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Horizon Models Mercury-Atlas

RELATED TOPICS: REAL SPACECRAFT | SPACECRAFT
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Following logically from Horizon’s Mercury capsule set, the Atlas booster kit comes with the same Mercury capsule sprue (just one this time) plus all the parts for the booster and a simple stand. Also included on the sprues are three different warheads – whaaaat? Yep, the boosters for NASA’s Mercury and Gemini manned space programs were developed from ballistic missiles. The Redstones that launched the suborbital Mercury missions were U.S. Army ballistic missiles; the Atlas used for the orbital Mercury launches was for U.S. Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); and the Gemini missions went into orbit on Air Force Titan ICBM boosters.

(Read my Workbench Review on building the capsule in the March 2016 FSM.)

The straightforward build of the booster begins with identical body halves. But pay attention when drilling out attachment holes, as each half is different.

Most of the rest of the assembly is easy, but follow the instructions carefully to replicate the proper add-ons; the boosters varied in detail. You may want to add some of the external pipes after paint and decals.

Leave off the photo-etched (PE) retro-rocket restraining strap to make attaching the finished capsule to the booster easier. Also note that the PE liquid oxygen vent (Part PE4) that is attached to the spacecraft adapter is mislabeled as PE8.

I wasn’t happy with the way the pair of little stabilizing rockets (A4) attach to each side of the booster. Holes have to be bored out from the corners of parts A2, and it was difficult to do cleanly.

I painted my Atlas with flat aluminum for the bottom of the booster, Alclad polished aluminum over gloss black for the rest. I applied Bare-Metal Foil ultrabright chrome to the alternating ring panels at the top of the missile.

Horizon’s terrific decals went on without trouble. I liked the big one-piece decals that hold a host of small stencils for the external equipment pods. Note the different numbers and styles of “United States” for the different boosters.

The one-piece stand simply presses into the middle booster nozzle and you’re go for launch.

Not counting the capsule, I spent 17 hours on the booster, most of that painting and decaling. I sure hope a Gemini-Titan is on Horizon’s horizon!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2016 issue.

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