Out-of-Box Kit Preview

Space Station V

Multi-Media Model Kit
by Fantastic Plastic Models

Manufacturer's price: $125.00

Preview by Alan Nadel

   Whether talking about Science Fiction films or Film in general, it's hard to dispute that the scene of the Orion III space plane approaching the ringed Space Station V in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey remains one of the more memorable scenes in Film History. Choreographed to Johann Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz, it set a new standard for how a science fiction movie should look.

   For a long time after the film's release, only the Orion "Space Clipper" and the Moon Bus were ever produced as plastic model kits. Fortunately, since the 1980s, the garage kit industry has filled in many of the blanks, producing kits of subjects that the big companies wouldn't provide. Fantastic Plastic Models now offers their kit  2001: Space Station V which is available from the Fantastic Plastic Virtual Museum Store.

   The kit contains "200+ pieces." Twenty-seven of them are cast out of polyurethane resin and make up the ring, central hub, ring spokes and the Orion III space plane. The rest is all photo-etched stainless steel and makes up assorted fine detail and also the framework of the unfinished secondary ring as it appeared in the film.

   The masters for the resin parts of the kit were made from AutoCAD drawings by Scott Lowther using "stereo lithography," an industrial version of "3D Printing". This method has been used for some other high-end garage kits and makes for much cleaner and geometrically consistent master parts.

   This is not a model kit for the inexperienced or squeamish modeler. Over one hundred and fifty of the kit's parts are photo-etched stainless steel, most of them tiny and very delicate. I've built other "multi-media" kits, including Lunar Models' Voyager space probe, which included resin and very finely detailed photo-etched brass parts. The kit was very challenging but was much simpler than the Space Station V. (I built Voyager in 1994 - vision was sharper, hands steadier.)

   The resin parts are nicely cast and show a lot of fine detail. The pieces, cast by Mana Studios appear to be free of air bubbles. Pour stubs on some of the parts are large and will require removal and some clean-up. Though there is quite an amount of flash on the parts, it's mostly thin enough to be scraped off with a fingernail.

   A few of the parts actually have bits of the silicone rubber mold stuck in crevices, one of which is visible as a small green fleck on the top piece in the image to the right. Sadly, silicone rubber molds don't last forever and kits like this are often limited to short runs unless the manufacturer decides to cast new molds from the masters.

   One group of parts where flash may be an issue is the ring spokes, some of which are shown below. Each spoke consists of a single core with very thin "cables" running along two sides. These cables appear very fragile and will require care in handling and flash clean up.

   Fantastic Plastic wisely chose to use stainless steel for the photo-etched parts. Made by Paragrafix, some of the parts are so tiny and delicate that softer brass or aluminum, more commonly used in multi-media model kits, would be too fragile. All of the photo etched parts are clearly marked.


   For Sci-fi modelers who like to add lights to models, only the core section has any hollow spaces conducive to lights and wiring. The solid-cast ring segments and spokes make it next to impossible to light the ring windows. Some serious props to anyone who manages to do this.

   Because of the space station's changing size from original concept to film, Fantastic Plastic provides not one but three Orion III space planes to depict the space station in three different scales.

   In Arthur C. Clarke's novelization of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the space station, referred to as Space Station One is described as a "three-hundred-yard-diameter disk." The double-ringed station in Kubrick's film, now called Space Station V, is scaled to look over twice that size so it would appear much more impressive next to the approaching Orion.

   The kit provides the space plane in three lengths: 7/8, 1-3/8, and 1-7/8 inches long depicting the 230 foot long Orion spacecraft in 1/2800, 1/2100 or 1/1400 scales. The largest Orion makes the space station model scale out to the size of the novel's space station. The smallest one would match the model to the movie space station's conjectural size of two-thousand feet across. The middle is a compromise. Even the tiniest of the Orions is nicely cast.

   The kit comes with instructions that cover four 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages. Drawings and text lay out the assembly of all of the resin and steel parts.  Also aiding in the assembly is a copy of Scott Lowther's CAD drawings scaled to the same size as the kit. 

   The resin portion of the kit is very simple and once flash and pouring stubs are removed, should go together very easily. The core parts fit together using notches and grooves. The ring segments key together where they are joined to the spokes. The #1 and unfinished #2 ring are assembled separately and then joined together via keyed gluing surfaces.

   The kit's real challenge is in handling all those metal parts. Most are delicate and many are tiny and all will need to be handled carefully. The framework of the #2 ring is designed so that the long pieces fit through notches and slots in the frame pieces which should make assembly of this part easier. While the intricate latticework of the unfinished #2 ring looks very complicated, the combination of the instructions and the scale drawings should simplify the assembly.

   No display stand is provided although a really nice acrylic base is sold by a third party provider with nice photos on Fantastic Plastic's Virtual Museum Store page.

   Photos of Allen Ury's buildup on his Fantastic Plastic website show that the 2001: Space Station V kit can be built up into a beautiful model. Though very challenging, the kit appears to be buildable by any modeler with some resin and photo-etch experience and lots of patience. I still won't call this an easy kit but the quality of its design, engineering and production makes this a kit that I look forward to building.


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