Rho Models Zenit Launch Vehicle

Completed model Manufacturer: Rho Models
Scale: 1:144
Price: $20.00 US

The liquid-fueled Zenit launch vehicle, introduced in 1985, was the first completely new Soviet rocket in 20 years. It uses liquid oxygen and kerosene and can deliver more than 30,000 pounds into low earth orbit at 51.6 degrees inclination.

Rho Models' 1:144 Zenit is the only kit to date of this booster. The first and second stages are white PVC pipe. The interstage truss, nose cone, tail piece, main engines, steering rockets and bottom plug are all made from resin. A flat and a half-round plastic strip make up fuel pipes that run along the side of the Zenit. (ed. note: the kit has been changed to include a photoetched interstage truss, along with resin first and second stages. See the Zenit 2 Quick Look entry for details.

Assembly is simple: It took me literally just a few minutes to put together the kit's six major parts. The resin castings are of average quality, with an acceptable (at least, to me!) number of pinholes that had to be filled. The nose cone/PVC joint on the second stage needed considerable sanding to look OK.

The tail piece that mounts to the bottom plug is much smaller in diameter than the rest of the booster. I can't tell from my meager references whether that's a design error or the way it is on the real Zenit. Although not as detailed as a photoetched piece, I think the resin interstage looks fine in this scale when painted. (Rho Models now provides a photoetched truss.) I added the plastic fuel lines and scratchbuilt a beveled rectangular structure on the front of the second stage. This structure, whatever it is, shows in a Zenit schematic in Peter Alway's book, "Rockets of the World."

In the course of discussing the model via e-mail with Julius DeRoo (who *is* Rho Models), he told me about a new reference photo that showed a structure left out of the kit. On the side of the booster away from the fuel pipes, yet another line (for ordinance?) runs up the side of the vehicle. It has rectangular bends that extend part way up the first stage booster. I scratchbuilt the line from .035 plastic rod, putting the bends in through trial-and-error until the whole thing looked OK. (Julius also includes *this* part with new kits).

I painted the model with Testor's Primer White, then polished it to a semi-gloss. The Zenit did not come with decals, so the most difficult part for me was applying the fluorescent red stripes and checks to the second stage. I used some very thin, stick-on material normally used for RC model aircraft. I applied the checks in individual squares. I cut and applied the long stripes using the illustration in the instructions as a template. I finshed up by painting and mounting the four main engine bells. Thy needed some cleanup, but fit squarely to the bottom structure.

Not many photos of the Zenit have been published, but Rho Models' kit looks right on with those I've seen. I highly recommend this kit; it builds into an appealing model of an unusual subject. You should have some experience working with resin and super glue to build it successfully, though.

Les Dorr, Jr.