2001: A Starship Modeler Scale Odyssey

Starship Modeler: The Hardware of
"2001: A Space Odyssey"

By Rob Caswell, with the generous help of Phil Sterett.
Additional thanks to Scott Alexander (aka "Captain Cardboard"), Scott Lowther (Part Time Models) , Pat Sklenar, and Denis Troussard.

Kubrick's vision for the year 2001 holds up reasonably well, considering its 1960's perspective. This is due, in no small part, to the dedication and passion that hardware designers Fred Ordway and Harry Lange brought to the film. These craft remain some of the most plausible created for sci-fi cinema. The craftsmanship of the models was also ground breaking. They were some of the first movie models to use small parts from plastic kits to detail and texture - a practice that's since become a standard.

The study of 2001's studio models is just that: a study. Kubrick had a penchant for destroying his props after production. His goal was to make sure that things like spacecraft were not later reused in low budget sci-fi flicks, thus cheapening his original work. He even destroyed the plans used to create the vehicles and sets. While an artistically admirable goal, it left us with the barest scattering of 2001 movie artifacts.

In the absence of real models, careful research is required in order to piece together the details of these landmark movie spacecraft. The most obvious and readily available source for reference is the film, itself. However there are some other images out there - out takes, promo shots, etc.

Our goal with this page is to try to assemble as many of those resources as possible. We've gone back to periodicals released in the 60's, pictures from original program books, and more. We also share our information and observations on the various craft in the sections below.

Probably the best printed source of 2001 reference is the book Filming the Future, by Piers Bizony. We have avoided including pictures that are redundant to that volume, unless we had a significantly superior reproduction of an image.

Do you have any other unique 2001 photos or information? If so and you're willing to have them posted here, please contact Rob. Our goal is to make this the Web's most complete 2001 resource for sci-fi modelers. To do that we could use your help.

Satellites | Orion III | Space Station 5 | Aries IB | Moonbus | Discovery | Pods | Spacesuits
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Image 1: (26K B&W) A back lit satellite in orbit. While this image has been widely reproduced, it appears to be out take footage.

Image 2: (76K Color) This is perhaps the most widely reproduced satellite image, showing a roughly cylindrical craft heading towards the sun rising over the limb of the Earth. Scanned from the British program book.

Image 3: (39K B&W) This is the first satellite seen in the film. This image is not as some we've seen. Scanned from Agel's "Making of Kubrick's 2001".

Image 4: (39K Color) This is the second satellite seen in the film. We believe this was conceived as "Bomb #1 - American", though details differ a little between this and the original concept sketch. This may be a picture of the source photo used to create the animation, as it's the same angle that appears in the film. This is a screen capture from the Criterion laser disc.

Image 5: (41K Color) The same bomb as above, but a zoomed in detail picture of the "conning tower". Note what appears to be a Maltese cross on the body. It's unclear as to where that is a functional detail, such as an RCS thruster, or whether this model was supposed to represent something from the modern German arsenal. Screen capture from Criterion laser disc.

The orbital craft seen as we make the leap from the Dawn of Man to contemporary times are supposed to be weapons platforms carrying nuclear devices, though the movie does not make this clear. Several different designs were featured in the film, before the focus shifts to the ascending Orion III.

All of these were still images moved across the screen (and zoomed in and out) to provide the illusion of animation. You may note, while watching the film, that you never see any details shift due to parallax.


"Here are some stills from the 2001 DVD showing the four nukes as Soviet, US, French, German and Chinese in that order. If you look closely at the first satellite in the film you see a US air-force insignia (you can just make the insignia out in on the tower). . The second is German; you can clearly see the German flag here. So, that is a Maltese cross you see there. The third satellite is French as can be seen from the French air force insignia here. The last satellite is Chinese with a red star and bar. The image here just shows this under the "cannons" at the back of the nuke. Thus the nuke that was cut from the film is Soviet, probably because the US nuke matched up better to the flying bone at the end of the Dawn of Man sequence."
--- Steven S. Pietrobon

  orion III

Orion III

Image 1: (50K Color) A shot from the starboard side-rear as the Orion III reaches for orbit. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 2: (40K B&W) A shot from inside Space Station 5 as the Orion III approaches. The craft is closer than we see it get in the movie. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 3: (48K B&W) Side view of Space Station 5 with the Orion III approaching. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 4: (47K Color) A three-quarter front view of the Orion III, clearly showing the "open" nose. Some have referred to this opening as an "intake". I think it's more likely that it's a retro rocket. This image is not rare, but it's unusual to see it reproduced in color. This is not footage from the current version. It could be out take material, or it may be a composite made from a model lighting test. Scanned from the June 1968 issue of Popular Science.

Image 5: (28K B&W) The same picture as above, but in grayscale. The details are better in this image. Scanned from "The Making of Kubrick's 2001".

Image 6: (59K Color) Back view of the Orion III as it heads for Space Station 5. The Moon hovers in the background. Reproduced from Kalmbach's "Famous Spaceships of Fact and Fantasy"

Image 7: (71K Color) Back view of the Orion III approaching Space Station 5. This is almost certainly a composite of various images. Reproduced from the MGM DVD release of "2001".

Image 8: (71K Color) A unique view from the front and above, as the Orion III climbs towards Space Station 5. The nose "intake" is clearly seen in this shot. Sources indicate that this is likely to be from the footage edited out by theaters (under Kubrick's direction) shortly after the film's opening. That footage supposedly included much more of the Orion III's approach sequence. Scanned from Cinefantastique magazine, June 1994.

2001 was one of the first films to feature "product placement", such as the Pan Am livery adorning the Orion III space clipper, the Bell Telephone Video Phone, or the American Express Card carried by Heywood Floyd. However, unlike many modern films where such product usage is painfully commercial, 2001's usage lent an edge of reality unseen in previous sci-fi films.

The studio model for the Orion III was reported to be about 36" (Bizony's "Filming the Future" and Agel's "The Making of Kubrick's 2001"). Fred Ordway wrote, in his "2001" article for "Spaceflight", that the Orion was designed to have drop-tanks (semi-SSTO) and burn conventional cryogenic fuel. In one of the concept sketches by Lange, the aft end broke away as a booster (see Bizony).

  space station 5


Image 1: (49K Color) The Orion III heads towards Space Station 5 in Earth orbit. Scanned from the June 1968 issue of Popular Science.

Image 2: (17K B&W) A head on view of Space Station 5. Possibly a shot from a lighting test.

Image 3: (46K B&W) An early concept painting of the twin-wheel space station, done by Richard McKenna. Note that the hub carries the markings for SS-1 (Space Station One). This was later changed since the thinking was that there would be multiple stations in orbit by 1999. Captured from the Criterion laser disc.

Image 4: (41K B&W) An even earlier concept painting by Richard McKenna, using the single ring station design. Note the Orion III in the lower part of image. Its details did not drastically change from this early concept stage. Screen captured from the Criterion Collection laser disc.

This design traces its lineage back to the wheeled space stations proposed by Werner von Braun, albeit with a crisper aesthetic sense. The studio model was reported to be eight feet wide (Bizony) or six feet wide (Agel), and stuffed with tiny lights behind the windows. Due to it's large size and spidery structure, the model always seemed in danger of breaking apart.

  aries Ib

Aries IB

Image 1: (52K B&W) The view of the front of the Aries as it descends to the lunar surface, below. This is the only view in the film that clearly shows the dark gray or black anti-glare panels emanating out from the passenger deck windows. Those are not shadows, as there's nothing in that area that would logically cast such shadows. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 2: (49K Color) The view from the bottom of the Aries as it extends it's landing gear. This photo was small and the resulting scan is a little grainy. Scanned from the June 1968 issue of Popular Science.

Image 3: (954K Color) Side view of the Aries as it touches down on the Clavius Base landing pad. This is an excellent hi-res scan taken from a German lobby card for the movie. Note the detail in landing gear - particularly the shocks on the back part.

Image 4: (79K B&W) With the lunar horizon in the background, Aries descends with landing legs extended.

Image 5: (177K B&W) A good hi-res scan of the Aries in "the Trench" - the underground hanger of Clavius Base.

Image 6: (60K B&W) While taken from a similar low angle as the excellent photo in Bizony, this image shows the other side of the craft (rotated 180 degrees on the vertical axis). Note the support rod is on the far side of the craft. Captured from the Criterion laser disc.

Image 7: (73K B&W) A close-up from the above picture, focusing in on one of the landing gear humps, one of the engines, and an RCS quadrant. From the Criterion laser disc.

Image 8: (68K B&W) Another close up of Image 6. This one is looking squarely at the four main engines. From the Criterion laser disc.

Image 9: (35K B&W) A concept painting of the Aries IB decelerating towards the moon. This appears to be close to the final concept. A Criterion Collection capture.

(The following DVD captures courtesy Marco Scheloske)

Image 10: Passenger compartment, overall (color)

Image 11: Looking towards the passenger windows (color)

Image 12: Interior, by open elevator door (color)

Image 13: Window seat, with viewscreen (color)

Image 14: Cockpit (in red light) (color)

Image 15: Looking over the pilots' shoulders (color)

Image 16: Passenger compartment again (color)

Image 17: The door to the zero-G toilet (color)

Image 18: Exterior, underside (color)

This beautifully utilitarian design finds its roots in the Apollo program's LEM studies, underway as 2001 was being filmed. The model featured a mounting bracket in one of the 'RCS positions'. There are varying reports of this model's size, though Scott Alexander has determined the model was about 30" in diameter (based on a long train of logic and detective work).

Like the Orion III, this shuttle was apparently commercially operated by Pan Am.



Image 1: (120K B&W) A reasonably clear, head-on shot of the Moonbus, with the crew clearly visible in the cockpit. Scanned from the picture section of Clarke's original novel.

Image 2: (44K B&W) This lighting test shot of the Moonbus is an excellent and telling resource. It's the best image for clearly showing the inset windows of the cockpit and passenger areas. Note the glint off the bend in the cockpit window. It also clearly shows the forward maneuvering thruster and the exhaust smudge it leaves on the side of the bus. This thruster port is missing from the Aurora kit. Another interesting revelation is the anti-glare coating on the passenger window "sills". Capture from Criterion's excellent laser disc.

Image 3: (46K B&W) A concept sketch of the Moonbus. Note the tracks on the landing gear - an idea that was ultimately dropped. Also note the inset windows. A screen capture from the Criterion disc.

Image 4: (48K B&W) Effects master, Doug Trumbull, watches from the sidelines during the filming of the Moonbus landing sequence. Scanned from Cinefantastique, June 1994.

One of only two subjects made into kit form by Aurora, this model is one of the most sought after sci-fi scale model collectibles. While an excellent kit, even by modern standards, it seems to be the source of a bit of 2001 mythology. The kit feature conformal widows over the cockpit and passenger compartments. Such streamlining is not needed in the airless Lunar environment and seems incongruous given the meticulous aerospace logic applied in all the other designs. No photographic evidence supports that conformal windows were ever there. They aren't in preproduction drawings or lighting test shots. No photo or preproduction sketch shows the conformal windows modeled by Aurora. If you think you saw them, look again, closely. The photographic record shows that the windows are inset like that of Space:1999's Eagle.

Agel states that the Moonbus studio model was two feet long. The action seen in the Moonbus windows was reportedly accomplished via rear projection.

Mastermodels of the UK built the filming miniature. There's a picture of it on their site, in the Gallery.



Image 1: (106K Color) The classic view from the front of Discovery as it launches a pod. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 2: (76K Color) Side view of the Command Sphere as a Pod is launched. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 3: (10K B&W) A small picture showing a long side view of the Discovery model on the set. Probably the 15' model.

Image 4: (10K B&W) Another small image showing one of the proof-of-concept models for an earlier design of the Discovery. Note the radiator fins at the rear of the craft.

Image 5: (114K Color) A large, clear image of the rear of Discovery, showing much of the surface detail of the drive section. Scanned from Fantastic Films magazine.

Image 6: (130K Color) A Pod rises up over the Discovery's command sphere. Seen from just starboard of the ship's main antenna array. Scanned from the June 1994 Cinefantastique.

new.gifImage 7: (139K Color) This is a Discovery cockpit interior shot. The camera is looking back between the two command couches at Bowman, standing in the connecting passage in his flight suit. It's interesting to note the offset support structure of the command couch backs.

Certainly the ship most identified with the film is the U.S.S. Discovery (XD-1). Two models were used to show this ship. A 54' model with a 6' command sphere was used for detail shots, while a smaller 15' model was used for long shots (though it's likely the actual dimension was 13.5', due to the mechanics of scaling the drawings). With models of such immense size, it's no wonder the resulting footage looked so realistic.

The stated design concept was a 700' long vehicle using a nuclear propulsion system. However this length seems to have changed during implementation. Using the thirteen inch EVA Pod as a known scale reference (1/6 scale), then the 54 foot model scales out to be 324 feet long.

The design went through several stages, ranging from using the Orion nuclear (bomb) pulse drive to featuring large radiator fins for cooling the nuclear drive. The finned designs were eventually abandoned since they didn't want the ship to appear "winged".

  eva pods


Image 1: (120K Color) Possibly a promotional picture, this is a front view of the Pod in the Bay. A determined and/or perturbed Dave Bowman can be seen through the front window. Scan from the Japanese program book.

Image 2: (110K Color) Bowman and Poole have a discussion in the Pod Bay. From the Japanese program book.

Image 3: (93K Color) Close up of the Pod manipulator arms opening Discovery's emergency airlock. From the Japanese program book.

Image 4: (70K B&W) Poole heads away from the back of the pod. This may be as Poole makes his way to the Discovery's antenna. The upper surfaces of the Pod can be seen in this shot. Scanned from the Japanese program book.

Image 5: (89K B&W) A similar angle on the Pod as in image 4, this view is slightly better lit. Poole is still held in the manipulator claws. Scan from Agel's "Making of Kubrick's 2001".

Image 6: (89K B&W) A cool, nicely composed, and seldom seen image of Bowman returning to the pod bay after removing the "defective" AE35 unit, as seen from HAL's console view.

Discovery carried three EVA Pods in the Command Sphere. Imaginatively designated "A", "B", and "C", they were nicknamed by the crew as Anna, Betty, and Clara (a fact that's only brought out in the novel). The Pods existed as both 1:1 props and as a scale model, 13" in diameter (according to Agel).

The Pods featured a large, ribbed thruster bell in the base. This is demonstrated most clearly in one of Bob McCall's promo paintings. If you look at the film very carefully, you can see some of the thruster detail in one or two shots.

  space suits


Image 1: (42K Color) Close up of Bowman as he disconnects HAL. He wears a mix and match Discovery suit, using the helmet off the green back-up suit in the emergency airlock. It appears black in this photo. Note the plug in modules on the back of the helmet.

Image 2: (66K Color) Inside Space Station 5, a suited astronaut (wearing what appears to be the same design as the lunar suits) carries a Playboy magazine, while a Pan Am stewardess clings to his arm and looks up, concerned. This is either an out take or an odd casual set shot. Reproduced from the Japanese program book.

Image 3: (170K Color) Six astronauts file into the TMA-1 excavation pit. This view is from above as they reach the bottom of the ramp. From the Japanese program book.

Image 4: (191K Color) Poole enters Discovery's Parts Bay. While stills from this sequence are not uncommon, this is material that was ultimately cut from the film. This image provides an excellent, full-length shot of the Discovery suit. Scan from the Japanese program book.

Image 5: (173K Color) Fully suited, Poole monitors Bowman's EVA from the Discovery's Command Deck. In the film, Poole is without a helmet during this sequence, making this most likely an image from an out take or unused material. A cropped version of this image is found in Bizony.

Image 6: (161K Color) Wearing his complete suit, Bowman strides into the Pod Bay. The maneuvering thrusters at the bottom of the PLSS are clearly seen. The blue back-up suit is seen in the foreground. Reproduced from the MGM DVD liner notes.

Image 7: (44K Color) The patch worn on the space suits of Clavius Base personnel. Captured from the Criterion laser disc.

Image 8: (22K Color) An amazing find from the Lycos image archive, this is another view from the Playboy scene (Image 2). This is more of a long shot from the front, as the astronaut leafs through the magazine while the stewardess coyly looks on.

Image 9: (165K Color) A seldom seen shot of Bowman squeezing through the Equipment Bay door from the Pod Bay. The ladder (used for camera tracking) can be clearly seen on the floor.

Image 10: (99K Color) Another 2001 shot of Bowman in the Pod Bay. This is a nice wide-angle shot with the one remaining Pod in the background.

Two types of space suits appeared in the film: one for lunar ops, the other for deep space ops. The main differences between the two types are colors (the lunar suits are all silver with white helmets, while Discovery's deep space suits are all one color and appear to be custom fitted to the specific crew members) and backpacks (the deep space suits feature a small thruster at the bottom of the PLSS).

Lange's helmet design is unquestionably distinctive and was supposedly influenced by the caps he often wore. Panels at the rear of the helmets were designed to be modular, mission-specific "memory packs". By varying the packs carried, the astronaut could customize the type of data he/she received from their environment. The memory packs were controlled by the push buttons on the left sleeve of the suit.

2001 is ©1968 Turner Entertainment Co. and 2010 is ©1984 Turner Entertainment Co., all rights reserved. This page is best viewed by a system carrying the 'Twentieth Century MT' font. Please direct comments, questions, corrections, and picked nits to the Starship Modeler staff.

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