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

RealSpace Models Apollo CSM

So this is the first part of my slow assembly of the Revell 1/96 Apollo Saturn V.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V

One of several shortcomings in that kit is that the Apollo Command/Service Module provided is a Block I version. That kind of CSM only ever sat on top of a Saturn V for the unmanned Apollo 4 and Apollo 6 launches, which makes it a rather dull option for anyone who has gone to the length of going out and buying a stonking great Saturn V model kit. You’d have thought Revell might have fixed this for the 25th anniversary reissue of the kit, but they didn’t. Nor did they fix it for the 40th anniversary reissue, which actually has images of a moon landing on the box art.

So what’s a fellow to do? RealSpace Models to the rescue, with a 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM, the kind that flew men to the moon.

As a kit, it’s very simple, consisting of just three parts—the Command and Service Modules in a single unit, the SPS engine nozzle and aft heatshield, and the umbilical connecting the Command and Service Modules. It also includes a vacuformed Boost Protective Cover (you can see it in the box art, above) which corrects another shortcoming of the Revell model—that the kit’s Launch Escape System tower connected directly to the Command Module. There will be more on the BPC in a later post, but this one is about the CSM.

As a resin kit, there are some pour surfaces to deal with—the aft surface of the Service Module and the front surface of the aft heatshield need to be flattened and smoothed before the two parts can be put together. I wish I’d taken some pictures of the original resin parts for you, but I forgot, and there don’t seem to be any available on-line. RealSpace’s moulding is good and detailed, and I found only a couple of bubbles to fill. My kit arrived with damage to the delicate docking probe on the front of the Command Module—rather than try to replace the kit, I rebuilt the probe using some fine styrene rod. A certain amount of care (and some reference material) is then required to attach the aft heatshield in the correct orientation relative to the CSM. Although RealSpace provide a diagram that just about does the job, I found myself checking multiple photographs, too, to convince myself that the heatshield (and its associated fuel and oxidizer hook-ups) really was so rotated relative to the principal axes of the CSM.

New Ware Saturn V Detail KitThen there was a little detail work, using New Ware’s Saturn V Detail Kit (of which you’ll be seeing a lot more as I work my way through this build)—the semi-circular scimitar antennae on the Service Module were rather blunt and chunky in resin, so I removed them and replaced them with New Ware’s slimmer photoetched metal parts. I also added New Ware’s umbilical attachment point.

Then, after a coat of white primer, I masked the Service Module up for a layer of silver and some gloss varnish. Removing the masking gave me the white panelling I needed.

Space Model Systems Apollo CSM DecalsAfter that, more detailing, in the form of Space Model System’s Ultimate Apollo Command & Service Module Decals. This set includes every little warning panel visible on the outside of the spacecraft, and is probably overkill at this scale, since many are pretty much invisible unless you go looking for them close up. Nevertheless, there was a definite level of satisfaction to be derived from getting them all in place. This also made me commit to a specific mission, since there are small differences in Service Module labelling between the different Apollo missions. So, on the basis of couple of labels near the Service Module umbilical hook-up, it’s going to be the Apollo 11 mission.

And that was the point at which I remembered to take a photograph. So here it is, awaiting a coat of varnish to seal the decals, and then some detail painting. At this scale it’s just eleven centimetres tall, so for my presbyopic eyes, the fine work needs an illuminating magnifying glass.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (1)
Click to enlarge

Painting turns out to be a little problematic, since there are various slightly different colour schemes described out there. Photos are less help than you might think, since some of the pictures taken in the high-contrast space environment render what is probably a shade of red as a rather drab brown. So I did my best, mixing up a reddish brick shade for the fuel and oxidizer connections in the base of the Service Module, and using bright red for the markings around the Command Module’s Reaction Control System nozzles. The Service Module’s RCS quads aren’t provided by SpaceModels, so you need to use the ones provided by Revell (which aren’t quite the right shape), or scratch-build something yourself. I took the lazy route and used Revell’s. I mixed up Humbrol’s gold and gunmetal enamel paints to get a dull gold sheen on the Service Module RCS nozzles—again, it’s difficult to be sure of the right shade when judging from photographs.

So here it is, so far. The next step is going to involve applying metal foil to the aft heatshield and the Command Module, so there’s some pretty splotchy paintwork in those areas—eventually they’ll be neatly delineated by holes in the foil (he writes, confidently). Meanwhile, the current appearance of the CM reminds me strangely of a six-year-old girl who has slapped on some of her mother’s mascara and lipstick.RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (2)I haven’t applied foil to a model before, and it is possible I’ve picked an overly challenging surface to start with. We’ll see.

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