Space Shuttle Columbia: STS-2
**All of the images in this first section
are links to larger versions of the photo*
She's all finished! Some of the steps of construction
are illustrated below.
The Airfix 1/144th scale kit of the space shuttle. The model
is of the Columbia as she appeared during STS-2. The unique aspect of
the first two flights is that the external fuel
tank was painted white, to match the boosters and orbiter. After these two
flights, the tanks were left the current, unpainted, orange-rust color to save
weight. I chose to model the second flight configuration, as this was the
first re-use of a space vehicle.
I had been wanting to build a shuttle model for some
time. The loss of the Columbia, a shuttle building contest at Starship
Modeler, and the desire to build something - for a change - that didn't
float, lead me to this kit.
This first photo is to illustrate how much puttying and
sanding is required on the kit. The company date stamp on some of the
parts is 1977, so this kit has been around for a while, and show it in the fit
department. The blue and gray areas on this and following pictures are putty and
These three photos show the major components after several
weeks of filling and sanding. At this stage the boosters have already been
spray-primed once, and further sanded to fix discrepancies found. The
orbiter is ready for it's first overall coat of primer. You might notice
that the areas that should be clear windows are shades of blue putty and gray
primer. The fit of the kit's windows was so bad that I could not salvage
them. I'll be using kit decals to replicate them instead.
final primed components (only one booster shown). The white parts on the
tank and booster are the smaller components added after priming (fuel lines, separation
motors, etc.). The white areas on the shuttle are minor touch-ups that
will require another spot-priming before actual painting. This model is
FINALLY at the point that it feels like I'm accomplishing something. A
coat of white paint on her and I'll see the proverbial light at the end of the
detailing work on the external tank. The dark gray color is from Krylon
spray primer. After years of avoiding anything in a spray can, I finally
caved and tried the primer. It works great. I'm even doing the
overall white of this entire kit with Krylon spray white. Great coverage,
you just have to warm the paint a bit, and wet sand afterwards, to get a smooth
finish. On a kit with a lot of fine detail, I don't think I'd go this
route, but for this project, it's a real time saver.
the final paint job on the tank. Gloss coating and decals remain, and then
this section will be complete.
are some of the aftermarket products I will use on this project. Resin
replacement engine nozzles and marking decals from Real
Space Models, and shuttle tile decals from Cutting
did not end up using the resin engine nozzles from Real Space Models. I
ordered Cutting Edge Modelworks' version of these and there were much better
quality, so I used them.
the overall white shuttle. I've started using the cutting edge paint masks
in this picture, they are the black areas on the orbiter. These work
really well, so far, but I have yet to spray any paint over them.
shot of the finished external fuel tank. The lined detail technically
should be scribed in, or created with corrugated plastic. Eh, the decal
looks good enough to me. As soon as I finish decaling the external
boosters, I can glue that assembly together and start working on the base, as I
wait FOR THE INCREDIBLY #$@$@*!! FRUSTRATING AND #$@*!! CRAPPY WEATHER TO CLEAR
UP SO I CAN @#$@*!@!! PAINT!!!
Okay, the weather cleared up! So what do I end up doing
for the past 3 weeks, when we've been enjoying the most perfect weather we've
experienced in what has to be years? I sit inside and work on a model,
going out onto the deck occasionally to airbrush. Yes, I'm sick...
First photo shows the completed external tank with a big
honkin' brass rod run through it. This rod is cut to size and used as the
mounting point for the top of the SRB's (solid rocket boosters). The
entire shuttle stack when complete will be supported by this joint between these
three items, so I want it sturdy and well reinforced; the scale -yet small -
booster attachment supplied in the kit would not support all of this weight the
way I'm mounting it. The second photo is after the brass rod is cut to
size and the SRB's are attached.
are the three components of the base. A 1/2 inch wooden dowel cut to two
equal lengths, primed and sanded, and then painted white to blend with the
'smoke'. The board is simple maple, with two 1/2" holes drilled to
accept the dowels. It was also primed and sanded to hide the wood
grain. Basically, the dowels get glued into the base, and then they slide
up into the hollowed out thruster cones of the SRB's. Simple enough.
we're at the decaling process. I have NEVER built a model with so many
decals in my life. Granted, it's because I used the Cutting Edge tile
decals, and tiles cover over 50% of the orbiter body, but man. First two
photos show the white ones in progress. If you look closely at the wing
shot, you can see how the decal setting solution causes those things to wrinkly
initially- and caused my stomach to drop. Fortunately they dried super
The bottom photo shows the decals as applied "out
of the box". I personally think they are way too light, and I went
over mine with an airbrush loaded with Tamiya paint's Smoke color; basically a
translucent black. I think it was worth the extra effort.
smoke for the rocket boosters is created with polyester aquarium floss; it's the
same stuff used to stuff pillows. I just tied it off inside of the
nozzles, and then stretched and pulled it downward until I liked the result.
The patch is a replica of the mission patch from STS-2.
I enjoyed this kit, although up until even 24 hours
before finishing I had no idea if it would turn out or not; those light decals
had me really worried, and I had no idea if the floss "smoke" would
pass muster or not. Suffice it to say, though, that I'm really happy with how this project turned out.