference view of 2001 pod-bay interior, rear and port

The Green Strawberry part is made of solid resin, with multiple little photoetch plates and black decals to simulate the appearance of the tunnel, but with no option to light it realistically. Here are the parts, with the photoetch already painted white and decalled:

Green Strawberry parts for pod bay "tunnel" for Moebius Discovery
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The photoetch has slots exactly where the tunnel lighting should be, so I decided to eliminate the resin walls and replace them with thin styrene sheet, which I could transilluminate. Here it is, measured, scored and folded, with the photoetch parts ready to be glued in place:

Replacing Green Strawberry pod bay tunnel with folded styrene 1
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And an exterior view of the final assembly:

Replacing Green Strawberry pod bay tunnel with folded styrene 2
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You’ll see I’ve retained a cuff of the original resin tunnel. This is because the last short segment of the tunnel lacks lighting in the film—and, as a bonus, the resin part helps shape the styrene. The blobs of black paint are blocking light-leaks at the corners of the octagon, where the photoetch panels don’t quite come together in the interior. I used an LED temporarily placed inside the tunnel to ensure I put my paint only where it was needed.

Then it was just a matter of building a lightbox around the tunnel, using the styrene-and-foil method I illustrated in previous posts when I was building the cockpit. I used warm white LEDs to try to simulate the difference between the tunnel and pod bay illuminants visible in my film still.

Here’s the result:

Replacing Green Strawberry pod bay tunnel with folded styrene 3
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And the illuminated screens and door light for the lab:

Lab area of Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery, lit
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(Looking a bit grubby in that photograph—I’d slightly overdone the dark wash to bring out surface detail. I’ve since fixed that.)

So all the pod bay components are ready to be glued together and installed in the command sphere:

Green Strawberry pod bay for Moebius Discovery overview 1
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That’s all for now. Next time—the pod bay and command sphere final assembly, and even more lights.

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 4

Last time, I reached the point at which I needed to start lighting my Paragrafix cockpit.

I wanted to provide a source of illumination at the front of the cockpit, which will probably be invisible from outside but will provide a little front-lighting for the couches and pilot, as if coming from the large panel of instruments and screens in the “real” thing:

Discovery cockpit reference 2

My light source was necessarily going to be a much humbler affair, crammed into the limited space available—just a white light and a few spots of coloured light. I built a little box around an SMD LED, and pierced it with a lot of little holes and one big rectangular slot. Then I laid on a couple of spare instrument-panel decals from the HDA Modelworx sheet, which helpfully provides duplicates of pretty much everything.

Cockpit instrument lightbox for Moebius Discovery
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Lighting box in place in Paragrafix cockpit for Moebius Discovery
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The box stows neatly under the window to which the cockpit will eventually be attached, and there’s room for my wiring to escape through a gap between the Paragrafix photoetch and the kit part. I belatedly had to provide the central light (intended to simulate screen lighting) with a little tilted shade, because I found it was illuminating the window frame above in a decidedly unrealistic manner.

For the rear corridor, I erected a large light-box on its roof, in order to try to get a fairly uniform light coming through the styrene-sheet diffuser in the ceiling.

Preparing Paragrafix cockpit corridor for lighting
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Above, you can see the LED clamped to some black styrene sheet while the 5-minute epoxy dries. Then I’ll position it at the front of the light-box, illuminating the tilted foil reflector you can see above, which will deflect light down on to the white styrene diffuser already fitting to the roof of the corridor.

At the back of the corridor part, I covered the windows in the door with a bit more styrene diffuser, and then added a small light box. At the sides, a pair of light boxes illuminated a red “HAL eye” on the left, and a little computer display on the right.

Here’s the final assembly:

Paragrafix corridor for Moebius Discovery, rigged for lighting
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And the view of the inside:

Paragrafix cockpit corridor for Moebius Discovery, lit (2)
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Paragrafix cockpit corridor for Moebius Discovery, lit (1)
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Moving back to the cockpit, with my little light box in place I eventually folded up the Paragrafix photoetch into its final configuration:

Paragrafix cockpit for Moebius Discovery, prepared for lighting
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The kit part for the windows needed a little surgery to accommodate the corners of the Paragrafix cockpit, as you can see above. I’ve also placed my styrene-sheet diffusers over the various lighting panels, and started work on a slim little light box to illuminate the forward instrument panel in the cockpit ceiling—there’s very little room between the cockpit roof and the dome of the command sphere, here, so I’ll borrow light from the LED above the ceiling light panel, which I’ll set high enough to throw light into a flat reflective tunnel over the forward instrument panel.

With the cockpit assembled on to the windows, I did a test fitting into the command sphere to confirm that everything still came together okay, and that I was producing the desired glimmer of light on the pilot’s face from my little indirect light box immediately under the windows.

Paragrafix cockpit in position in Moebius Discovery kit
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You can also see, above, how I’ve added some styrene strip to produce a bit of depth in the window frames, as an approximation to the appearance in the film.

The overhead light box went on easily, and then I needed to build a complicated pair of boxes to illuminate the side lighting panels and instruments. Here’s an early stage in construction, showing the array of right-angle styrene strips I used as a support structure for black styrene panelling covered in reflective foil:

Building lightboxes for Paragrafix Discovery cockpit 1
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You’ll see I also used a bit of the same styrene strip to add a little step to the back of the cockpit, where it opens into the rear corridor, and added padding detail from a spare bit of HDA Modelworx decal.

Here are the side light boxes at a later stage of construction, with LEDs in position and the reflective side walls in place.

Building lightboxes for Paragrafix Discovery cockpit 2
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All of this has to fit inside the low dome of the command sphere, so a lot of dry fitting and readjustment was required.

Once everything was in place, I was able to check the result by peering in the “rear door” of the cockpit, before attaching the corridor. Here’s my overhead panel:

Paragrafix discovery cockpit lit 1
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And the two side walls:

Paragrafix discovery cockpit lit 3
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Paragrafix discovery cockpit lit 2
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All of this detail, of course, will be fairly minimally visible through the front windows unless you go looking for it.

After checking that the cockpit lights were working properly, I attached the rear corridor, and then soldered the cat’s cradle of wiring to the two master wires for this assembly.

Completed Paragrafix Discovery cockpit lighting
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I find it difficult to do the final assembly justice with photographs—the combination of “cool” lighting in the corridor and “warm” in the cockpit tends to make either the corridor look blue or the cockpit yellow, or both; and the coloured lights tend to blow towards uninteresting pastel shades. But it here it is, anyway:

Paragrafix Discovery cockpit and corridor fully lit 3
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Paragrafix Discovery cockpit and corridor fully lit 1
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Paragrafix Discovery cockpit and corridor fully lit 2
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For reference, the Tamiya paint pot on which the cockpit is perched is three centimetres in diameter.

Next time, I’ll move on to start work on the pod bay. There will be a lot more lights and wires.

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 3

Last time, I finished lighting and preliminary painting on the engine compartment of my Discovery spacecraft from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This time, I’m working on the cockpit. I’m using the Paragrafix photoetch set for this, combined with the HDA Modelworx decal set.

HDA Modelworx decals for Paragrafix cockpit (Moebius Discovery)
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There are two areas to light—a rear corridor and the cockpit itself. There’s a degree of inconsistency in how these two areas are lit, especially when comparing the two films, 2001 and 2010.

Discovery cockpit reference 1
Discovery cockpit, 2010

But in exterior views the cockpit looks fairly warm and dim, so I’m going to light it that way using an array of little SMD LEDs, while making the corridor brighter and colder.

Discovery cockpit reference 4

Here are the photoetch parts primed and glossed, ready for the decals:

Paragrafix photoetch & HDA Modelworx decals for Discovery cockpit
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The two objects in the middle are the acceleration couches, which are provided as plain bits of brass to be folded into shape. In the film, they’re covered in the white padding that appears on many interior surfaces of the Discovery.

Discovery cockpit reference 2

I printed up some coverings for the photoetch, intending to make decals, but then decided that just wrapping the parts in printed paper would work fine:

Seat padding for Discovery cockpit (600 dpi)
Paragrafix photoetch seats detailed with padding
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Notice the big expanse of empty floor in front of the couches in the model, compared to the area of controls and screens visible in my film still of the cockpit interior, above. It’s actually impossible to reproduce the film’s appearance using the Paragrafix kit—there’s just not enough room below the windows. But, to be fair, that’s largely because the Discovery film sets notoriously wouldn’t have fitted inside the command sphere as depicted by the models used in the film. And, in any case, the sight-lines through the narrow windows of the cockpit probably don’t allow much of a view of the area in front of the couches, anyway. But I do want to put some sort of light source there, tucked out of sight, so that the couches and pilot get some front illumination, as if from that bank of television screens.

I also needed to revise the appearance of the rear wall of the cockpit—the photoetch and decals make this look like it’s striped with white padding but, as my film stills show, this wall was a pretty dark grey (with a few white panel lines evident in 2001, but not in 2010).

So I printed up replacement detailing for that wall, and again just glued the printed paper in place.

Revised back wall panels for Discovery cockpit (600dpi)

Here’s the rear corridor, partially folded with its decal in place.

Paragrafix cockpit tunnel detailed with HDA Modelworx decals
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The decal covers holes in the photoetch brass, which I’m demonstrating above with a bit of backlighting—I’ll build light-boxes behind all these holes to illuminate the various windows, buttons and screens.

And here’s the little corridor box assembled:

Paragrafix cockpit corridor with HDA Modelworx detail
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Those big gaps in the ceiling will be covered with a styrene-sheet diffuser and another light-box, to simulate the overhead strip lighting of the real thing.

And here’s the partially folded cockpit, test-fitted into the kit part that forms the spacecraft windows:

Paragrafix cockpit parts partially assembled
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All those multicoloured details represent illuminated control panels, which I’m planning to light with wrap-round light boxes, along with the main overhead lighting panel and the six side panels.

The Moebius kit provides a transparent window, but I’ve decided to dispense with it, since it’ll obscure some of the interior detail. I’ve replaced it with photoetch window-frames from Paragrafix:

Paragrafix cockpit window frame and revised Moebius Discovery kit part
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These are unrealistic compared to film images—I’ll deepen them with some styrene strip in due course.

I’ve also added a photoetch pilot figure, representing the character Frank Poole, as seen in my film still above. I’ve had to amputate his feet to get him to fit into the correct position, because of the rather high floor of the Paragrafix part, but this intervention will either be invisible through the windows, or obscured by the little light-box I’m planning on adding.

Paragrafix figure and HDA Modelworx decal for seated astronaut, Moebius Discovery
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Next time, I’ll get some lights into all this.

Moebius 1/144 Discovery Spacecraft: Part 2

Last time, I got all my wiring runs in place to illuminate this model. Now it’s time to add some lights, starting with the engine bells.

There’s room for a couple of large LEDs inside the flare of the engine bells, which means I can get a light behind both engine nozzles on each of the three engine bells. Here’s one LED in one half of an engine bell, showing how I plan to position my lights:

Positioning LED inside Moebius Discovery engine bell
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With that decided, I wired up and tested my three pairs of lights:

LEDs wired for Moebius Discovery engines
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Then there was a decision to make about what to do with the engine nozzles. The kit parts are solid, with a moulded grill. Yay! Monsters make a replacement part moulded of translucent plastic, so there’s the option to paint everything on these parts except where I want light to leak through, between the grill bars. But the Paragrafix photoetch parts I’ll be using for the cockpit interior include a set of nice engine grills, too—so I could drill out the kit parts and insert the metal replacement grills. Here are all the relevant parts, next to the Paragrafix photoetch—Yay! Monsters nozzles at left, kit part at right, engine bell below.

Moebius Discovery engine parts, Yay Monsters transparent part, Paragrafix fret
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My concern with the Yay! Monsters part was that the back isn’t finished. Here’s a comparison with the kit part (on left):

Back of Moebius Discovery kit part and Yay Monsters replacement
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You can see that the Yay! Monsters part would need a lot of work to get it to locate properly within the hexagonal engine bell. I also wasn’t sure how neat a final effect I could produce, applying paint on to the translucent grill. So I drilled out the nozzles and used the Paragrafix grills:

Moebius Discovery engine nozzles with Paragrafix grills
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There’s quite a lot of light inside the engine bells, and I didn’t want it to leak out anywhere except through the grills. So I lined the bells with metal foil on top of a layer of flat black paint, and then painted the exterior black, too, before finally placing the external layer of kit parts that add detail all around the bell.

Lighting test for Moebius Discovery engines
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When I checked for light leaks in a darkened room, I picked up a couple of seams that needed just a little filler and more paint, and one bright spot in the middle of an exterior part, where its locating tab had pushed through the interior foil and was acting as a light duct—a little more foil cured that.

But the hexagons containing the paired engine nozzles presented a problem, with the potential for unsightly light leaks around their edges. The position of the nozzles, very close to the edge of the part, meant that it was going to be difficult to fill any leaks around those edges. After a bit of contemplation, I came up with a solution that involved the diffuser I was going to place inside the grills. I wanted the nozzles to look uniformly dark when not illuminated—no glimpses of the interior foil and LEDs. And I wanted a diffuse illuminant when my engine lights were switched on. Eventually I settled on using a piece of the plastic packaging my LEDs had been delivered in. Here’s a demo—dark side of the plastic at left; plastic stretched and glued over the back of the engine hexagon at centre; final product at right:

Plastic diffuser for Moebius Discovery engines
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I dealt with the filler problem by “pre-filling” the edges of the hexagon—leaving a little edge of my plastic diffuser all around the part, and anointing it with fine filler before gluing it into the engine bell:

Light sealing Moebius Discovery engine nozzles
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This auto-filled the gap around the edges as I pushed it into place, and the small amount of excess that squeezed out was easily removed with the edge of a damp tissue. Then it was just a matter of checking the final effect:

Engine nozzle light test Moebius Discovery
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And the dark-room test:

Light-leak test for Moebius Discovery engines
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Now it was time to add some detail paint to the engine compartment and nozzles. My idea is to produce a quite strongly variegated effect, which I’ll eventually moderate with a uniform blending coat across the whole model.

For the engine compartment itself, I used a set of paint masks from Aztec Dummy.

Aztek Dummy paintmask for Moebius Discovery engine compartment
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The idea here is to layer on several shades of grey, with the paint mask orientation shifted and rotated between layers, to produce an overall mottle suggesting fine detail.

For the smoothly panelled front end of the compartment, I started with a dark shade, masked a few panels, added a paler shade, and so on. Here’s the final result:

Moebius Discovery engine compartment preshaded with Aztek Dummy masks
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I painted the engines bells mid-grey and then brought up detail with a dark wash:

Moebius Discovery engine compartment preshaded
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At present the engine bells are just tacked in place with some clear glue. There’s a slight problem with the bells, which is that in the “real” thing, the three hexagons containing the engine nozzles align edge to edge. But the kit parts want to sit very slightly apart. The solution is either to slip in a little sliver of plastic to fill the gap, or to tilt the outer engines very slightly to bring the hexagons together, and I wanted to take a look at my options at this stage.

Here are the hexagons aligned edge to edge:

Moebius Discovery engines preshaded
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And, actually, the slight tilt turns out to be no big deal, discernible only if you press the hexagons against something flat. So that’s what I’ll go with when I assemble this section permanently.

I was also able to check my wiring runs and light up the engines:

Moebius Discovery engines wired
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Moebius Discovery engines lit
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So that’s all good. Next time, I’ll move to the other end of the kit and start wiring up and illuminating the Paragrafix photoetch cockpit.