Revell 1/96 scale ASTP kit

Box cover


The Revell 1/96 scale APOLLO-SOYUZ TEST PROJECT (ASTP) model kit is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting space kits released ever. Kit parts There are extremely few models of Soviet spacecraft available in the West -- particularly in a relatively detailed scale such as 1/96. Unfortunately, the kit has been out of production for years and is consequently difficult to find and very expensive (e.g. Four Star Collectibles sell them for $130!). Fortunately, Revell/Monogram is planning to re-release the kit again!

Mission background

ASTP took place in 1975 as the result of a period of detente between the US and USSR. This highly publicized mission involved an Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM) crewed by Tom Stafford, Donald Slayton & Vance Brand, docking with a Soyuz (flown by Alexei Leonov & Valeri Kubasov) in Earth orbit. Since Apollo & Soyuz differed considerably, a separate Docking Module had to be developed. It was carried into orbit by Apollo and served as a pressurized transfer tunnel between the two spacecraft.

The Revell kit

Apollo CSM
Apollo CSM parts This is, disappointingly, a "recycled" Block I CSM from Revell's earlier series of Apollo kits from the mid-1960s. The real ASTP craft was a leftover Block II-type CSM from the lunar program, however. The differences between the two models are numerous and extensive modifications will be necessary to make the kit resemble a Block II. Moreover, the unmodified model does not give a very good representation of the old Block I prototype either. The parts fit together rather poorly, the surface details are badly defined (old molds?) and the diameter of the cylindrical Service Module (SM) is four millimeters too wide. The only difference from the older Revell Apollo kits is, the SM's aft (Service Propulsion System-) bulkhead (circular on the Block I) has been replaced by a square Block II type! Better than nothing, I suppose. As before, the Command Module (CM) can be detached from the SM.

The base color of the unpainted model is now white rather than silver. It is thus better suited for the Revell 1/96 scale Saturn V kit, if you want to do the Saturn 500F or Apollo 6 configurations which both featured white early-production Apollo CSMs on top of the carrier rocket.

Docking Module (DM) & Display Stand
The DM is a simple four-piece affair (two body halves, Soyuz docking port, rendezvous antenna) featuring the major details from the original. I would suggest covering the module with foil painted dark gray to simulate the thermal insulation.

The module must be glued to the Apollo CM docking port but the Soyuz can be detached. The drawback here is that there is an ugly plastic plug protruding from the Soyuz docking port, so the purist probably will want to keep the spacecraft docked at all times. The display stand support is attached to the Apollo CSM exactly the same way as the 1960s Apollo CSM/LM kit, but the display base is different. It is rectangular and features the ASTP logo plus the words "Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP)" in English only. The instruction sheet is in Russian and English.

Soyuz and DM parts The real reason why I obtained this kit... At first, it's a little disappointing since the spacecraft consists of only eight pieces (2 x body halves, docking assembly, instrument module bulkhead, cosmonaut+seat, periscope, antenna). Unlike the Apollo, however, this model has got the key dimensions right. The exterior is adequately detailed, with only some minor details omitted from the rear Instrument Module. Two docking antennas on the upper half of the Orbital Module are also missing, as are two umbilicals running from the base of the Orbital Module to the Instrument Module, on both sides of the Descent Capsule periscope. Here I would suggest adding a raised area, then have the entire spacecraft covered by thin sheets of dark green metallic foil (=thermal insulation). Apply the "insulation" in narrow strips matching the surface details on the Descent Capsule & Orbital Module; the Instrument Module radiators should be painted Gloss White.

All in all, this little baby (8cm long) is quite good although the docking probe is missing -- having been replaced by the plastic plug. The model should be very useful for conversions to other Soyuz models (e.g. Progress, Soyuz-L/Zond). Sadly, the Instrument- & Orbital Modules cannot be separated from the Descent Capsule. I would have preferred a "modular" kit similar to the Apollo CM+SM consisting of the following subassemblies: 1) Instrument Module engine section, 2) Instrument Module with detachable solar panels, 3) Descent Capsule (DC), 4) DC/Instrument Module mating ring, 5) Instrument Module, 6) forward docking port... By simply changing a few optional parts, it would then have been possible to build other Soyuz models. Revell missed a golden opportunity here; include a few optional antennas, docking adapters etc. and diehards like me would be forced to buy 5-6 kits to build all possible Soyuz configurations:-)

Conclusion & recommendations

This kit clearly isn't worth $130, but is well worth getting as the Revell/Monogram re-release as part of a Selected Subjects program. What every frustrated space modeller dreams about is somebody producing a comprehensive range of space kits. For ASTP, I would suggest replacing the 4.4cm diameter Apollo SM; Command Module exterior cone & heatshield with Block II parts! The Soyuz is good as it is, except for the lack of modularity.

Marcus Lindroos
Skyttegatan 20A
98137 Kiruna,Sweden