Space Shuttle Atlantis

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Company: Tamiya - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Tamiya America - Website: Visit Site
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Tamiya has re-released its Space Shuttle Orbiter kit. It has included a few new sprues to depict more modern payloads, like the “Raffaello” multipurpose module, the Orbiter Docking Systems, and a few others.

Even when the kit boxing is called “Atlantis,” the boxing actually provides markings for the whole Shuttle Fleet and for all the program stages (early, mid, and late). The markings plus the extra parts makes this boxing the best value of all the Tamiya Space Shuttle boxings.

Given that this is a re-release, you get a 20+ year-old molds and kit engineering with a combination of recessed and raised detail. There is almost no flash, but some significant sink marks, mainly on the bottom of the model and around the nose. This kit has been criticized for not having tile detail; however, considering all the filling and sanding required on the bottom, it is actually better not to have tile detail. A modeler could scribe the detail, if so desired.

The kit also includes the option for an open cargo bay area; however, the detail is a bit sparse and there are several ejector pin marks that need to be removed. I choose to build mine with the bay closed and in an in-flight configuration (it has been a long time since I’ve built a model that can be posed on a stand!).

Not surprisingly, construction starts with the cockpit. The kit includes two astronauts and several consoles with a decal for the instruments. It looks fine, as not much can be seen once assembled.

Once the cockpit is assembled and painted, construction moves into the fuselage and cargo bay. At this point, the modeler is given several choices, based on what cargo is to be depicted and also what stage of the program it corresponds too. The instructions are clear enough regarding which steps need to be skipped based on what you choose to build. Just make sure you read the instructions carefully. Given that I chose to build mine with cargo bay closed, I was able to skip about 10 steps out of the whole construction.

Once the fuselage was closed and the wings were attached, it was time to grab the filler (Bondo) and take care of all the sink marks. It was not a difficult task to do, but I was surprised to see how many spots needed to be filled and sanded smooth.

With the surface preparation completed it was time to work on the paint job. I thought it was going to be an easy step (only 3 colors); however, the masking was bit more complex than I expected it be. Not difficult, but a bit more complex, mainly due to several thin black lines along the wings and ailerons that could have been provided as decals.

While the paint job was curing, I concentrated on the rocket cans. They, too, needed some filling and sanding. I also assembled the fin and rudder, which needed a bit of sanding on the seam.

With all the subassemblies painted and ready (fuselage, rudder, and rocket cans), I moved to final assembly and decaling. The decals went well over a glossy surface and needed little to no setting solution. Only the large decals (like the ones on the sides of the fuselage) gave me a bit of trouble, as one of them broke. Still, it was easy to position both parts of the decal side by side and get them to look fine.

A smart feature was to provide the canopy frames as a decal. That way, there is no need for tedious masking. However, the canopy frame decal is relatively large and has to be applied with care.

In total, I’ve probably spent about 30 hrs working with this model. If I would have opened the cargo bay, the amount of time would have easily doubled, if not more.

Given some of the sink marks and masking work needed, I would recommend this model to anyone but the most novice modeler. It is a fun kit to build and a model of significant meaning in the history of human space flights. I’m happy to have it on my display case.

I would like to thank Tamiya USA and IPMS/USA for the review model.


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