Space Shuttle Columbia-The Tailfin and SILTS Pod

Columbia was different to all the other orbiters because it had a SILTS (Shuttle Infrared Leeside Temperature Sensing) pod added to the top of the tail. This was used a number of times to measure the temperatures being experienced by the orbiter during re-entry.

I’ve been told that other shuttles also had the SILTS pod, and seen some model builds of other shuttles that feature it but to the best of the research I’ve done Columbia was the only one to have this.  For example, the picture below is of the fin of Atlantis, where as far as I can find out no camera was ever fitted. These pictures also show one of the problems with doing an accurate representation of a shuttle. The pattern of tiles varies between them all, just look at the black tiles around the top of the fin on Columbia for example. Many more examples will no doubt follow.

Atlantis
Atlantis

The picture on the right shows the SILTS camera fitted to Columbia. This was taken as the orbiter was moved to the vehicle assembly building (VAB) in preparation for mission STS-107.

Columbia
Columbia

Fitting of the SLITS pod is a simple affair. The kit parts were marked up using the resin parts as a template. The tip of the fin was then cut off.

Marked up
Marked up

And the resin part was glued on following a little bit of sanding and fitting.

New Part
New Part

Although there is still some sanding and shaping required the SILTS pod now sits on the top of the tailfin.

Primed
Primed

There is also a need to add a parachute to the bottom of the tail area, which were fitted during the lifetime of the shuttles. You can see this area quite clearly in this picture taken during the rollover of Columbia to the vehicle assembly building for flight STS-107. It is the area at the bottom which has black tiles on the lower surface. This will be done by cutting a section out of the kit parts and rebuilding it with plastic sheet.

Parachute
Parachute

I found (sorry I can’t remember where now as too much time has elapsed) this very useful diagram of the parachute area and what is needed to make it more accurate.

Chute Diagram
Chute Diagram

So started by marking up the line where the piece would be cut out.

Marked up
Marked up

And with that part removed.

Removed
Removed

And then built up the underside part according to the diagram above.

Built Up
Built Up

Finally a fine cut was made into the control surface where it meets the tail at the top and bottom to give a small gap and show that this is a separate part.

That brings the tail to the right shape.

Unfortunately this part suffered when we moved house and got broken off.  Should be a relatively easy fix with luck as doesn’t look like anything has been distorted out of shape.

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Battlestar Excalibur

In catching up with posts just spotted that I never posted anything on the build of the Moebius Battlestar Galactica kit which I built for the SFM:uk Viper Squadron Build.  Basically this was the basic Moebius kit  assembled according to the instructions, although I left off attaching the two landing bays until after the model had been painted and decaled.  The model was painted with Halfords Aluminium or Silver (I can’t remember which now) from a rattlecan.  This was then washed with Games Workshop Badab Black and then sealed with Halfords Clear.

I had got the Acreation Decals set which have very pale armour detailing on them which covers the entire model and applied these.  Shortly afterwards the Deluxe Set was released but to be totally honest I’m not sure there is enough difference in them to a) justify the additional cost and b) the additional time in applying them.  It was  a massive task as it was and pretty tedious!  To begin with I wasn’t even sure they were making any difference but once one side was done it was very clear that Acreation had done an excellent job of getting the feel of the CGI model and they produce a good sense of scale.

Some custom decals were made to show the name of the Battlestar as Excalibur rather than Galactica.  These had to be done in black as I had to do them on an inkjet printer.  Some landing bay strips were done at the same time with the battle group number.  Finally the model was sealed with Games Workshop Purity Spray which gave a nice satin finish.

These pictures were taken in an attempt to be arty and light the model in the same sort of way as the show did, with a single bright light source.

Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur
Excalibur

And finally a bit of a composite image.

Excalibur
Excalibur

Space Shuttle Columbia-The Cargo Bay

As mentioned previously the cargo bay will be very visible in this model. The Real Space cargo bay set is excellent but does present some problems. The major on is that it is designed for the Monogram kit which is apparently different in some dimensions and it requires some manipulation and cutting to get it to fit.

The first problem was the depth of the cargo bay compared to the resin parts. Simply there isn’t enough space for them to drop neatly into the space available. As you can from the picture they project quite a bit over the top.

Too Tall
Too Tall

My solution to this problem was to cut the floor out of the kit parts which would allow the parts to sit lower. I marked up the cuts by looking through the open end where the engines will go.

Floor marked up
Floor marked up

This areas was then cut out with a cutting blade in my Dremel-a-like drill.

Floor Removed
Floor Removed

And as you can see the parts now sit down far enough.

Aligned
Aligned

The second different between the Revell and Monogram kits is that the cargobay of the Monogram version must be about 5mm longer, because the resin parts are too long. It’s fortunate it is this way round as it’s much easier to remove a bit than try to build it up. So working extremely carefully I cut the required amount off the front end of the cargobay. And as you can see it now fits fine.

In Place
In Place
In Place
In Place

And with a couple of coats of white primer. There are still some areas which need to be filled between the bay bottom and the end walls.

Primed
Primed

Space Shuttle Columbia-Cockpit and Flight Deck

The cockpit is not really greatly visible once the kit is assembled but some aspects can be seen through the windows, so I didn’t want to leave this bare, but to make it as detailed as possible, without spending a huge amount of time on it. Unfortunately this second part didn’t work out as I ended up spending a disproportionate amount of time on it, without an end result which justified the time invested.

The first thing I did was to assemble according to the instructions. But one obvious part that is lacking are vertical partitions which are clearly visible just behind the windows. These parts are visible in this reference picture as the broad panels which I have marked.

The Real Thing
The Real Thing

This was replicated with two small pieces of plastic between the front and real cockpit parts. there was a gap between these parts anyway, so this acted as a filler as well.

Cockpit
Cockpit

In addition there was a large gap between the cockpit and the main body when I test fitted it, so I extended the cockpit’s front edge out slightly with some plastic and some car body filler (which is the pink parts).

Cockpit
Cockpit

I also opened up the hatch which goes down to the mid deck which can just be seen on the left in this particular picture (although I don’t think it will be seen once it’s assembled).

Cockpit
Cockpit

At this point I ran into a number of problems, some of my own making. Firstly I had a reaction between two different paint types. I had originally painted the entire cockpit with a Tamiya acrylic. I wasn’t entirely happy with the colour, which is shown on the right, and decided to go for a ghost grey. The only ghost grey I had was a Testors Modelmaster Acryl so I used that. The two reacted against each other a resulted in a lovely crinkly effect, so it was back to the drawing board for that. The cockpit was stripped with Mr Muscle oven cleaner and rubbed down with some fine sandpaper.

Secondly because I am now using the Real Space cargo section, which is far more detailed and accurate, I can’t use the back piece for the cockpit from the kit. This has resulted in a lot of fiddling around trying to work out the best way to fit the cockpit. It is finally shown in place in the picture, reprimed in white.

In position
In position

The control panels on Columbia had just been upgraded to the MEDS (Multifunction Electronic Display System) and the panels are reasonably visible from the outside. I decided to try and replicate them by printing them out and sticking them into place within the cockpit. The graphic to the right shows these panels. There are two main display panels. The one at the top is the original type and the one at the very bottom is the new MEDS display. Also scattered around are some flight manuals and as you can see from the picture at the top the cockpit is covered in blue squares. I believe these are velcro so things can be put down without floating away.

Console Graphics
Console Graphics

And here are the console graphics in place. The do an adequate job of showing the detail, although of course they aren’t 3-dimensional.

In Place
In Place

You can just about make out the MEDS display in this picture, and if you squint through the rear windows you can just see it.

In Place
In Place

The seats have also been reworked. The headrests were cut off and reattached on two plastic rods. A Milliput headrest was built up as was the back cushion (the orange part). The seatbelts are made from paper strip, but they don’t lay properly so I will probably redo them with the top off a wine bottle.

In Place
In Place

MDC Dragon Tyrath-Wings Update

Well decided to try and fix the tatty wings to make this dragon look a bit more whole.  So tried something I seemed to recall reading somewhere that you can use tissue paper and PVA glue.  Using toilet paper (Sainsburys Recycled in case it’s important later), cut a piece to about the right size and damped it down with a solution of PVA diluted about 50% with water.  Worked the first wing (the one on the left) too much and paper started to disintegrate, so kept the working on the second one to a minimum and came out better.  Second one was easier anyway as it is much flatter and got fewer deep ridges on it.  Dried overnight it’s as hard as a rock now.

Going to do a little more paper and then sand it down a bit to remove any texturing from the paper plus there are a few creases in the paper.  As there isn’t much in the way of details I’ll probably try a layer of Halfords Filling Primer and sand that back as well.

Filled Wings
Filled Wings

MDC Dragon Tyrath

Picked by this Dragon Tyrath kit at the MDC stand at the Brampton Show a couple of weeks ago and thought I’d get a start on it.

So first things first thought I would do a bit of research.  Unfortunately only Rosemary has a book on Dragons and it wasn’t much use.  All I could find out is this dragon didn’t have fluffy ears.

Book
Book

So onto the parts anyway.

Base
Base

You get a nice base on which the completed dragon will perch.

Body
Body

The body itself is very nicely cast and probably about 3inches long.

Claws
Claws

The claws and feet are separately moulded as well as the top of the head.

Head
Head

The one thing which is a problem is the wings.  The membrane of the wings is cast in a very thin resin and inevitably there has been some damage to them.

Wings
Wings

Now this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if you wanted to build a tatty, well battered dragon but what I have in mind is for something a bit neater.  So going to try and cover the wing areas with some tissue soaked in PVA solution to create a new layer but keep the thin membrane effect.  We’ll have to see how that goes.