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

RealSpace Models Apollo CSMIn the first two parts of this build log, I’ve been describing my experience with RealSpace Models1/96 Apollo Command/Service Module, which is intended to replace the CSM provided with Revell’s classic 1/96 Saturn V model kit. Revell unfortunately provides only a “Block I” CSM, which was never flown on a manned mission—RealSpace provides the Block II components I need to build my Apollo 11 Saturn V.

The final vital part in the RealSpace kit is a vacuformed Boost Protective Cover (BPC). In the real Apollo missions, this was a fibre-glass and cork heat-shield that covered the Command Module during launch. The BPC and Command Module were attached to the Launch Escape Tower, a set of rocket motors designed to whisk the CM out of danger if something went wrong during the early stages of the launch. Another problem with Revell’s kit is that there’s no Boost Protective Cover—the Launch Escape Tower simply cobbles straight on to the kit’s Command Module.

So here’s how the BPC comes out of the RealSpace box—it needs to be trimmed:

RealSpace Models vacuformed Boost Protective Cover
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In particular, there’s a notch in the back that needs to be opened to accommodate the umbilical that links the Command and Service Modules.

This needs careful measuring—if you cut out the whole raised area in the vacuformed part, you’ll find the hole is bigger than the umbilical.

RealSpace Models vacuformed Boost Protective Cover, trimmed
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I did this prep work before I covered the Command Module with foil, and was disconcerted to find that the nice friction fit between BPC and CM was lost once the foil was in place—the cover kept popping up and tilting to a jaunty angle, which was going to be hopeless once the escape tower was in place on top of it. The plastic used for the vacuform is thermosetting, so I had no luck trying to adjust the shape with some hot water. It looked like I was going to need to place a couple of vents in the sides and patch with sheet styrene, which was a task I didn’t really fancy. So by way of prevarication, I taped the BPC firmly in place over the CM and abandoned it for a month while we went to Wrangel Island … and (mirabile dictu!) by the time we got home again it had decided it was going to stay where it was put after all.

One final bit of cutting is required—the real BPC contained windows over the CM hatch and in front of the commander’s window (on the left side). I popped these out with my trusty hole punch, and glazed them with a couple of little discs cut from a sheet of overhead-projector transparency (I knew it would come in useful if I kept it long enough!)

RealSpace Models vacuformed Boost Protective Cover, windows added
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Now I needed to assemble Revell’s Launch Escape Tower:

Revell Launch Escape Tower
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This is a rather bland looking object—in fact, the whole kit lacks quite a lot of detail that should have been easily moulded. I used some fine styrene rod to add the ribbing on the structural skirt, together with two wiring harnesses:

Revell Launch Escape Tower, detailed
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Then it was just a matter of using some epoxy to get the tower centrally placed on the BPC, and correctly orientated with the wiring harnesses on the same side as the BPC hatch cover.

Launch Escape System (RealSpace Models / Revell)
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And here’s the whole assembly, in place on RealSpace’s CSM:

Launch Escape System in place (RealSpace Models / Revell) 1
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Launch Escape System in place (RealSpace Models / Revell) 2
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The next step is to detail up Revell’s Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) section—quite a complicated structure in real life, but just a bland cone in Revell’s kit.

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