Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Ware Starclipper

The Lockheed Starclipper was an SSTO (Single-Stage-To-Orbit) design that got kicked around a bit around 1966. It amounted to a lifting body spacecraft equipped with a pair of very large fuel tanks, "drop tanks" in effect, that were so large the vehicle actually nestled between them. The rocket engines in the lifting body drew fuel from the drop tanks, which were jettisoned when empty and went into the ocean while the spacecraft itself went into orbit. Though it was never built, some aspects of its design were incorporated in later proposals, and as far as I'm concerned it has a nice shape.
The New Ware 1/144th scale kit is a marvel. The parts are extremely well cast in hard cream-colored resin. Try as I might I couldn't find a single air bubble, and the only surface flaw I could find was a vaguely circular rumpus around the nose gear bay on the underside of the lifting body, though the flaw is minor and appears to be highly vulnerable to sandpaper. As can be seen, the kit consists of a half-dozen major parts and maybe a dozen smaller parts. Pour stubs are minimal and the external tanks, for example, fit together without any joint preparation at all. Panel lines are recessed, and mainly outline the payload bay, the gear bays, and the canopy. The panel lines are so finely drawn that they might well disappear under a coat of paint; I propose to scribe them a hair deeper before painting.
A small decal sheet provides some "UNITED STATES" and "NASA" markings, but no meatballs or wurms. The instructions are a single sheet of paper, with the assembly sequence on one side and the painting instructions on the other. As is nearly standard with US spacecraft, the paint scheme is mostly white, with black on the high-heat areas of the spacecraft, grey on the highest-heat portions of the spacecraft, and black roll markings on the external tanks. There are no metal parts or transparencies, and frankly none are required. The only thing I could say that isn't in the kit that I'm likely to miss would be a decal for the windshield.
I'm looking forward to finishing this kit. Further bulletins as events warrant.