Modelling Yuri’s World: No.2

gagarin vostok rocket model – first man in spaceKorolev’s Baby, the R-7, ‘Semyorka’ Rocket

For some of us, words and pictures are not enough, we like to see things in three dimensions. Few of us though, have the space or the cash to collect real aircraft, rockets, statues, buildings and vehicles. Instead, we turn to models. In this series of posts, we look at some of the kits and ready made models that re-create Yuri’s world in miniature:

The R-7 ‘Semiorka’ Rocket

Of course, the biggest, and most glamorous historic object from Yuri’s world, is the rocket that put him into orbit. Korolev’s giant ‘baby’ was not just a one off, but an almost assembly line product. It was this that enabled the Soviets to achieve their stunning series of ‘firsts’ in the early stages of the space race – achievements which were really responsible for pushing the Americans into the bold decision to go to the Moon.

As a result, it is possible to find models of the R-7 in many different configurations, from its military role as an intercontinental ballistic nuclear missile, through the Sputnik launcher and on to many of the missions that followed Yuri’s ‘First Flight’.

British hobby institution Airfix were early into the space race with a 1:144 scale model of  Yuri’s ‘Vostok’ version. Just like the real rocket, this kit is still in production in slightly modified and improved form, and is probably the most easily available ‘Semyorka’ you can buy.

The Americans were not unwilling to acknowledge Soviet space triumphs in model form, with plastic kit manufacturer Revell offering a detailed model of the Vostok Orbiter module, which we will look at in a later post. As far as I know however, the American plastic kit manufacturers never produced a model of the rocket itself – unless some knowledgeable enthusiast knows of one.

For an alternative to the venerable Airfix kit, the collector will need to find the now out of production Russian ‘Apex’ model, or an example of the limited editions produced by French company Mach 2.

For those not content with rockets that just sit on a shelf, it is, believe it or not, possible to get one’s hands on a number of different flying versions of the Vostok. American hobby companies have tended to lead the way with flying scale model rockets. Whatever they may have thought during the Cold War, today’s American rocket enthusiasts admire Korolev’s baby as one of the best-looking rockets ever made, and enthusiasm for the R-7, in full CCCP regalia is widespread on US model rocket internet boards.

airfix scale model kit vostok rocketSome of these flying models are fairly simple, while others are scale replicas that would not look out of place among a collection of detailed static models.

Apogee Model Rockets in the USA supply a version of German company Noris Rocketry’s version of the Vostok launcher, and in the past have also made the large and detailed Cosmodrome model available.

I am no expert on the subject, but I believe that the popular American flying model rocket company Estes produced a Vostok in the 1960’s, examples of which can still occasionally be found.

Building and flying model rockets seems to require a certain amount of skill and experience. A beginner would probably be well advised to start with simple ‘freelance’ and semi-scale rockets before moving on to a complex scale model like the R-7. Having said that, the thrill of watching your own Vostok launch must be tremendous – as many hobbyists’ Youtube videos seem to confirm!

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