1/48 Mercury Redstone - MR3

The Mercury Redstone has always been on my to-do-list…It seems to be a simple, straight forward build. I have started on this project several times in the past, but I soon quit every time because I could not roll the rather narrow tube needed neatly enough.  I tried once more, using the same technique as with the Titan. The main difference is, that with the Redstone there is nothing to cover the joint that runs along the entire tube. I got some pretty nice results - so let's light this candle!. 

I am using Dave Weeks'  drawings available  from  Realspace Models and also Rick Sternbach's Mercury Redstone decals available from Spacemodel Systems. For the spacecraft itself, I am using Realspace Models' Mercury Detail Set. This actually provides everything you need if the capsule is to sit on top of a booster. You only have to build the tower for the lanch escape rockets.

First up is the fuel and oxidizer tank. The pictures show it already completed. The fill and drain connections were made from pieces of tube inserted into drilled holes and the weld seems were scribed once the tank section had been painted gloss white. This gave the lines a slightly raised appearance. Where the tank section meets the propulsion section, small bolts are added. The photos show the details along with the great decals including all the stencils for drains etc. After the decals were applied, the section was coated with clear flat. The black band around the tank section silvered badly. Or perhaps I had not cleaned off the decal setting solution well enough before the flat coat.  - I have to correct that with some black paint.

The instrument section is a pretty straightforward build also. I decided to make the access hatches etc. from 0.1mm styrene, perhaps they should have been scribed into the section instead. The decal set supplies a large decal for the checkerboard pattern. But when I measured the instrument section I could see that it was not going to fit properly. I think the decals are produced to be used on a modified version on an old Jupiter-kit, so that might explain it. Also, I had absolutely no confidence that I would be able to handle such a large decal and wrap it nicely around the instrument section... So I went to work with masking tape and paintbrush. I am happy with the result.

To resemble Alan Shepard's rocket, the instrument section still needs to be "weathered" - the real rocket had some of its paint scraped or flaked off. I cannot find more than a couple of high-res colour photos, and they are all from the same angle. So some of the flaking showing the chromate yellow layer of paint is conjecture. The antennaes however, are clearly yellow..

The propulsion section is a bit more tricky. The fins themselves are straightforward (a combination of sheet styrene and balsa), but the area where they meet the rocket is difficult. The area is curved to give a smooth joint and I tried several ways to reproduce this bit. None worked, so I decided to glue on straight pieces of styrene. The edges of these pieces have to be filled and sanded - and as you can see in the photos, this got quite messy. But with some patience it can be sanded nicely. Once the section is sprayed gloss white, all imperfections will show up and I will probably have to correct quite a few gaps and glitches.

After some filling, sanding and an extra layer of white I am satisfied. I can finally mask and paint the black roll pattern. The rudders that will go on the fins receive the same treatment and are ready to be installed. Quite a few tiny decals go on the propulsion section making this part look really good! 


The booster adapter was sanded from a disc of balsa. I think this is the easiest way to make it fit both the booster and the capsule. The three umbilical fairings were made by laminating small strips of 0.3mm styrene on the capsule - this way the curved shape is built up and they can be removed again before cutting them to shape.

Next up were decals for the capsule. I painted the capsule again, this time a light layer of gloss black to minimize the risk of silvering. With good use of setting solution, the decals went down very well - even into the tiny corrugations of the shingles.

The launch escape tower was built from wire and styrene tubes.

The next pictures show work on the details of the propulsion section. Looking back, I think I should have made the parts on the bottom of the section in one piece along with the fins. It took too much testing to make them fit to the fins and even when painted I think they look too ad hoc, not neat enough. Also shown are the carbon vanes and the vane guides. 



All the sections have been glued together, the model is complete - only took me about a month!