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1/144 Scale Apex Soyuz Conversion

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I'm finally getting going on my first build of the year. I’ll be doing a conversion of the Apex Vostok kit and build it as a Soyuz rocket. The core of the build will be the Apex kit plus parts from the Airfix Vostok kit. For the Soyuz part I’ll be using the conversion set from RealSpace Models.



One of the main reasons I’m using the Airfix kit is that the Apex rocket nozzles are just simple cones with absolutely no detail on them at all. The Airfix parts aren’t perfect either, but they at least have some detail to them. This is the same thing I did when I built the Voskhod rocket three years ago.


In this photo of the main engine nozzles the Apex parts are on the right in gray and the Airfix parts are white on the right.



Here are the vernier nozzles again Apex on left and Airfix on the right. You can see that I have drilled out four of the vernier nozzles with eight more to go.



The boosters are simple three piece sub-assemblies. Below, I’ve glued the halves together and drilled the bases to accept the Airfix nozzles.



Next, I cleaned up the parts for the core stage. I drilled out the base for the Airfix nozzles like I did for the boosters. I also drilled a fifth hole in the core stage base to accept a brass tube that will be used to attach the completed model to it’s base. I created the white disk from some .020 sheet styrene. It will hold the upper end of the brass tube.



The picture below shows the brass tube being glued into one half of the core stage.



I then glued the bases on the boosters.



Then glued the two halves of the core stage together.



When that was done I glued the top of the core stage on. It has holes for the plastic interstage truss to be glued in place. Since I’ll be using the photo-etch part I’ll have to fill those holes.



Finally the core stage got the vernier fairings glued on. Those are particularly badly molded and require a fair measure of sanding and carving on their inside faces to get them to an acceptable state to be used.



Notice in the photos above the small holes drilled into the boosters and core stage above the nozzle area. Those will be used to align the cross bracing from the Airfix kit.


So far so good. More to come on the next post.

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My original plan was to use the RealSpace Models Soyuz conversion set. But when I finished the initial assembly of the rocket and started looking at the Soyuz second stage part I started to find some things that made me reconsider.


First, I noticed that one of the small nozzles on the escape rocket was missing. It looked like it might have been broken off at some point. This is a 3D printed part, but it looked like I could possibly scratch up something that might work to replace the missing nozzle, so not a big deal there. I also noticed that the main nozzles were not hollow so some careful drilling would be required here.


The main resin piece forms the second stage and the spacecraft shroud. When I started comparing the details of this part to some of my reference material I noticed that a lot of the details were either missing or incorrect. I considered removing the raised details and adding my own which would not have been overly difficult. But…then I found one detail that I couldn’t easily fix. The second stage is a cylinder with a conical section that flares out to meet the spacecraft shroud. The conical section was about twice as long as it should have been. The overall length of the stage was correct but the adapter was too long and the rocket stage was too short.


With all the inaccuracies I was finding I was in a situation where fixing all of them might as well have been a scratch build of a new stage. This is not meant to be a knock on Glenn at RealSpace Models. This kit was created back when there were few references available. Back then you did the best you could with what was available. Now we have much more reference material and can see how much off the old kits were. Be that as it may, I still needed a solution for this build. Some modelers might be OK with what is provided, but the scale critic inside my head wanted to do better.


I thought since I have a 3D printer I might as well put it to use on this project. I went to Google and started searching for some 3D models of the Soyuz rocket. I finally found one on Thingiverse. Here is a link if you are interested: Soyuz FG rocket. It had some files in Fusion 360 format which allowed me to load it directly and see what it looked like. It looked good. From what I could tell the details matched my sources pretty well. A few minor bits were missing but at this scale that would be OK.


The Fusion files were divided into three parts. Boosters, core stage, and second stage/spacecraft section. If I really wanted to, I could print a whole model from this set of files. But since I’m already well along with the Apex part of the build I decided to keep it and just print the upper section.


First, I re-scaled it to 1/144. The 3D files were 1/50 scale. I then saved it as an .stl file. This I loaded into Meshmixer and cut off the top part of the spacecraft shroud with the launch escape rocket and saved them as separate files. I then loaded them into my slicer and added some necessary supports and started the printer. Here is a screenshot of the 3D file in Fusion 360.



Five hours later, it was done and I could see what I would need to fix. I found that I needed to add some additional supports for the launch escape rocket nozzles. I also added a couple more supports for the periscope cover. I then re-sliced it and started printing again. Here is the view of the file in the slicer with supports.



This time it came out looking fine. Here is a photo of the RealSpace part and my 3D printed part.



In the above photo I have already glued the top of the shroud to the rest of the 3D printed upper stage. You can see the difference in the 3D printed part and the resin pretty well. These are oriented to the same direction, with the periscope cover pointing up and left. If I could have modified the Fusion 360 part I would have thickened the nozzles just a bit so they wouldn’t be quite so thin. It’s not that the file was locked or anything, it is just that the 3D model is quite complex and I was having a very hard time finding where to make the change. Anyway, once the part was cured they were nice and stiff and solid, but being so thin I am careful that I don’t wack them against anything.


As part of making the .stl file I was able to remove the grid fins. I didn’t want to print those on the shroud as I wasn’t sure how well they would print. Here is a photo of the top of the 3D part. You can see where I glued the parts back together. A little filler will take care of the gap. I love the details on the launch escape rocket.



Here is better view of the nozzle end. You can see just how thin those nozzles really are. The white patch on the right is a bit of filler putty. I dropped the part on the tile floor when I was removing it from the build plate and it chipped off a small bit. I was shocked that was the only damage.



Here is an overall shot from overhead of the whole section.



With that pretty well sorted, I felt I could continue the build. The only parts of the RealSpace conversion set it looks like I’ll be using war the photo-etch grid fins and the interstage truss. Oh well, it’s no different than using a whole Airfix kit for just the nozzles and booster truss.


More to come on the next post.

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  • 1 month later...

In the last post I mentioned that I’d be using the photo etch grid fins from the RealSpace kit. Well, I folded and test fitted one of the PE grid fins on the 3D part. It was a big fat no-go. It was just too big. It was too wide to fit and would have not left enough room between the grid fins. I went back to the 3D model I had found. I dug through the files and found that there was a zip file of sections that the author had already separated for printing and one of the files was a grid fin. The files were in .stl format so I loaded them in my slicer and re-scaled them to 1/144. I then added some supports and printed them. Here is a photo of the two side by side.



The features are extremely fine and thin. So like the nozzles I will need to be careful with them until I glue them to the shroud. Here is a set of four of them from the back side.



Meanwhile, I did some sanding and priming on the adapter/second stage part. I sanded down the access door above the periscope shroud. It seemed too large and was a bit thin. I replaced it with a small piece of .005 sheet stock. I then used CA to glue it to the 3D printed part. I also added some small thin raised lines that were on each side of the adapter section 180 degrees apart. I used .010 square stock which I then sanded down to a thinner profile closer to .005. You can see the changes in the picture below. I also primed the adapter section with white and the second stage with gray.



I also took time to remove the raised panel lines on the core stage and re-scribed them. Here is a photo.



There are more details to add to the core stage before it is time to cover it with primer. I now need to finally decide if I’m going to use the PE interstage grid, 3D print the interstage grid, or scratch build it. To be honest this is the thing that has been holding me up the most. I’m going to have to just get started and build.


More to come.

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  • 1 month later...

I’ve finally had time to get back to this build. Life has been a bit busy the last couple of months. In the brief times I’ve had to work on the model, I’ve tried to tackle the interstage grid. I wasn’t happy with the one that comes in the Apex kit, which has only 8 “V”s. The photoetch one that comes with the RealSpace conversion set wasn’t exactly what I wanted either. I tried using the interstage grid that is in the 3D model that I am using for the upper stage, but after re-scaling to 1/144 it is too fragile and my 3D modeling skills are not yet up to designing my own. I even tried a couple of stabs at scratch building one. Let's just say they didn't quite work out.  For those reasons, I’ve decided that I’m going to go with the photoetch interstage.



It’s not perfect. It is a bit too tall and it has only 9 “V”s where the actual rocket has 12. I did some test fitting and it looks like I can make it work. Sometimes you just have to make a compromise and move on.


Here I have attached the interstage to the first stage core.



I then glued a ring of 0.20″ rod around the base of the interstage. This will be for the ring that goes around the top of the first stage instrument section.



I’ve also fabricated the two umbilical connectors that run from the first stage to the second stage. The small gray piece next to them is from the 3D part that I was using for a pattern. The wide part is a stack of four sections of .010x.100 strip stock and then carved to the proper profile. The tails are .020x.060 strip. The long tails will be trimmed and the end lightly rounded before I add them to the model.



There are also some various boxes that are around the instrument section. The large square is a stack of four .010x.100 strip that is trimmed to a square and then the corners slightly rounded. The slightly smaller bits are .020x.040 strip that is trimmed at an angle to make a wedge type shape. The tiny squares are thin sections of .020x.020 strip stock. The short strips were not used. I decided that they were to large and instead used 3/16″ lengths of .010x.010 strip.



I also added some 0.10″ rod that runs from the booster attach points to the instrument section.



The above picture also shows the umbilical connectors and some of the above mentioned details added. Below is another picture showing this end of the 1st stage from a different rotation.



Next was to add a tunnel that runs from near the top of each booster down to near the engine compartment. It is made from a 3 15/32″ strip of .020x.040 stock. I then added a 1″ long section of .020 square stock to each side of one end of the long strip.



Here is a look at the boosters after the tunnels were added.



That gets the main parts ready for priming. That will be next along with the beginning of painting the main parts.  There is obviously some more seam line work to be done as well. More to come.

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  • 2 months later...

I finally got back to work on the Soyuz model after a bit of a delay. I began by applying primer to the second stage/spacecraft section. I used Tamiya Gray primer. After that cured I masked off everything except the lower section of the second stage and painted that area Vallejo Clear Orange. After a day of cure I applied a light coat of Matte Clear to protect the paint. Then masked off for the main part of the second stage. Here I used a can of Testors Euro I Gray. The shade is slightly darker that I would have liked but it is close. After a couple of days, I then masked for the shroud/escape tower section. Here I sprayed some Tamiya Gloss White. I also sprayed the grid fins with Tamiya White primer. I then painted the escape tower nozzles with Vallejo German Red Brown.



Meanwhile, in between all the work being done to the second stage, I primed the core stage and boosters. I then masked everything except the bottom section and painted that Vallejo Clear Orange. After that paint dried for a day or so, I masked for the silver sections. I started by spraying Alclad II Gloss Black base. When that was dry I sprayed on Alclad II Chrome.



I then masked off the orange/chrome sections and sprayed them with the Testors Euro I Gray. I also painted the small pneumatic rams that are attached to the bottom of the grid fins with Vallejo Silver.



When the grid fins dried I glued them to the spacecraft shroud. During this time I was also working on the decals for this rocket. I decided that I would model the Soyuz TMA-16M flight. This was the flight that Scott Kelly flew on to begin his full year on the ISS. Here is a picture of the spacecraft shroud with some samples cut from regular paper to check for size. It took a few iterations before I got all the decals to the sizes that looked correct.



I also took some time to add four small pins to the top of the interstage grid to position the second stage properly and also provide some extra points for glue to adhere the two stages together.



Work continues. I should have another update soon.

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Glad to see you back on this Randy! It's looking Great!


Did you say, in an earlier thread, that you used a Laser printer for your decals? If not, and you use an Inkjet, what Decal paper/film do you use?


Keep it up young fella!


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Thanks Pete,


I use an ALPS MD1300 printer.  I bought it years ago and it is no longer in production. It uses plastic ribbons to transfer the colors.  It works pretty well, I had to clean the heads recently for the first time. Now it prints clean again.  I use decal paper from TangoPapa Decals.  It is really great paper for this type of printer. His decal paper works with laser printers and ALPS printer. Unfortunately it doesn't work with inkjets. I also make sure to apply a coat of Microscale Decal Film over the decals after they are printed.  It makes them much easier to apply.


I noticed that TangoPapa also does custom work for a fee.


I should have an update soon, I'm just about done with this one.



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I’ve completed the decal work. Here is the set for Soyuz TMA-16M.



This is just a subset of the decals that I drew. I kind of went down a rabbit hole with my research on the Soyuz TMA markings. I researched as best I could all the TMA and TMA-M markings. The blue decals that go on the boosters and core actually has two different versions, so I drew them both. It appears that the early boosters were marked “TsSKB Progress” and the later ones were for “Progress Rocket Space Center” written in Cyrillic of course. The Roscosmos logo had two different versions. One with the gray circle and one without. The Energia had two versions as well. One that said PKK Energia and another that just said Energia with some small Cyrillic text above and below. Some missions had the Russian Aerospace Agency (PKA) logo, so I drew that. Before they started using the small Russian/US flags above the Energia logo there were larger flags for the flight participants. I found markings for a few other things that I have not yet drawn. For example, Space Adventures, ESA mission emblems and a few others. I finally had to stop or I wouldn’t have finished the decals I needed for this model. Here is a picture of all the Soyuz launcher decals I’ve drawn so far.



I started applying decals with the second stage/spacecraft section. In spite of some dithering on some of the decals, I think they turned out quite well.



When the decals had dried I applied some Tamiya Clear over them. When that dried I sprayed the whole stage with Tamiya Matte Clear.



I also applied the decals to the boosters and core stage and gave them the same Tamiya Clear/Matte Clear treatment.



Here is a photo of the boosters with their decals added. It was really hard to find any good photos of the booster fins. All the “in assembly” photos show that the fins are not attached. Even the rollout photos don’t show any fins attached. I found a couple of distant shots of the rocket on the pad that appear to show the fins as being silver in color. The base of each fin is fixed and part of the booster. The moveable portion is apparently installed later and is silver.



I had previously sprayed the nozzles with silver and set them aside. Now I painted the inside of the nozzles with some Tamiya Copper. What little research I’ve found appears to show the inside of the RD-107/108 (now RD-117/RD118) nozzles have a somewhat copper like color to them.



I used CA to attach them to the boosters. The holes I had previously drilled fit the pin on the Airfix nozzles nicely.



I then did the same for the core stage.



I had to do some trimming to get the Airfix vernier nozzles to fit into the core stage.



For the boosters I had to cut off just about everything above the nozzle to get them to the right length.



That completed the assembly of all the major parts. The next thing I did was to glue the booster attachment grid using the Airfix parts. I forgot to take a picture of that assembly, but it went together well just like it had when I built the Voskhod II model.


It was then time to attach the boosters to the core stage. The holes I had previously drilled in the boosters to accommodate the Airfix grid really helped in getting the boosters lined up properly. I let the CA cure for about an hour between adding each booster. When that was done I put the model on its base. This gave me a good vertical orientation to attach the second stage/spacecraft shroud. A drop of CA on each of the guide pins I had previously added and then a thin layer on the base of the second stage gave it a solid join to the interstage grid.


Here are a few pictures of the completed model on its base. First is an overall view.



Here is a bit closer view of the second stage.



Next is a closer view of the booster section.



Finally here is a bit closer view showing the grid from the Airfix kit.



For all the compromises that I made along the way, the model looks pretty good. Not contest quality, but good enough take it’s place with the Vostok and Voskhod models.


Now its time to dive back into my stash and pick something else to build.

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  • 3 months later...

Thanks guys.  The parts scavenged from the Airfix Vostok kit and the 3D printed 2nd stage and Soyuz section really helped make the model look good.  The addition of a few scratch build details always helps as well.

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  • 2 months later...

Thanks, I've got a Mach 2 Soyuz launcher in my stash that I might get to in the future.  From what I've been able to tell, It could be even more challenging than the Apex kit was.

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  • 1 year later...

Sorry to resurrect this thread, but I found the build inspirational. I happen to have an Apex Vostok, RealSpace Voskhod conversion and the Airfix kit in my stash.  One thing that’s been holding me back is a lack of good reference material. Was there anything that was of particular help to you?


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