Monday, August 8, 2016


THE RUSSIAN SOYUZ SPACECRAFT dates back to the 1960s, but a continual design evolution means that it still flies successfully today. This 1:48 scale kit of the Soyuz TMA comes from the Netherlands-based company, LVM Studios.

Mat Irvine: The LVM Studios Soyuz TMA is a detailed kit of the spacecraft that delivers crews to the International Space Station. The TMA has three main sections, a forward Orbital Module, central Descent Module - which returns intact with the crew - and rear Equipment Module.

Compared to a conventional injection styrene model, construction techniques to build the Soyuz TMA are completely different, and one thing you won’t need is styrene cement. Instead, superglue is the main cementing agent, though two-part epoxy can be used for larger components, and a clear adhesive may be useful for very small parts.

The box (above) features a photo-style design. The bottom (below) shows more details.

A page (below) from the comprehensive plans

Resin is used for parts such as the umbilical connecting the Service Module, the periscope, docking cone, and rendezvous antennas.

Very small parts - including the docking ring and antenna details - are mostly photo-etch components, as are the two solar arrays. This means that the arrays are around scale thickness, whereas injection styrene versions are usually too thick. The brass is about right colour for the rear of the arrays, the solar cells themselves being provided in the kit as decals. The panel frames can be sprayed white, as can the entire front areas, which then give the decals a good base on which to attach.

The component layout shows resin parts (grey) photo-etch frets (brass) and two decal sheets. The circular resin part and metal rod (top and bottom left) assemble together to make the support stand.

Large areas, such as where the three modules join, need sanding flat. Smaller parts are supplied on their own resin runners, and need carefully removing. I recommend a razor saw, with a small file or fine sanding paper to remove traces of unwanted plastic. Note that sanding resin parts produces dust, which can be an irritant. So if you are at all susceptible, carry out sanding in a well-ventilated area, and/or wear a mask.

Sanding the three main modules (below) so they can be cemented together. A razor saw is useful for cutting the main plugs.

Photo-etch parts are used for each solar panel array (below). Both sides - solar panel and carrier frame - are sprayed white, then blue solar cell decals are applied. The two sides are then superglued together. You can see how they look in the pictures of the finished model.

Assembling the rendezvous antennas (below, left to right). Resin runner holding the two dishes, support structure next to scalpel, final assembly. A photo-etch part can then fit into the recess on the dish.

The TMA crewed modules (Orbital and Descent) are covered with insulation blankets, the texture of which is built into the surface of the resin parts. The colour of these is a satin dark green, though the instructions suggest metal-grey, an inaccuracy that comes from the odd lighting effects that can result when the Soyuz TMA is photographed in orbit. Humbrol 163 dark green satin is a close match, and I brushed it on after spraying the white sections with Humbrol 22 gloss white. Note that a light coat will allow this to dry as a satin finish, rather than high gloss.

A comprehensive decal sheet is provided, not only for the solar cells, but also for the four nameplates found on the Orbital Module. These include СОЮЗ (Soyuz or ‘Union’, in Cyrillic) and a Russian flag, plus a logo each for Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency) and RKK Energia, which builds the craft.

Here the model is displayed (above, below) with the active solar cells underneath, so allowing the logos on the Orbital Module to be visible from above.

A more usual display orientation (above, below) is with the solar cells uppermost and the logos underneath - though of course, there is no ‘up’ or ‘down’ in space!

Completed model (below) with sturdy LVM Studios box at right. Below that, the model is shown with instructions and reference photos of a Soyuz in orbit.

Overall, it’s fair to say that the LVM Studios Soyuz TMA is not a kit for beginners, as it needs certain skills for successful completion. However, for advanced model makers, or those willing to learn, the finished result is well worth the effort.

About the Soyuz TMA
The TMA is presently the only spacecraft capable of this, even if, compared to the old Space Shuttle, it is quite basic in many ways. For example, digital computers have only recently replaced the original analog systems. But the Russians tend to work on the principle of ‘Eto on ne slomalsya, ne ispravit' yeye’ (If it ain’t broke, don’t mend it) and Soyuz has performed reliably over many years.

Shown (below) are details and pictures of the real thing.

About LVM Studios
LVM Studios is run by Leon van Munster of The Netherlands. He initially specialised in making highly detailed, primarily photo-etch (PE) after-market sets to dress up existing space kits. But LVM now also makes complex kits using mostly ‘garage kit’ techniques and materials, which are basically anything, except injection styrene.

Scale stats
LVM Studios: Soyuz TMA spacecraft
Note: The model can be finished as a TMA (2003-12) or TMA-M (2010-12)
Scale: 1:48
Parts: resin 46, photo-etch 29, decals
Assembled length: 150 mm (6 in)
Assembled solar panel span: 223 mm (8.8 in)
Manufacturer’s ref: 12002

Review kit courtesy Leon van Munster, LVM Studios (Sorry it’s been a while coming, Leon).