By John Lester - images & text © 2000
The Soyuz spacecraft has been the workhorse of the Soviet/Russian manned space program since Soyuz 1 flew in 1967. Originally intended as the vehicle to train cosmonauts prior to manned lunar landings (much as Gemini and the early Apollo missions), it has since served as scientific test platform, "ambassador" (during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project), and most importantly as a ferry bringing crews to and from the Salyut and Mir space stations. There have been myriad variants over the years, involving the number of crew carried and different sub-systems. These include the Soyuz T and TM manned ferries and the unmanned Progress and Progress M cargo/tanker versions.
There have been a small number of Soyuz kits from maibnstream manufacturers over the years. Of these, Revell's 1/96 ASTP kit (recently reissued by Revell-Monogram) was probably the best and easiest to find, though it suffered numerous detail inaccuracies. Heller has entered the fray this year with a separate boxing of the Soyuz/Progress that come with their 1/125 scale Mir kit.What You Get
There's not much to this kit at all - actually, I should say these kits, as you get parts for one Progress and one Soyuz in each box. I assume these are supposed to represent the latest generations of Progress M and Soyuz TM variants - more on that in a minute.
Ten parts on two identical white sprue trees make up the spacecraft; the remainder, molded in black, are for the bases. The pieces are pretty much flash free, with no sinkholes or other nasties where they would be easily seen. Detail, what there is of it, is mostly acceptable - finely molded and crisp. The solar panels are far too thick, but you get that with every plastic spacecraft kit. The general shape of each kit appears correct, but both craft are missing a lot of details, such as antennas, view ports, maneuvering thrusters, docking mechanisms, coolant conduits .... you get the picture.
Instructions are on one foldout sheet, printed font and back. The exploded drawings are clear enough - though with this number of parts, assembly should be almost a no-brainer. No painting guide is provided, though decal placement instructions are. I guess one is supposed to use the box art as a guide.
One small sheet of decals completes the package. It's typical Heller quality: poorly registered and very matte. The solar array decals are so badly registered as to be unusable, in fact. Decals are included for nameplates on the stands.Assembly & Finish
Test fitting the parts shows very good fit among the major assemblies (fuselage halves and solar panels). I'd be surprised if even I need any putty on these. The antennas and fustrum base are less good, but still better than any ERTL kit ever made. I will undoubtedly replace them with film negative or the thinnest styrene I can find. I'll also be scratchbuilding some simple antennas and other details, just to make it look better. For those wanting a more faithful replica of the real ships, I highly recommend Mike Mackowski's Space in Miniature #4: Soviet Space Craft monograph. It contains all the info you'll need to build any of the Soyuz variants (except the proposed Lunar mission ones). Also invaluable will be color pictures from the NASA Space Shuttle site, taken during various missions to Mir.Conclusions
I got these kits for $3 from Model Expo, and I consider it money well spent, despite the detail inaccuracies. They both provide goodbases for superdetailing - and even with the detailing, can be built over a wekend. How can you beat that?
Many thanks to my wallet for providing the review sample. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 2000+ readers a day? Contact us!
This page copyright © 2000 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 26 May 2000.