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.

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

  1. Good evening Dr. Grant.

    All of this tells me you don’t have either cats or small children in residence. 🙂

    If either finds you paying too much attention to something not them then THEY have to pay attention to it as well. That’s seldom good for detailed, fragile things.

    Next thing you know the youngest has swallowed the missing scimitar antenna you couldn’t find and during the night the cat has glued itself to the work table.

  2. You are correct.
    There’s a famous Roger Dean painting (“Pathways”) in which the otherwise pristine blue sky is crossed by a blotchy sequence of white clouds. If you look carefully, you can see that the clouds look a little like cat’s footprints.
    Yep. Dean had laid his painting out to dry on a horizontal surface, and his cat walked across it. So he needed to airbrush in the clouds to conceal the resulting paint defects.
    (There seem to be two versions of “Pathways”—the blotchy original that appeared on the album Yessongs, and a later version in which the sky grades to dark blue in the area where the footprints had been.)

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