Ohio Valley Soaceport

Ohio Valley Soaceport

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Russian and Chinese 'Flight Stuff': Part 2

Doug Jones: OVSMA#1

For this installment, the focus will be on 1/72nd scale Russian and Chinese spacecraft.

Vostok 1: April 12, 1961

The granddaddy of them all would undoubtly be the vernerable Russian Vostok, the ship that took the first human into space on April 12, 1961: Yuri Gargarin.

Illustration of the Vostok

At 1/72nd scale the RealSpace Vostok is tiny!

The only 1/72nd scale kit of the Vostok is by RealSpace Models. It is primarily a resin kit with additional wires for the various "whip" antennas. The detail on this model is amazing! I depicted this model as Yuri Gargarin's Vostok 1. Considerable debate has raged for years in the space modeling community regarding what type of surface did Vostok 1 have; white with a hexagon pattern or aluminumized. As you can see I am convinced it was covered with a white thermal blanket with odd hexagon patterns.

A photograph of an early Vostok: Note the thermal covering

II: Voskhod

Illustration of the Voskhod 2 with extended airlock and Leonov figure

Photo of the preparations on the Voskhod 2 spacecraft

1964/65 was essentially the heighth of the "space race" of the 1960's between the Soviet Union and the United States. Attempting to maintain its "lead" the Soviets continued their quest for "space firsts" by taking the basic Vostok spacecraft and redesigning the enterior to accomodate more than one cosmonaut. Although the Soviets had intended to fly several of the new 'Voskhod" spacecraft in reality only two flew. Voskhod 1 was the first manned spacecraft to fly a crew of three albeit cramming them into a space that was originally intended for one man. Voskhod 1 flew on October 12, 1964.

The Soviets again one-upped the United States with the historic flight of Voskhod 2 on March 18, 1965 with a two man crew. For this flight Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first human to leave the confines of his spacecraft. He nearly became the first casuality in space by barely getting back into the tight airlock because his spacesuit had "ballooned" out to a level where the only way he could get back in was to partially depressurize.

There were plans for at least two more flights of the Voskhod series however with mounting pressure from the United States the Soviets dropped that series to accelerate work on its moonship the Soyuz.

The Voskhod 2 with a scaled Leonov spacewalker figure

Again, RealSpace Models produces the only 1/72nd scale kit of the Voskhod. Like the Vostok it is largely a solid resin kit with wiring for antennas.

III: Soyuz
Early Soyuz variant: The 7K-OK

The manned spacecraft with the longest track record is the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. First flown in 1967 the Soyuz has been the venerable workhorse of the Russian space program.
In an effort to not be upstaged by the Americans the Soviet Union rushed the Soyuz into flight on April 23, 1967 with Cosmonaut Vladamire Komarov aboard. Almost immediately after reaching orbit problems began to manifest themselves in sequence that ended up in causing the first casuality in space with the death of Komarov when his parachute became entangled during reentry. Komarov's Soyuz slammed into the steppes of Kazakstan at over 200 miles per hour!

A modified RealSpace Soyuz 7K-OK

There is no available kit of the early Soyuz as of this writing. I did manage to modify one from the 1/72nd scale version of the Soyuz from the Apollo/Soyuz kit by RealSpace. This involved making an extended, "gull-wing" solar arrays along with a built-up docking collar on the orbital module.

The Apollo/Soyuz kit by RealSpace

The next development of the Soyuz began to appear in the mid-1970's most notabley with the Soyuz 19. It used a different docking system and had shorter solar wings. The Realspace kit is a mixed media affair with resin and photo-etched parts. It is also the only 1/72nd scale kit available on the market.

A photo of a Soyuz T variant

The next development of the Soyuz came on June 5, 1980 with the first manned Soyuz 'T' to the Salyut 6 space station. The 'T' variant was flown between 1980 and 1986.

The RealSpace Soyuz T
RealSpace Models features the only 'T' variant in 1/72 scale. It is a mixed media kit with resin, white metal, and photo-etched parts.

To date no one has produced the next two variants of the Soyuz: Soyuz TM and the newest version the Soyuz TMA (hint-hint RealSpace Models!).

The latest Soyuz, the TMA that currently services the International Space Station.

IV: Shenzhou

The new kids on the "Low Earth Orbit Club" now are the Chinese with their ShenZhou spacecraft. On October 15, 2003 the Chinese launched their first Taikonaut,Yang Liwei on a 14 orbit mission. Due to the cloaked secrecy of the Chinese space program only little bits and pieces had been leaked to the Internet.

The Shenzhou 5 descent module on display.

From all appearances the Shenzhou looks like a first cousin to the Russian Soyuz design. Since 2003 there have been three manned missions of the Shenzhou each being much more complex in nature. The latest mission was in September of 2008 with a crew of three and the first Chinese spacewalk.

As far as available kits in 1/72 so far the Chinese model company Trumpeter has released a nice 1/72 Shenzhou 5 kit in injection molding. Be for warned that the RCS thrusters are tiny!!

The Trumpeter Shenzhou injection kit.


No doubt the future will bring additional 1/72nd scale kits of Russian and Chinese manned spacecraft. RealSpace has been promising a 1/72 Shenzhou for well over a year. At some point when I have the proper means of protecting and moving the collection I will have to set up a display that features the entire collection at a future model contest. Until that happens suffice to say this blog will have to be the only place to see these models together.

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