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.

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