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  1. Launch Tower & Space Shuttle with Booster Rockets Revell 1:144 Following the demise of the Saturn/Apollo programme, which ended with the Apollo/Soyuz Test Program (ASTP) in 1975, NASA moved on to a new era in space flight; that of the Shuttle Programme. The intention was to design, build and launch a manned vehicle that could carry a crew and cargo payload into low earth orbit, deliver its cargo, and then return to earth, land like an aircraft, and be reusable for future launches. The requirements for the Shuttle were to be that, unlike the Saturn/Apollo system which progressively discarded everything on the way to the Moon and return only with the manned crew capsule; the whole transporter vehicle (the Orbiter) would need to launch, deliver, re-enter and land safely back on earth in a controlled fashion. Two solid booster rockets (SRB's) would also be recoverable for refurbishment and re-used which left the external tank (ET) as the only disposable component. Although the Launch Vehicle would be a completely new design, NASA wanted to minimise the work and costs required for the launch pads (LC-39A and LC-39B) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. Methods used were to modify the existing Crawler/Transporter (CT) and Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) hardware. The MLP would need the existing single flame trench opening to be filled in and the dismantling of the 36 storey Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT). The Shuttle system, comprising of the Orbiter, two Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB's) and a large External tank (ET) required multiple flame trenches to be cut/built into the refurbished MLP's and the finished design provided for 3 rectangular cut outs to be incorporated for this purpose. The launch pad foundations did not require a great deal of re-work as the existing approachways, flame channels/trenches etc., could be re-used in their present condition; however the supporting structures did require a totally new support system for the Shuttle and was quite different from the Saturn/Apollo technology. In the Apollo era, the manned capsule was sat atop a massive 330ft (100m) Saturn launch vehicle and needed an even taller support tower in the form of the LUT to service it ready for launch. The new Shuttle was only 122ft (37m) but required access to virtually the whole length of the Orbiter and the access to all this had to be in a clinically clean environment. The solution was to have a two part launch tower consisting of a rigid tower; called the Fixed Service Structure - (FSS) which was mainly the vertical tower gantry, and a movable structure; titled the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) which swung around to totally encompass the Shuttle when it arrived at LC-39 from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). NASA was also able to recycle the top twelve of the original platform levels from the LUT and this became the new FSS Tower thereby reducing time and costs in some of the design and build of the new launch tower facility. The Kit(s) This is a re-release of the kit which was first seen in the shops in 1986. There are three major components to be found in the box; the tower complex, which comprises the tower (FSS/RSS); the transporters (CT/MLP) and the Shuttle stack (Orbiter, ET & SRB's) and altogether makes quite a complex construction. Let's get some important scaling issues dealt with at the outset. Although the box art description quotes 1:144 scale, only the Shuttle stack is to this scale. The RSS/FSS scales out at 1:168, which is nearer the international 'N scale' and the CT/MLP is a demure 1:200 scale. The aim of this review is to highlight the contents of the box, its component sprues and materials used etc. As this is a re-issue of an almost 30 year old production it is not the intention of this review to go into any long-winded and irrelevant history of how and why these differing scales came to be brought together or used all those years ago. Launch Tower Gantry Complex First thing that we cannot ignore is that it is a big kit, the box it is supplied in measures a massive 30in x 20 x 5in (75 x 51 x 13cm) and contains 27 large sprues. The breakdown is generally 19 sprues for the FSS, RSS, CT and MLP and the remaining 8 are for the Shuttle, ET and SRB's. That's an impressive 292 individual parts, broken down to 194 for the tower complex and 98 for the Shuttle. How the model should look can be seen by the close-up photo details which are posted in the Walkaround Section titled: NASA Kennedy Space Centre Launch Pad 39A. As already mentioned, the tower complex consists of two main components; the FSS and the RSS and these together can be built as a stand-alone model, just as the launch pad has stood for most of it's 33 years - the various shuttles only occupied the pads collectively for a total of approximately 10% of that time. These sprues are quite large and the first section in the instructions refer to the FSS, comprising the tower gantry, platforms and central lift shaft. There are two sets of sprues for the tower gantry below and these provide the four sides plus the base platform and lift machinery house. Another pair of sprues of similar size, as seen below, are those for the internal lift shaft unit. They also have parts for the gantry supports and lighting posts. There are two different sprues containing the platforms, one platform for each level on the FSS; one sprue has six standard platforms whilst the second has six different platforms each depicting various items of equipment in position. The standard shapes are for levels 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 9; with the remainder being specific to levels 4, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12 The gantry supports also have the vertical support arm for the RSS and this is a tubular section where the RSS is attached to the FSS and is the point where it rotates towards the CT, MLP and Shuttle stack in order to protect the shuttle whilst being prepared for launch. There is so much framework, gantry and crane elements that the kit looks just like one big mesh of girders and tubing and this can be seen in the sprue below which holds much of the overhead crane unit and other tower items. The overhead crane is a free-rotating unit and the kit has a spindle to pass through locating holes in the base of the crane and the top of the gantry platform; much like the facility used to connect free-rotating propellers to the fuselage of a model aircraft. Next we come to the sprues for the RSS. This is the large moving element of the Launch Tower which travels on a curved piece of railway track and brings the RSS up to the Orbiter. The main elements for this are the large cylindrical housing unit, the box-like holding frame, and the rotating gantry framework. Shuttle Stack and launch platform The shuttle stack comprises the main re-usable spacecraft, known as the Orbiter; two solid fuel booster rockets (SRB's) and a large external tank (ET), the latter items detach from the orbiter once their fuels are expended with the SRB's returning to earth under controlled methods whilst the ET is destroyed during its re-entry fall to earth. The Shuttle Stack is also from the original 1986 kit offering, although possibly with updated decals, and shows signs of age with flash evident on many of the sprue parts. Four main sprues contain the Orbiter and payload components with a further five having the combined Mobile Launch Platform and Crawler Transport (MLP/CT); SRB's and the ET. All the parts are produced in a glossy white plastic and these appear to show more flash and mould-wear than the Launch Tower components. Each of the first two sprues hold one half of the orbiter fuselage, two pieces to which form the upper and lower planes of the wing, the trap-door type hatches for the payload compartment, and the engine exhaust mounts etc. To assist in the positioning of components and colour schemes, close-in detail photos can be found in the Walkaround section titled Rockwell International Space Shuttle/Orbiter. The next sprue has the Orbiter payload bay base and side frames, the outer hatch deployment covers, and their inner linings. There is also an astronaut with a length of umbilical cabling so that it can be positioned in a space-walk setting. The fourth sprue has the payload assembly which consists of two satellites and their holding components within the payload bay. A choice here can be that they are positioned inside the Orbiter together; or just one, or neither depending on the mission scenario chosen to be built. The remaining kit parts are for the Canada arm and this can be assembled in various positions such as folded, short pickup (V shaped) or fully extended and, possibly even with one of the satellite units attached, ready for deployment. The next sets of sprues hold the external fuel supply units; the ET and SRB's, with their connecting components for attachment to the Orbiter and the MLP/CT for the whole Shuttle stack to sit on. In the top left corner of the sprue below can be seen two items, with two little lugs projecting below them. These are stabilising stands to hold the model of the Orbiter vertical on the MLP base but these items would not be found on the real Shuttle stack or launcher unit. The tractor units, of which there are eight, are the components for the CT and are attached directly underneath the MLP to become a single integral unit in the model. In reality they would be two separate vehicle and launch pad components. Interestingly, the pieces for the Tail Service Masts below appear to be at the correct scale of 1:144 even though they attached to the 1:1200 MLP. Probably as they sit either side of the Shuttle stack and give the setup a better perspective. Decals This kit comes with a comprehensive set of decals, with different sized markings - for Atlantis, Enterprise, Discovery and Endeavour pre-1998 and also for Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour post-1998. Additional to those, there are various ational and commercial emblems; such as "USA" and "NASA" motif's, again depending on which era of the Shuttle program you may wish to depict. Other decal items consist of colour demarcations for the ET, SRB's, MLP and the gantry. A point to note here is, on a quick check of decal placement, that a few of the decal numbers for some components do not appear to match those on the instruction sheet. I would recommend checking with the instructions, and any available photos, for clarity. Conclusion This is a very large and complex looking kit and should be a great build, especially for those who enjoy detailing the insides of models; such as the insides of tank turrets, ship superstructures or aircraft cockpits etc. The difference here is that the whole thing won't then be lost to the eye, (when normally a fuselage, turret or hull is assembled) when it is all closed everything inside! There is some minor flash present on some of the sprues but nothing of great issue, especially for moulds which are almost 30 years old. One recommendation I would put forward is to pre-paint as much of the inner workings of the launch tower gantry, especially the lift shaft area and the insides of the gantry units as I suspect that it will be quite difficult to get a paintbrush into some of the deeper recesses once the kit is built. I understand that this kit has been on some modeller's waiting lists for a long time; as seen by some on-line sales forums having had the original listed, with some quite elevated prices, over the last decade or so and therefore I suspect that this will be a popular model to get and build. The most popular setting for the completed model would to represent the short period just prior to the launch of a Shuttle, however the Launch Tower itself stood without the shuttle for approx. 90% of it's existence and that is how most people would have seen it for real; therefore I would recommend perhaps to also consider an alternative diorama - of the tower in a stand-alone setting, as the photo at the top of this review depicts. Revell model kits are available from all good toy and model retailers. For further information visit or
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