Reader reviews of a kit featured on Starship Modeler.

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Your Two Cents: Space Station Alpha

The following are reader's opinions of the Space Station Alpha made by Revell DE.

Reviewer   Michael Betan
Date Reviewed   May 8, 2001
Overall Rating       Good kit, but with some problems.
Comments I'm new to model making, influenced by the subject matter more than the process, so please accept that my comments may not be "decisive" I bought this model in Scotland UK for a very reasonable £20.00. Having searched the net for a similar product, though they can be found they are much more expensive.

Main criticism is the accuracy of the model,Space Station design changes most likely the problem as opposed to Revell. Accuracy could be improved by doctoring a second kit, using extra docking nodes to attatch to Unity module. The large upright unit which supports the main overhead Solar panels (Photovoltaic Module) is not accurate at all. Revell's kit supplies this unit as a solid pointed hexagonal unit. In reality this piece is actually a metal telescopic framework (verified from video footage). I searched Nasa's site for close up details of this unit and found interesting info on the ISS Shuttle page.Nasa's own illustrations use both the Revell type shape & the actual shape of the PVM. Having used the Revell part in my model I intend to scratch build the framework version. If other modellers intend to do the same, I draw your attention to the fact that the whole PVM unit is currently sitting on top of the Z1 Truss. It will be moved at a later date to the position as dictated by the Revell Model.

If the modelmaker is knowledgeable of ISS Alpha and was willing to do a bit of scratch work and / or purchase a second kit, I think a good and affordable model could be built. It would be a godsend for someone to produce an enhanced set of decals for this kit as all over the original ISS there are little white squares with black dots on them, used for computer guidance during construction. Decals as oppsed to painting would certainly be more practical. As an amateur, my model is looking ok. I'm sure the experienced could do a grand job. Best of luck.

Reviewer   Patrick Selitrenny
Date Reviewed   Feb 10, 2003
Overall Rating       Good kit, but with some problems.
Comments I have bought this kit on Spring 2002, waiting to build it until now. As you have noticed, I haven't included pictures of it yet, since the paint work has not yet been started. Anyway, the kit is large and contains many tiny parts (so it is not recommended for beginners).

Revell has done a good detailing job, especially in this scale (1/144), but the packaging is another matter. Many parts, especially those with the finest details, as the main transversal boom, which is composed by 4 trusses assembled together came totally broken in tiny pieces, especially where parts had to be attached one to the another. Other tiny parts, such as some antennas and rails were seriously damaged and required fixing, prior to the actual assembly.

In short, the packaging is flimsy and deserves serious reconsidering.

Only think, that the main solar panels, the aluminum rods (in order to add stability to such a large structure) and the base on which to display the finished kit are very heavy, compared to the many more detailed and frail intersecting structures "beneath!" them.

The plastic quality seems uneven. While all solar panels, scientific and habitat modules are molded using a very sturdy plastic material, all the traverses and trusses seem to be made by a very flexible and breakable one.

Nevertheless, this is a big hunk of a model and very well done, despite the fact that its configuration seems to dwindle in the winds of our world economy. I would stick to this one, simply because, in its aesthetics, it's one of the most beautiful ones.

Only problem here, is that the model does not come out as in all the pictures depicted elsewhere.

The eight huge solar panels which give the typical majesty to the station are too heavy and tend to droop down. Funny, considering that in space, even the heaviest structure tends to float. But we're on Earth and have to deal with gravity problems. I doubt that even an "accurizing", if ever it will be produced, will be able to correct this. It is simply due to the enormous size of the panels alone. Such a large surface, even reproduced in photo-etched parts and resin, would tend to droop.

I have corrected the problem by cutting the actual panels from their supports, scanning them and printing them out on glossy semi-heavy photographic paper. The rest is easy. Redefining the paneling detail and painting according to photographic material.

I have discovered that many panels are not at all bluish in color, but rather have supporting frames in a kind of brassy color, which in time fades, to a dark-tannish one. The panels themselves are black when in a neutral lighting position, Not gloss black as many have stated, but rather a plain flat almost charcoal black. When the panels are sun-oriented, they appear to reflect any color they reflect: the blue of Earth's atmosphere, in which case they turn to metallic blue (but not uniformly), some appear plain silver and other still, appear light-tan. It all depends on the modeler's choice and "artistic" impression. The Ideal would be to turn them into "black mirrors".

This is what I intend to do. I will firstly paint them uniformly flat black all over and then just limit myself to apply various coats of semi-gloss lacquer, mixed with a few particles of aluminum metalizer (Testors sells it). Metalizers are unique and highly versatile for this job, since they are not "truly" paints, but rather are composed by fine "metallic" dust particles. By including them in semi-gloss coat (1 to 3), the effect can be astonishing, especially at such tiny scales.

Let's go back to the model. Pay extreme care in the fatal combination of aluminum rods and frail plastic parts to assemble the main truss boom.

Do not follow, I repeat, DO NOT FOLLOW the assembly instructions delivered by Revell, unless you want to squish all the parts involved. Use your common sense and build around the aluminum rods. First build the modules, without adding details (you will be able to add them later, with much less damage to your model), attach them as per instructions, but always using your own "planning ahead mode".

My suggestion is to thoroughly study the assembly instructions and then proceed with outmost caution, possibly assembling the sturdier parts first and working yourself backwards (yes, backwards) to the more frail structures.

Since all solar panels, except for fixed ones, are supposed to be movable and do not require to be glued on, do not apply them while building the model. Leave them alone until the entire modular Station has been built. Holding back on them, will also enable you, once the entire model is one big unitary structure, to add all of the finest detail possible. Still, handle it all with extreme care! It seems heavy, but is really very delicate.

Now, I have read somewhere that the American modules should all be painted in silver or stainless steel and the Russian ones in white. Sorry, but I find it all very simplistic. S

tudying many photographs of the actual modules, nodules, trusses and compartments, some taken during assembly on Earth and others from a perspective in space, including som old MIR station detailed photos, I came to a very different conclusion.

Here are my findings: while it is true that some American modules are usually covered with a sort of protection sheet (hence aluminum and not steel), some will be semi-gloss white, including the Japanese "Kibo" Lab (besides, actual painting and coloring is determined just shortly before the actual launch); many nodules will have a different color depending on their origin (if Russian, they will be light tan, if American, they will be either, black or metallic burnt steel); docking ports are Metallic Black, with white or silvery relief details and brassy structures;

Russian modules instead, are all painted light tan (not as stated by Revell, as Radome Tan) with white patches, represented by cooling structures and various compartments applied onto them.

Let's see all this in more detail: let us start with the mechanical arm, also known as "Canadarm", which is the easiest one, just plain flat white; the "Destiny" module is in plain Aluminum and I would not employ a metalizer in this case, but simply the enamel version of it (if airbrushed it will have a metallic sheen, but not as bright as its metalizer counterpart), a coat of flat lacquer will add a more realistic appearance. Pay attention to some rails and traverses. They are painted in brass; the "ESA" module is to be painted in semi-gloss white with a mix (1x1) of gold and silver for its handles and other superstructures; the "Kibo" Japanese module looks the same; the "Leonardo" MPLM is in Aluminum and Steel superstructures; the P6 truss system is in light aluminum (you may mix aluminum and silver in equal parts); the "Pirs" Russian module seems to be the exception to the above mentioned rule (light tan). In this case, we have a flat white node, with metallic russian green attachment rings (you may mix Mid Russian Green with Aluminum); the "Quest" airlock system is in Flat Aluminum (not Light Gray, as stated by Revell), with white panels; the second MPLM, an Italian contribution known as Raffaello, has the same coloring scheme as its counterpart "Leonardo" (see above); the U.S. "Unity" node is also Flat Aluminum with steel infrastructures and white panels; the Z1 truss is again to be painted in flat aluminum; the "Zarya" control module is in light tan all over, with flat white heat shields, compartments and radiators; the "Zvezda" service module has the same paint scheme as the "Zarya" CM.

For more specific photographic reference I want to refer you to the NASA site Once there you may wish to look for the Space Station Gallery section and look under Assembly.

All in all, this model is great fun to build, but I must caution you: it is not an easy task. Patience is required, especially where reconstitution of broken off parts is required.

I would not pre-paint this one. With the exception of a few detail parts, which should be left alone, until the final painting, the rest can be just glued together and then much more easily masked off to be painted. Since a lot of handling is required, apply the "soft touch" (easier said than done). It will all fit together splendidly. There are just a few gaps and imperfections, especially within interconnecting parts which you may want to correct and remove with some putty and and a bit of sandpaper. Once it stands right in front of you, you may be astonished at how beautiful this model is.

I will report back with a more extensive review, as soon as the corrections, detailing and painting are all done. By then, I also hope to be able to show you the finished model as I have studied it and "understood" it, by carefully examining its real components. It will truly be a difficult job, so don't expect anything in the very near future (I am writing on February 2003). I can only suggest you check this site on a regular basis (also because there many other goodies to be seen). I only know that the finished work won't be ready before April or May.

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