A nicely detailed scale model of Boeing's newest launch vehicle, with 18" parachute recovery.
Quality: The kit arrived missing the parachute, but that was quickly resolved via an e-mail to Apogee. Other than that, the kit arrived in good shape. Most of the parts in this kit are of excellent quality. The nose cones and nozzles for the strap-on boosters were well formed, and include an extra of each in case you screw one up during assembly. There is a very nice enclosure on the evolution of the Delta 3 which includes scale data and color scheme drawings, as well as eight B&W photos of the Delta 3.
My only two negative comments about the parts are 1) that the corrugated wrap could stand to be about 1/8" longer (allowing extra to be trimmed for a better fit), and made of slightly thicker styrene (perhaps cast instead of vacuum-formed); and 2) there should be a length of elastic shock cord included to supplement the 24" of Kevlar® in the kit (the nose cone w/ clay is a bit massive to not have any shock absorption in the shock cord). This second item is the one modification I made the the stock kit.
Instructions: Even though this is a Skill Level 5 kit, I followed the instructions exactly as written in order to better evaluate them. The instructions start out well, follow a logical order of assembly and include photos to illustrate the construction steps. Out of 8 pages of instructions, I got through the first 4 1/2 pages (strap-ons, transition and motor mount) before I ran into some snags. Toward the bottom of page 5 there is an instruction to paint the core tube before attaching it to the rest of the rocket. This instruction appears one step *after* the core tube is attached to the transition section. This made the subsequent painting a bit of a pain. One other complaint about the instructions is that there are two models used in the photos that illustrate the steps - one painted and one not. Unfortunately, upon close examination (especially on page 6) they appear to have been built slightly different from one another, which renders these pictures almost worthless as building guides (you don't know which one to follow).
Ease of Build: This is a complex kit in the large number of parts, and filling the spirals on all the BT-10.5 is a little tedious, but that's to be expected in kit of this skill level. There are a number of "gotcha's" to be aware of in building this kit. The first is the construction step order mentioned above. Then, on page six: when gluing the large body tube to the transition coupler, take care to use a low-tack glue and seat the tube in one continuous motion. This is a *very* large glue joint, and started to grab on me before it was completely seated. If I were to build this model again, I would attach the large tube to the transition *before* attaching the transition to the core tube. This would allow easier axial alignment of the two tubes as well, not to mention that the large tube and transition could then be painted together as a sub-assembly. On page 7, sand the base of the nose cone square before gluing it to the shoulder. I didn't notice the rough edge on my nose cone until afterwards when I was test-fitting the nose into the body. When finished, the model weighed in at a hefty 67 grams, vs. the 50 grams spec'ed in the catalog, even though I used the recommended glues and build reasonably light.
Finishing this model was not that bad. If same-color sub-assemblies are painted before being joined (as recommended in the instructions), there is only one color band which needs to be masked. I had a little trouble finding the mustard yellow and blue-green colors in spray paint. I finally located decent color matches in Wal-Mart's own "Color Place" brand. The yellow is Our Best Rust Control #21035, "Equipment Yellow", and the blue-green is Indoor-Outdoor Fashion Satin #22118, "Real Teal". The decals are very nice water slides that match very nicely to the one photo of the Delta 3 I was able to find on-line. When applying the decals, follow the photo in the instructions for placement. My only suggestion to Apogee here would be to include the numbers 1-9 for the base of the strap-on rockets.
Construction Rating: 3 out of 5
I've only been able to fly this model once. The recommended engines are: A8-3 or A6-2 (first flight), B6-4, C5-3, C6-3, C10-5, D10-5. My flight was on an A8-3, and due to the finished weight being 34% over spec was way under-powered. I have no doubt, though, that this model will be a show-stopper on the B6-4 and up. The parachute has ample room in the forward tube, and I used cellulose wadding over one square of Estes wadding. The motor is friction fit (I used a masking tape wrap). The flight itself was nice and straight, just not very high on the A8-3. Deployment was well past apogee, but thanks to the elastic I added to the shock cord, the deployment in freefall caused no damage.
After some additional flights on other motors, I feel that my initial experience on the A8-3 was not typical.
As mentioned before, I added a 12"-18" length of elastic to the Kevlar® shock cord provided with the kit for some "give". The Kevlar® runs down the inside the body tubes and ties around the engine mount behind the first centering ring. The 18" parachute, while advertised as pre-assembled, was only pre-cut and required assembly. I thought the included shroud lines were too short, and replaced them with my own from button & carpet thread. The recovery itself was a little fast and low, and one fin with the strap-ons on either side popped their glue joints and needed repair.
Flight Rating: 3 out of 5
This is a great looking kit with the potential for winning scale competition, but if you follow the directions explicitly, you may find a few surprises. It may be better to use your previous building experience as a guide. Add a length of elastic to the supplied Kevlar® shock cord to cushion deployment shock. Check the finished weight of your model, and use a B6-4 for first flight. All in all, I was a little disappointed in this kit, given my expectations and pre-conceptions based on my numerous and wonderful previous experiences with Apogee Components' products.
This kit reminded me of three things: 1) The importance of reading through (and understanding) the instructions prior to building; 2) To test fit all assemblies before gluing; and 3) That some white glues have serious grab.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5