1/144 Sputnik launcher kits

Today I received 2 kits of the Sputnik rocket made by APEX. This kit was also out in a Vostok configuration but both are not available now because APEX does no longer exist. The Vostok kit however should be re-released soon by another manufacturer.

About 3 years ago when I started building space models (I'm really ashamed about what I've done to several nice kits ...) I built the Soyuz/Vostok/Luna kit made by AIRFIX. Now it was time to compare the two kits. The AIRFIX kit includes all needed pieces for Vostok, Soyuz or Luna. You get a Soyuz and a Vostok Spacecraft in 1/144, both very simplified of course. While the 3rd stage + payload for the Vostok version seem to be ok, the pieces for Soyuz are much too simple. Airfix provides the same engine for the Vostok and the Soyuz 3rd stage which is incorrect (correct: Soyuz - 4 nozzles, Vostok - 1). The original 3rd stage is one cylinder - AIRFIX modeled it as 2 cylinder pieces with a cone section between them. That would have been good for the payload section but AIRFIX modeled this as one cylinder. However - if you want to build a Soyuz model it's better to scratch build your own Soyuz upper stage or get one of the conversion sets by Rho Models or RealSpace Models (I'm not sure if they'll work with the AIRFIX kit because they were made for the APEX kit which has about the correct diameter).

The APEX Sputnik model includes the pieces for the first 2 stages plus Sputnik 1 (not Sputnik 2 as shown on the box) as a payload. You also get the adapter between 2nd and 3rd stage which is nice if you want to use it as a base kit for Soyuz or Vostok. The only problem is that you have an "open" 2nd stage. This should be easy to correct.

I haven't started building the APEX kit yet but holding some of the pieces together you can figure out that the part fit is really good. With the AIRFIX kit you will have some problems. Because the two halves of the 4 boosters of the first stage don't fit very well you will destroy most of the fine raised lines if you fill the seams with putty and sand them smooth. APEX has done a better job in this case, not only because the parts fit better, but also because the surface detail is recessed (as it should be - as far as I know) which can be restored easily when destroyed. The original Sputnik rocket had 4 tubes on the second stage leading from the control section to the top of each booster. The AIRFIX kit has them, the APEX kit doesn't. The APEX kit on the other hand has the tunnel for the electric cable (I guess that's what it is) on the 2nd stage. Both can be added easily.

Now for scale correctness. The table shows the length and diameter of the Sputnik rocket as it should be in 1/144 scale compared to the values of the 2 kits.

(all values in cm)
1st stage (boosters)
2nd stage (without adapter)
diameter (upper end)

It seems that APEX is scaled more correctly. Note that the 2nd stage of the AIRFIX kit has the control section of the Vostok configuration at the upper end. So if you want to compare it to the Sputnik rocket the length of the 2nd stage in the AIRFIX kit is only 17.2 cm. The length of the control section is 1.2 cm for Vostok and 0.7 cm for Soyuz in 1/144. That means if you want to upgrade the APEX kit to a Soyuz model it is "self correcting". The AIRFIX instructions are more detailed than those from APEX. But since both kits are very simple a spacecraft fan should be able to build both without any instruction sheet. Decals are only included in the AIRFIX kit. You should use them only if you are going to model one of the rockets shown on different exhibitions, the flying vehicles didn't have those markings (CCCP, BOCTOK, ...) After all I'd say I prefer the APEX kit because it has less pieces while being detailed more correctly.

Andi Wustner
Wed, 19 Mar 97

Rob Schorry added photos and details in March 2020

The kit has the sprues to build only Sputnik 1. Apparently the molds were made to mold Vostok, Lunik, and Soyuz but the 'Sputnik' kit does not include the sprue trees for the upper stages.

Painting instructions say to paint the majority of the rocket a European green.

Matt Irvine's research shows Humbol #27 gray instead as lighting and old film stock mischaracterized the 'colour.'

Matt Irvine wrote:

These launchers were grey, the 'green' notion comes from a combination of lighting and Soviet film stock of the time.

The 'white' is when the rocket is filled with fuel and is frost/ice build-up, so only really applicable if you are building just-about-pre-launch..

I give the full painting details, in the Airfix kit, reissued 2012, but of course that's the Airfix, not the Apex.

After a lot of testing, I came to the conclusion that Humbrol #27 is the nearest match to the grey - convenient as it's also one available as a spray.

Overall the Apex is more accurate, especially with the four outer boosters, but the Airfix is far better moulded!

The Apex kits were issued under about four other names and I think (???) they are still around as Eastern Express.

If you go to www.scalemodelnews.com and type Airfix Vostok in the search box, you'll get more details on the paint.