In-box preview of RealSpace's shuttle engine bells.

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RealSpace's Shuttle Main Engines in 1/144 and 1/72

By John Lester - images & text © 1999

Parts: 6 resin (1/144); 5 resin (1/72)
Instructions: One page, illustration & text
Decals: None (none needed).
Detail: 10 - very crisp and clean.
Accuracy: 10 - compared to every picture I can find of the SSME/OMS, these parts look right.
Molding Quality: 9 - one air bubble in each set - easily fixed, however.
MSRP: $10 USD (1/144); $20 USD (1/72) + shipping.
Overall Rating: 9.5 - any Shuttle kit on the market now, in either scale, will benefit greatly from these parts.

[72d scale]

[144th Box]

[1/72 comparison]

^ There really is no comparison between the RealSpace parts and most - if not all - kit parts. Here, a RealSpace SSME (left) sits next to the Monogram 1/72 scale Orbiter kit SSME. Note how the RealSpace piping is raised from the nozzle exterior surface.

[1/144 parts]

^ Detail and molding quality is similar between the 1/72 and 1/144 (shown here) RealSpace parts. Note the one, lone air bubble. That's 43,162 _less_ than on my Spacemam Thunderbolt .... and yes, I counted.


^Inside the 1/144 nozzles.

If the Shuttle is not the most popular factual space subject for manufcturers, I'd be surprised. Almost since the moment Enterprise rolled out in 1976, kit makers from Academy to Tamiya have been fascinated with the Space Shuttle, producing kits in every scale between 1/72 and 1/350.

Despite all the attention, no one kit has ever completely captured the vehicle or its boosters accurately. To my knowledge, none of the kits accurately replicates the cargo bay, for instance, and most simplify the cabin and engines to the point where more than just the purists are dissatisfied.

In the US, the most widely available Shuttle kits are in 1/72 and 1/144 scale. Both Revell and Monogram (and the combined company, since their merger) have kits in these scales one can find almost anywhere. All these kits suffer from over-simplified details, the most noticeable of which outside the payload section are the engines (usually). RealSpace Models now comes to the rescue with aftermarket SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) and OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) engine nozzles, in both 1/72 and 1/144 scale.

RealSpace's parts come securely packed in their usual robust cardboard box. Each set has the same one-page instruction sheet, which is really more than adequate. All the modeler need do is wash the parts to remove any mold release, and cut them from the pour stubs before attaching in place of the kit items.

These parts capture the look of the exterior coolant piping, the general nozzle shape, and the surface "ridges" much better than any kit parts I've compared them to. Both sets have a small amount of flash, which is paper thin and easily removed with a hobby knife. Both sets also had one nozzle with a pit from an air bubble, but both flaws are easily reached with putty and sandpaper, so should be no problem to fix.


It's not often I consider an after-market part a "must-have" item .... but after seing the difference between RealSpace's parts and what came with the kits I have in the "to-build" pile, I'll make an exception. Though a little pricey (the 1/72 set is almost what you'll pay for the Monogram kit to attach them to), you'll need very little work (much less than you'll do in the payload bay!) to make an eye-popping difference on your model. Now, if someone could just come up with a good method for replicating 33,000 HRSI tiles, plus the AFRSI quilts ...... Highly recommended!

Thanks to RealSpace Models for the review samples. Stay tuned for upcoming build-up reviews of the Monogram 1/72 "Shuttle Orbiter" and Revell 1/144 "Shuttle with Boosters", where these parts will be used to good effect.

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