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.

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

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Real space has been a bit thin on the ground since the epic Saturn V build, I’m afraid. I have a whole load of classic real-space kits in the stash, but keep getting distracted with other projects.

  1. I started following your blog because I was building the Revell Saturn V about a year ago and wasn’t happy with how the LM looked and your images were very useful. It is therefore great to see the refinements continuing!

    I hadn’t heard of the bare metal foil before so that looks like a good shout!

    1. Glad it’s of interest.
      Bare-Metal Foil is great stuff for these awkward masking jobs. Also pretty good for masking fragile surfaces, since it’s not particularly sticky, but adheres well if you rub it down.

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