Space Shuttle Discovery

Published: July 9th, 2015     
Product Image
Box Art
Reviewed by: 
Jim Pearsall, IPMS# 2209
Scale: 1/144
Company: Dragon Models
Price: $57.00
Product / Stock #: DRA11004

The Space Shuttle (actual name "Space Transportation System) was a reusable manned low Earth orbit vehicle.  It consisted of the space plane which went into orbit and glided back to Earth, two Solid Rocket Boosters and the expendable fuel tank. 

Shuttles were operated by NASA from 1981 to 2011, flying a total of 135 missions. 

The missions ranged from launching satellites and interplanetary probes to delivering components for the International Space Station, and later delivering supplies and crew for the ISS.

There were originally 5 shuttles built, Enterprise, which had no orbital capability, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and Atlantis.  After Challenger was destroyed, Endeavour was built. 

The Kit

Dragon's kit of Discovery can be built as a "cutaway", using the clear parts to show the interiors, or as a standard display model.  This model is also available in Dragon kit DRA 14705, which includes the 747 used to transport the shuttle from the landing area at Edwards AFB to the Kennedy Space Center.  

Assembly 

I decided that I wanted the display model, so I began the normal assembly, and prepared to paint everything.  The first steps are to assemble the cargo bay and the fuselage sides, then put the fuselage and the wing tops onto the bottom wing.  The control surfaces are to be trapped between the top and bottom wing parts.  I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the engineering that went into the fuselage and wings.  Everything fit cleanly and tightly with no gaps and no trimming needed, except for making very sure that all sprue connections were cleaned up completely. 

There was one spot where filling was necessary, the 4 holes in the bottom of the wing assembly.  This is where the connecting support for the 747 mounts.  Not needed on this project.  This is also where I knocked one of the control surfaces off the wing.  Later I knocked the other one off.  They snap into place, but I wound up gluing them on. 

The next step is to assemble the payloads and the cockpit.  Here is where I ran into my first problem with the instructions.  There's no part number indicated for the cockpit interior.  Also there's no color information for the cockpit or the payloads.  I figured it out, but..... 

Next was the engine mounts.  This fit fine.  I left the main rocket engine nozzles off to allow painting.  The cargo bay doors are supposed to mount here, but I couldn't get them to fit very well.  They may be designed to be moveable, but like the control surfaces, they wound up being glued in place, partly open to show the payloads. 

Then comes the final assembly of the crew area and nose section.  This then mounts to the front of the cargo bay.  It took a fair amount of test fitting, cutting sanding, and retesting, with some adult language thrown in, but I got the fit right.  I'm pretty sure that the problem was that I didn't get the rear bulkhead of the crew area and the front of the cargo bay perfectly parallel.  This kit demands exact assembly.  

Last main step is the assembly of the vertical stabilizer and rudder and to attach them to the rear of the fuselage.  

Painting 

I masked the crew compartment windows, and also the little round windows in the side doors.  I used 1/144 MiG-15 wheel masks for the round windows.  Then I painted the entire model gloss white.  Then I masked for the black areas.  The bottom was really easy, it's all black, but I had trouble figuring out where the masks went for the black areas for the nose, the wings and the vertical stabilizer.  Part of this is that the instructions for this were 6 inches by 7 inches.  About 1/300.  Once I got the black painted, I did the leading edge of the wings.  The color callout is for RLM 02.  Worked fine for me.  

A coat of clear gloss (I still have a bottle of Future) and I was ready for decals.  

Decals 

This was another of those parts where Dragon made me happy.  The decals are by Cartograf, and they're excellent.  Maybe better than that, even.  The markings went on very nicely, I had a lot less than my usual decal problems.  The tiles fit the parts very well, except for two places.  I'm not sure whether I was supposed to put the tiles (decal 21) on before or after the black on the front of the Orbital Maneuvering System pods, just below the vertical stabilizer.  I put the tiles on second, and then covered the gray rectangles with a black Sharpie.  

Finishing Touches 

I always wait until the decals are done to put on small parts like antennas, landing gear, tail guns, etc.  because I tend to break the small stuff while installing decals.  In this case all I needed to do was put on the landing gear.  Painting the wheels was difficult, as the painting instructions give no color info.  Fortunately the box top photo does. 

The gear legs and wheels fit together and installed marvelously, like just about everything else in the kit.  I had no problems with the gear doors, except to make sure that I cleaned up the edges sufficiently.  

Overall Evaluation

Definitely recommended.  This is a good quality, well engineered kit.  The fit is outstanding, and the build has very few "gotcha" moments.  The instructions are OK, except for a few places where part numbers were omitted.  If you're going to build this kit, get photos of Discovery and use that as your painting and decal information. 

Thanks to Dragon USA for the fine model, and to IPMS USA for the opportunity to build something a little different from my usual projects.

 

  • Box back
    Box back
  • Clear sprue
    Clear sprue
  • Decals
    Decals
  • Cockpit
    Cockpit
  • Shuttle wings
    Shuttle wings
  • Cargo bay
    Cargo bay
  • Ready to paint
    Ready to paint
  • Painted
    Painted
  • Ready for decals
    Ready for decals
  • Left
    Left
  • Right
    Right
  • Top
    Top
  • Front
    Front
  • Aft
    Aft
  • Marking Guide
    Marking Guide