1/144 Revell-Germany  International 

Space Station (finished as Phase 2 complete)

by Justin Davenport



A permanent manned orbiting space station has long been a dream of men ever since Jules Verne wrote about the “Brick Moon”, which was a manned satellite built for navigational purposes that accidentally made man’s first lunar voyage in one of his books.  After pioneering rocket propulsion work by Goddard, Tsiolkovsky, von Braun, and others, and especially after wartime German experiments and successes with the V-2, the stage was set for the exploration of space, albeit at a tremendous cost in innocent lives lost both in the Allied countries and in the V-2 production sites manned with slave labor.  Soon after the first postwar V-2 experiments in the United States and Russia, popular imagination (such as comic books and magazine articles) was filled with visions of giant whirling space stations that generated artificial gravity, giant rocket ships, and trips to the Moon and to Mars.  Behind the scenes, many space station and spacecraft concepts were drawn up while many looked toward the launch of the first artificial satellites, possibly as part of the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year.

After the launch of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin’s even more stunning ride into orbit, the “space race” became a top priority of both the superpowers.  While most activity was focused on getting to the Moon with Apollo/Saturn V or with the Soviet Soyuz/N-1 programs, everyday uses of space were looked at as well.  Communications and weather satellites soon revolutionized how we lived our lives, throughout the world.  As the cold war raged on, both superpowers also sought ways to spy on each other and gather information that could not be obtained by aircraft, ships, or human spies.  The U.S. Air Force designed the Manned Orbiting Laboratory and tested some parts of it aboard Titan 3 rockets while the Russians, sensing they might lose the moon race, decided to focus on Salyut space stations for civil and military uses.  NASA had plans for two Skylab space stations built out of Saturn 5 upper stages as part of the Apollo Applications Program, for solar, geologic/remote sensing, and microgravity biological and materials science research.  
One Skylab space station got built, and three NASA crews spent time from May 1973 to February 1974 in orbit, with the longest endurance being 84 days by the last Skylab crew of Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson.  The Russians sent up several Salyut stations and eventually set new manned endurance records of 180 days or more.  Later in the Salyut program, Western countries such as France got to fly people to those stations. 
Meanwhile, NASA began the Spacelab program to build a pressurized shuttle laboratory as  a stopgap until a successor to Skylab would be built.  The Skylab space station was supposed to be rescued by the shuttle and placed in a higher orbit; however intense solar activity increased atmospheric drag on the station and caused its orbit to fall sooner than expected.  In addition, the space shuttle would simply not have been ready in time for a Skylab rescue; its first flight occurred 2 years after Skylab tumbled down to earth in the Australian outback (thankfully hurting no one). 

In 1984, the International Space Station started its first steps toward reality, in what would be a grueling, torturous journey to launch.  President Ronald Reagan called on NASA to build a space station, which was estimated to cost 8 billion US dollars.  At first, the space station was supposed to be a combined large research lab, satellite servicing facility, astronomical and earth science spacecraft, and way station to other planets.  Its capabilities decreased as costs mounted.  The Challenger disaster in 1986 caused huge delays and cost overruns mounted, while first element launch slipped to 1995.  By 1990 the space station was called “Freedom” and a treaty had been signed by the United States, Canada, ESA, and Japan to build this station.  

However, two things intervened to change the project.  One was the U.S. economy’s recession in the early 1990’s and the subsequent election of Bill Clinton.  Another was the fall of the Soviet Union.  The space station became a target of cancellation, and in 1993 the project survived by one vote in the House of Representatives.  The Clinton Administration and NASA Administrator Dan Goldin brought in the Russians into the project, now called the International Space Station.  In 1986, the Russians launched the Mir space station, a successor to the Salyut series.  The Russians set duration records of over a year in space and added modules to the station.  Soon, an agreement was set to have U.S. shuttles and astronauts visit the Mir station as part of a “ramp-up” to ISS first element launch now set for 1997.  In July 1995, the space shuttle Atlantis docked with the Mir space station and brought back astronaut Norman Thagard, who broke the U.S. space endurance record during his stay.  This was the first of nine visits by the space shuttle fleet to the Mir space station.  At first things went smoothly, but in June 1997 a Progress cargo spacecraft collided with the Mir’s Spektr module during a docking test.  U.S. astronaut (and also British citizen) Michael Foale and his 2 Russian crewmates nearly died but hung on to save the station.  Meanwhile the ISS first element launch had been delayed until 1998.


On November 20, 1998, the International Space Station, after years and years of redesigns, political setbacks, cost overruns, and schedule slips, finally launched its first element into orbit.  The Zarya module contained a hallway with lockers, fuel tanks, guidance equipment, and two solar panels.  Two weeks later the space shuttle Endeavour attached the U.S. built Unity module to Zarya.  Unity is a connecting node with six docking ports and lockers; two Pressurized Mating Adapter docking modules were also attached to the Unity module and the embryonic station during the flight.  After the first two elements were launched, long delays with the Russian Zvezda service module as well as space shuttle wiring problems caused a delay in the ISS schedule.  In July 2000, Zvezda was launched from Baikonur and attached to the Zarya module.  The Zvezda module is based on the Mir core module and contains living quarters for 3 people as well as guidance and communications equipment, maneuvering engines, and basic research facilities.  The Zvezda module being attached was necessary for construction to continue and also for initial manned occupation.  On October 31, 2000, the first ISS Expedition 1 crew was launched to ISS aboard a Soyuz rocket/spacecraft, and there have been human beings always in orbit since then.  In the past two years, more U.S. and Russian elements have been added to ISS, and now the station is considered past “Phase 2 complete”, that is, the station is self sufficient for a crew of 3 with some research capabilities, some independent construction capabilities, and full EVA capabilities without a space shuttle present.  Currently, Phase 3 is underway with the attachment of central truss elements (at this writing, the center truss is in place atop the Destiny lab module) but my model doesn’t have any part of the central truss except for the P6 Photovoltaic module.  The ISS budget is again under review and some later capabilities (7 man permanent crew, centrifuge module, Russian segment research modules, etc.) may be deleted or altered.  This was one of the reasons I elected not to build a full ISS configuration model. 

The Model 

When Revell-Germany put out its 1/144th scale ISS kit I really wanted to order and build one right away.  However, it took 6 months for the ISS kit to reach U.S. hobby shops.  I had just moved to Salt Lake City when I found the ISS kit at Douglas Models.  I snapped it up and let it sit for a while as I contemplated how to build it.  Finally I decided to build it in a Phase 2 configuration but I had to do some surgery on the parts to do this. 

The Revell kit is designed to be built in the finished configuration with the giant central truss and four large U.S. solar panels.  I started the kit by building the Zarya and Unity modules and starting the metal framework, while I pondered how to modify the kit to build the rest of the  configuration.  The Zarya was pretty straightforward except for the ball-shaped front docking port.  I simply painted the whole module MM Acryl semi-gloss white and used a MM Acryl mix-some kind of sand color-aluminum foil to simulate the thermal blankets.  After the foil went on, I glued the semi-gloss white panels to finish the body.  For the solar panels, I used Tamiya metallic blue straight from the bottle and a flesh-tan-white mixture  for the bottom. 

I used white-painted tape for the hinge line and aluminum for the base hinge.  Now the front docking port is a separate piece and can be hard to blend in, especially if you cover it with aluminum foil (the blankets were on there too).  I needed to cut a circle out of Evergreen styrene to fill the top port, and I used a red-orange mixture to paint that circle (yes, the real thing has that).   I used Evergreen styrene rods for some external wiring, and aluminum for the docking port rings and last, but not least, I printed out a 1/144th scale card model of the Zarya and Unity modules from http://www.marscenter.it and glued on some details from that sheet (e.g. the dotted panels you find on the front of the Zarya module). 

Things got interesting when I worked on the Unity module.  For one thing, I needed to cut off one of the PMA docking ports.  I was able to do that all right.  However, I accidentally cut off part of the other port because I picked up the wrong module (I was trying to cut off a third docking port from the unfinished Node 2 module, which is longer than Unity).  I had to do some hasty repairs with Evergreen styrene, Tamiya cement, and some putty.  Now the U.S. modules are a metallic color with debris shields on them, but the Revell kit does not have any of this detail.  I really wanted an accurate ISS but my skills were limited so I asked around—this project was done just before I stumbled onto ARC.  The local hobby shops, including Great Models and the Hobby Stop in Orem, kindly introduced me to Tamiya liquid cement and Evergreen styrene sheets and rods.  This was only my second major superdetailing effort after a 1/72nd scale Space Shuttle I had finished on September 10, 2001.  Eventually I was able to get the debris shield pattern on Unity “kinda right”.  The biggest challenge was the curved panels on the faces where the PMA 2 (black docking port) and the Destiny module would dock to.  Through the use of using the panels from the paper model as a template I was able to finally cut some decent looking panels out of thin Evergreen styrene sheets, but it was a battle.  Now that I read about the Olfa compass cutter on ARC I may try to acquire that for a future ISS project.  When the Unity was done I glued the metal and plastic framework pieces into the PMA 2 docking port using slow setting CA (another little innovation I first learned about while building this kit).  The kit comes with several aluminum rods and black plastic attachment points; the directions say to use a long rod that goes all the way through the Destiny module to Node 2.  I didn’t do this since Node 2 wouldn’t be on the model; I used a shorter rod, while I used the rod specified for the Russian end of the station.  Before I attached the Russian segment rod, I sprayed Testors Stainless Steel metalizer onto the module – I used this color for all US pressurized modules.  As this project was being done in January and February of 2002, I had to wait for a fairly warm day to do my spraying…by fairly warm I mean low 40’s. 

 The Destiny module was done in much the same fashion, with debris shields painstakingly and occasionally painfully crafted out of Evergreen styrene.  The difference here was that while the Unity module’s shields used sunken detail, the Destiny’s shields used raised detail.  For Unity all I had to do was to cut incisions into the styrene (much like scribing panel lines) and I was all set.  For Destiny, I had to use styrene rods – I first cut out eight 13 by 51 mm panels from Evergreen styrene.  I then cut out some more flat styrene rectangles for a raised framework – eight short pieces and two long pieces, and glued them on with liquid cement.  Finally, I used styrene rods to cut out raised x’s and glued one rod atop the other, then glued the finished X onto the panel.  It was a long tedious process but I finished and I was proud.  But some of the panels had finger prints on them!!  (Next time I’ll use gloves or something like that). 
  I used sandpaper to try to get the finger prints off—this also had the welcome effect of blending the X’s into the panel better.  After a sanding the panels looked much better, much more realistic.  Of course I had to glue on a few rods back into their places too.  After spraying the module with stainless steel, I used flat yellow rods to simulate EVA handles.  I also used pieces of plastic, styrene rods, and circular markings (the black and white dots) from the paper model to simulate details.  For the window on the bottom of Destiny I used a blob of putty and shaped it. 
The Revell kit did not have any of the little details like scuff plates, RMS arm grapple points, trunnion pins and such.  So I ordered a nifty set of detail parts for 40 bucks from www.thespacestore.com -- this set of detail parts is an add-on to Intermountain Railway’s 1/144th scale ISS kit and is ordered separately from it.  The IMR ISS kit costs 140-180 bucks whereas the Revell kit costs 60-70 bucks, I was reluctant to plunk down 140 bucks or more on that kit.  But I just might take the plunge sometime, in fact I think I WILL.  I fixed the detail parts on the modules before I glued the modules together, and had to reglue some of them on after construction was finished.  For the Destiny, Unity, and Quest trunnion pins I glued them on and then painted them and a little bit of the surrounding area camouflage gray to simulate covers the astronauts put on them.  For the Leonardo module I painted them yellow with silver tips as those trunnion pins are not covered.
Back to construction!  I finished the Quest airlock module shortly thereafter using the same techniques – the kit airlock module is awful and I had to cut away the thick plastic block on the bottom of the airlock extension and replace it with styrene sheet to get anything like a good effect.  I used the circular air tanks as a framework for the oxygen and nitrogen tanks, which were done with styrene, and after a struggle I used metal staples to simulate part of the debris shield detail on the hatch end.  At the same time, I worked on the Zvezda module.  I glued it together, used the sand colored aluminum foil for the front docking port and the space before the living quarters portion, and I used camouflage gray for the aft propulsion/service portion of the module.  
I used gloss black, flat black, and red to fill in some assorted details, and I also cut off the tab at the top of the docking port – this tab would have been covered with the Russian SPP module which is not part of the Phase 2 configuration.  I puttied the area, sanded it smooth, painted it red-orange, and used a craft ring (a silver craft ring I bought at Michaels) for the docking port’s boundary ring.  I used Metallic Blue and flesh for the solar panels and used tape to simulate the white hinge line again.  


A word about the Leonardo module.  On some shuttle flights, the Mini Pressurized Logistics Module is carried into orbit and temporarily docked to one of Unity’s ports.  This module carries heavy cargo to the station and brings completed experiments and trash back to earth.  After cargo transfer operations are complete, the MPLM is moved back into the space shuttle’s cargo bay for the trip home.  The Italians built three MPLM modules for NASA and two of them – Leonardo and Rafaello – have been flown.  I was originally intending to dock a space shuttle kit to the ISS so I built the MPLM and used Evergreen styrene and the IMR ISS detail set, then painted on the black and white dot markings using a circular template (not TOTALLY successful, the paper markings worked better).  Why are the modules covered with black and white dots, you may ask?  I learned that the markings are part of something called the Orbital Space Vision System and are used to help the OSVS computer tell the station or shuttle arm operator where one object is in relation to another.  This is especially useful because the arm operators don’t have a direct view of what they’re trying to do as they try to dock one module to another to build the station.  I found out too late that docking the shuttle to ISS in the Phase 2 configuration would just be too awkward, but I kept the module anyway – without it I don’t think I could have made the Phase 2 configuration work for reasons I’ll get into later.  During this time I also worked on the Canadarm 2, or “Big Arm”.  The Revell kit molds the Canadarm in a folded position and I had to cut the two pieces apart, then glue them back together unfolded, using sandpaper and putty where needed.  I used some styrene pieces to simulate electronics boxes and glued some aluminum foil to simulate insulation.  I then sprayed the whole thing flat white, and I used gunship gray for a couple of colored bands, and I used the kit “Canada” decals for the arm but they are of the wrong font, however I didn’t have any alternatives.  I glued the Big Arm to the attachment point on the bottom of the Destiny module – the attachment point had to be made as part of the detailing process on that module.  It was actually just a flat point near the window covering that I made out of putty.  I also built up the PMA 2 and 3 modules while I was at it, after painting them semi-gloss black and adding details to them, including a pattern from the paper model for the inside of the docking port, I glued them to their respective places – the PMA 2 (current docking port used by shuttles) on the end of Destiny and PMA 3 on the side of Unity.  The PMA 3 was mounted on the bottom for 2 assembly flights, where it was needed to enable the shuttle to dock and then mount the P6 and Destiny modules - then moved over for the side, where it will stay “in storage” and inactive until later in the assembly sequence.

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Finally, I worked on the Z1 and P6 modules.  The Z1 truss was very straightforward, and I painted it camouflage gray, using silver foil – Reynolds Wrap – to simulate the thermal covering on the part pointing to the Russian modules.  Of course, Evergreen styrene and the IMR detail set went into this too. 

The P6 module was WAY more complicated.  First of all, it’s molded onto a larger truss piece and had to be cut out.  Secondly, I had to sand smooth the bottom of the new truss piece to get it to fit somewhat flush with the Z1 truss.  I also used thin styrene sheet to cover over the “open truss” framework as the real thing has insulation blankets there. 

I also used styrene rods to make details like the trunnion attach points – where the truss was attached to the shuttle’s payload bay for launch.  I sprayed semi-gloss white but the finish got too runny (my mistake) so I had to sand and spray again.  At the time, I had just bought an airbrush and was still intimidated by it.  I made an aluminum-gray mixture out of MM Acryl paints for the radiator panels but I made the mistake of thinning it 1 to 1 with water and the mix came out all runny and thin and looked terrible.  (It didn’t help that the pieces were molded in blue and I had not used primer).  I ended up brushing aluminum onto the radiators but even now I’m not totally satisfied with the look, there are brush marks.  (Any hints on paints that don’t leave brush marks will be greatly appreciated by me.  I use mostly MM Acryl and some Tamiya paints but I’m not religiously “wedded” to any brand and will use whatever works, be it enamel, acrylic, lacquer, whatever.  I’ve already heard that Humbrol doesn’t leave brush marks).  I painted the two large solar panels with a mix of Blue Angel Blue, gloss black, and metallic blue to create a different blue sheen from the Russian solar panels and I painted the bottom of the solar panels MM Acryl Leather.  I painted the tips yellow and white and then glued them on to P6 with tube cement.  However, that’s not the end of the story…… 

At this point, I began to build up the station piece by piece into its finished framework.  I first glued Unity and Zarya together, then placed Zarya’s front end on one of the thick round aluminum rods and glued the rod and Zarya to the stand.  I then glued Unity to it.  The two modules dried together, then I added the Zvezda and Destiny modules nearly simultaneously to balance things out.  Things were still okay.  I added the Leonardo and Z1 modules next.  After that I built the Soyuz and Progress craft.  The Progress craft was glued onto the back of the Zvezda module in its usual position while the Soyuz had to be painted first, then glued together with one piece fitting over the thick aluminum rod mounting Zarya to the base – the two  pieces had to be glued together in a way that the aluminum rod would be trappedbetween them.  Also I used a black-green mix to paint the Soyuz but it was gloss—next time I’ll use flat as it’s more realistic.  The other colors on the Soyuz/Progress were white, flesh, and metallic blue.  I used red-orange to paint a rectangular border that shows up on the Progress. 

 So far, so good.  Then problems happened when I tried to glue on the P6 truss with those giant solar panels.  The assembly kept falling off and I ended up breaking both solar panels off at the joint and had to use CA to reattach them.  Finally, I used the TV and the laundry hamper as supports and let dry for 24 hours with CA.   Now the station was finally glued together.  However, the front end – the US segment – soon sagged due to the weight of the P6 truss.  Something had to be done, so I cut a plastic rod and CA’d it to the earth base below and the Leonardo MPLM module above.  That rod supports the segment so now it doesn’t sag too much.  I don’t dare attach a shuttle to the combination now.  After a month of construction I decided it was finished.  There were more details I could have added but I just wasn’t up to the task.  Now the ISS sits proudly next to the phone….and yes I am very careful when I pick the phone up!!!


I enjoyed this project and learned a lot.  I picked up lots of new scratchbuilding and assembly skills and also learned a bit about airbrushing, which would come in handy for later projects such as the trio of 1/72nd fighters I did using techniques I learned from ARC (the Corsair, the Phantom, the JSF).  In the future I’ll probably buy the Intermountain Railway kit and build it to the full version once the ISS assembly sequence and budget is settled (Big If!).  The IMR kit has lots of extras that the Revell kit simply doesn’t have, such as the shuttle ODS docking port.  Also, the IMR kit has paper solar panels that are thinner and may work better.  The P6 solar panels sag noticeably and I’d like to support them with something but can’t figure out for the life of me what to do.  I also won’t use aluminum foil to simulate insulation again, at least not on the outside of Russian segment modules.  It’s prone to cracking and for a Mir model I started but haven’t yet finished I used putty instead – I put small globs of putty on the modules and spread it out to simulate the look of insulation and it works better (see Mir-Kristall-DM picture below-bonus shot of another project!).  And tape to simulate hinge lines will go the way of the dodo bird, next time I’ll spray the panel white and use tape to mask the hinge line, seal it up with Future, and then airbrush or brush the solar panel with metallic blue. 

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I know what I’ll do now for the next ISS project and just writing about it has me excited.  But it’ll be a year or two before that happens, I’ve got to get to my Tomcat now!

 Happy Modeling! 



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Photos and text © by Justin Davenport