Saturn V Skylab Launch Vehicle
Airfix has upgraded their original Apollo Saturn V kit (1991) to a Saturn V Skylab Launch vehicle with the additional of a new sprue. This new sprue provides the parts needed to represent the Saturn V in its Skylab launch configuration. The lab, itself, is not provided in the kit beyond the basic cylinder which make up the lab components that could be seen by the viewer during the rollout and launch of the Skylab mission.
This release also provides the CSM launch shield and escape tower, as well as a LEM. These are the old, original parts and even though there are some “scale” issues with the CSM it allows one to build a decent Apollo Saturn V from the parts contained in the Skylab kit.
The fit is rather good considering that everything beneath the laboratory component to the base of the rocket is now 20+ years old. The rocket halves are thick enough to prevent warping and no internal bulkhead support is required to maintain a uniform diameter along the entire length of the launch vehicle.
Assembly is rather straight-forward and uncomplicated. Alignment is aided by some rather large locating biscuits and receiving slots. The only real issue I have with this kit is found with the rocket engines. The nozzles are rather thin and there is a weak point at the base of each nozzle at the point at which the nozzle halves come into contact. The plastic is rather thin and delicate at those points and caution must be taken in order to avoid chipping along the contact surfaces between the two nozzle halves.
This model, as do most models of spacecraft, suffers from a seam line at the point at which the nozzle halves are joined. Modelers who frequently work on spacecraft are familiar with this issue and realize that some time will have to be dedicated to the careful removal of the seam while leaving the detail that Airfix has provided on the exterior surfaces of the nozzles. I did not attach the nozzles to the upper stage thrust plates since they are not visible when the launch vehicle is fully assembled, but the engines are included in the kit for those who wish to go the extra mile.
There are no major issues with assembly of the model at any point. “Fit” is excellent, there are virtually no “steps” (points along the joining surfaces of the parts that causes a “step” to form….a common problem with a cylindrical rocket body), and there was very little flash to be removed. Assembly went rapidly and smoothly, and often caught myself humming the theme song to “The Right Stuff”.
The kit instructions provide a page which clearly shows the delineation lines between those areas on the white rocket that need to be painted black. Decal placement is also shown on this same page. Other than the required time to mask off the rocket body, painting is very easy and quick. A helpful aspect of this process is that the upper stages can be gently twisted to disengage from the lower stages, painted separately, and then remounted in their proper positions once again.
In a word, the decals are excellent. The registry is crystal clear and precise, and that is most evident in the four large American flags that grace the 1st stage. I chose not to trim each letter or marking out of the carrier film, but rather, applied the decals in the traditional manner using only water and Solvaset. The decals snuggled into place without difficulty and the carrier film disappeared nicely once the decals dried.
Displaying the Finished Model
The assembled model is about 30 inches tall and rests on a small plastic base that is quite stable. A nice touch is the “nameplate” that Airfix included. A decal, in full color (blue, black, and red) proudly identifies the vehicle as a Saturn V and that it is the Skylab launch vehicle. The date of the launch is also included in the text on the decal. All that is required is a rather tall corner in the display cabinet to accommodate the finished model.
I have seen some comments regarding the paint scheme suggested by Airfix in the instructions and I’ve also seen some gentle criticisms that some of the molded surface detail is not placed properly. I Goggled some images of the launch vehicle and was not struck by any noticeable or huge errors on Airfix’s part. I found the model accurate enough in 1/144th to pass any reasonable test for accuracy and found the model to be a very enjoyable project. Admittedly, I am a card-carrying member of the RSG club (real space geek) and approach any project related to “real space” with a prejudice toward enjoyment and fun. Airfix provided that kind of experience with this new release based on their classic Apollo Saturn V. Often, the builder will consider the notion of a collection of constant scale spacecraft and 1/144th scale is a great candidate for such a collection. With this one offering, Airfix supplies the builder with the opportunity to build either an Apollo launch vehicle or the Skylab launch vehicle. Because the LEM and CSM are included in this kit, one could also build up those components as a separate kit from Skylab, and display them as part of any 1/144th collection.
Thanks to the fine folks at Airfix for the opportunity to review this very enjoyable model.