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By John Lester - images & text © 2006

Scale: 1/72 - about 5" (127mm) tall; 20" (508mm) wide across extended solar panels
Parts: 17 resin (with 2-piece stand)
Instructions: 2 page assembly guide
Decals: ALPS-printed waterslide with generic markings
Molding Quality: 9 - very little flash or other flaws
Detail: 7 - plenty of it, for the most part crisp and cleanly executed
Accuracy: Not rated - see review
MSRP: $63.00 USD (with stand) (~$71.85 CAN/ 53.18 EUR) available from Starship Modeler and Fantastic Plastic
Overall Rating: 9 - good project for the resin novice with plenty of opportunity for extra detailing.

[Boxart]

As the U.S. Space Shuttle approached retirement, NASA began accepting proposals for a new generation of manned spacecraft dubbed Crew Exploration Vehicles (CEVs). Realizing that the the idea of building a fleet of reusable spacecraft had been a costly mistake, engineers went "back to the future" and proposed a simpler, cheaper "one-time-only" craft based on proven Apollo-era concepts.

[Please click to enlarge]

^ What You Get

Image: Antenna dish, feedhorn and mast

Image: RCS thrusters

Image: Stand (completed)

Image: Decals - for the solar panel fronts plus some generic NASA/USA markings

Image: Some putty is required on the back side - anything below that first ring won't be seen, so don't worry about that.

Image: Fit is really good; scribing needs a bit of touch-up

Image: Under a coat of primer you ca see a few more surface details that will need fixing.

This particular 2005 design from one of America's major defense contractors was slightly larger than the 1960s-era Apollo spacecraft, its Command Module being able to carry four astronauts instead of three. It also employed twin solar panels to generate additional power for extended spaceflights.

(The description above was stolen shamelessly from Fantastic Plastic's kit description.)

What You Get

Fantastic Plastic's CEV kit is comprised of 17 pressure-cast resin parts, ALPS-printed waterslide decals, and instructions. Parts are very cleanly cast, with very little flassh (and most of that on the RCS thrusters in my sample) and no bubbles or pinholes that I could find. Decals, by J-Bot, are crisply printed and perfectly registered. Instructions are pretty comprehensive as far as assembly instructions go; there's very little paint information (not surprising, since the real project is still in the design phase).

This is the third master created for Fantastic Plastic by pattern maker Scott Lowther. It's well-engineered, with major assemblies 'keyed' so the builder can't put them together wrong (without a lot of intentional effort, anyway!). Engraved detail is a step above previous kits; scribing is consistently wide across the kit, though there are several places where the builder should break out their own scriber to make it consistently deep.

On the back end of the kit, the outer edge of the hull will need to have scratches and 'dings' filled in - you can see in the pictures where I've already applied spot putty to take care of this. There are a few other spots where the surface detailing will need to be fixed; the good news is that these fixes are very simple and easily accomplished with just some putty, a scriber and sandpaper. The RCS thrusters should be hollowed out as well - which is just a matter of a few twists with a small drill bit or the tip of a hobby blade.

The kit solar panels and antennae attach to the hull by some fairly thin resin pieces. You can certainly use these (CED did a good job casting parts as small as the antenna spikes), but I would suggest replacing them with steel or brass wire. I certainly will - between the cat and the three year old, nothing fragile survives for long in my house! The spindles that link the extended solar panels to the craft's body are also fairly thin, and I have some concern they will bow over time from the weight of the panels. I will probably replace these with grass or steel rod as well.

Both the antennae and solar panel assemblies are designed (on the real thing) to roatate and hinge at the base (to be positioned in both the X- and Y-axis). The mounting points on the kit are necessarily simple - there's little reference for what these will look like. For me, that's an opportunity for a little "creative gizmology".

Conclusions

This is a nicely done kit that even a beginner to resin should be able to build up into a convincing display model. Flaws are minor and easily corrected, assembly is straightforward, and the sky's the limit as far as painting and detailing it. What's not to like? And with the recent annoucement of a t/Space CXV and booster in the same scale, also from Fantastic Plastic, you'll soon be able to start a whole shelf full of concept real-world spacecraft at a areasonable price.

Highly recommended.


Many thanks to wallet for providing the review samples. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 3500+ readers a day? Contact us!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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This page copyright © 2006 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 27 February 2006.