Ohio Valley Soaceport

Ohio Valley Soaceport

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Building Dragon's 1/72 Apollo CSM/LM: part one

When it comes to model building what determines which project I decide to tackle largely depends on how recent I purchased a particular kit. It is either build it shortly after I get the kit while my enthusiasm level is at a high point or it goes in to the "to build" pile where it may sit for months to even a year or two before I get to it.

With Dragon's new 1/72 Apollo kit I immediately began diving into it when I got it home from a visit to my local hobby shop. After some deliberation as to whether or not I was going to fix a couple of inaccuracies I decided that I would build this kit "out-of-the-box".

With a game plan in place I began the assembly process of Dragon's Apollo. My first impression in building this model was how unusual it was designed. It is almost like assembling a 3D plastic puzzle-nothing much in the way I would have envisioned Dragon would have designed it. I am not sure if was because the original version was die-cast or what but, in my mind Dragon could have make the parts more "conventional" in design.

Case in point- The service module consisted of 8 separate part (not including the SPS and RCS thrusters!). Fortunately all these parts fit beautifully together. My question was why didn't the service module either come as one piece or two halves?

The SPS heatshield fits almost perfectly with the base of the service module. The raised lines are crisply molded and accurately reflect the real thing.

To glue the model I used Tenax 7R- my favorite liquid plastic cement. The only problem with Tenax is that it slightly melts the plastic at the seams which required some light sanding with 800 and 1000 grit paper. Once I smoothed out the excess on the seams I then proceeded with assembling the ascent stage of the lunar module.

I assume that since Dragon markets this kit world-wide they chose to print simplified assembly instructions that only featured exploded diagrams. I had to 'dry-fit' everything just to figure out exactly how the parts went together. Another drawback to the instruction sheet was illustrating that all the antenna, RCS thrusters, etc... be assembled without regard to painting. In my mind all of those smaller parts would create major headaches when it came time to mask and airbrush the main modules. With that in mind I chose to add the smaller parts after the basic paint was sprayed on.

Again, when I began assembling the LM ascent stage I was confronted with the unusual layout of parts.

These parts go together more like a 3D puzzle than a more traditional model! This made what should have been a rather straight-forward process difficult! It also created difficulties in filling minor gaps and trying to avoid smearing the plastic surface while trying to hold the parts together during the liquid glue applications!

A view of the top of the ascent stage. Imagine trying to navigate painting this with all the antennas in place...

I assume the ascent engine somehow connects withe descent stage because nothing else is present for attaching the two stages together.

Note: No clear parts for the windows....

I assembled the basic descent stage. This part depicts the kapton thermal blankets of the descent stage. My plan is spray it with a chrome paint and used various shades of Tamiya acrylic clear paint to match up the proper colors of LM-5.

You can see nice recessed lines on the rear of the ascent stage as well as the rear part of the descent stage.

* * * * * *
In part two I hope to have some basic painting done along with work on those tiny, tiny RCS thrusters and antenna. Stay tuned!

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