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Glencoe 1/48 Jupiter C Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2005 Manufacturer Glencoe
Subject Jupiter C Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5103 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $9.98

First Look


In the late 1950s, Dr. Werner von Braun was pushing his dream to reach into space. Working at the US Army's ballistic missile labs, he proposed a design named Orbiter that would put a satellite into orbit. The concept lost out to the US Navy's Vanguard program, but von Braun continued to develop the concept under a program called Jupiter. This program was officially designed as an intermediate range ballistic missile.

When the Russians put Sputnik into orbit in 1957, the space race was kicked into high gear. When the Navy's Vanguard launch vehicle exploded in flight, the Army and von Braun brought forth Juno - a Jupiter C with an Explorer I satellite payload.

The launch was successful, the Jupiter pushed the payload to 5,520 mph. At separation, the upper stage containing a variety of solid-fuel rocket motors kicked in and pushed the satellite up to an orbital velocity of 17,680 mph - in 24 seconds!! Now THAT is acceleration!

The Glencoe 1/48 Jupiter C kit has been around for a while. My example was updated in 1990. Nevertheless, this is the only kit of the first US launch vehicle to put a satellite into orbit, second only to the Russian Sputnik program. Based on the Army's Redstone missile, this kit provides a few interesting opportunities as well.

The kit is made from white injection-molded styrene and is presented on four parts trees, plus a few addition parts. Construction is very simple, with a little dry-fitting and preparation to ensure a snug fit. I built one of these ten years ago and it was literally a quick build.

The kit comes with the basic Jupiter C launch vehicle, the Explorer I payload, a launch stand, and a pair of figures to put the size of this vehicle into perspective - it wasn't that large.

A sheet of Scale-Master decals are included to replicate the photo orientation stripes and markings of the Explorer I launch vehicle. I don't know what markings differences there were for the successful Explorer III and IV launches.

One reason this kit is of interest to me and the reason I recently picked up three of these kits is its roots with Redstone. I will be building another Jupiter C straight from the box to replace my earlier model damaged in a move. The other two will get bashed together to replicate the Redstone launch vehicle used to put the first American astronauts into space on the first two manned Mercury flights. I just happen to have one of the Revell re-releases of the 1/48 Mercury and Gemini capsule kits. There are some interesting articles online for this project, including this one from David Weeks.

I remember watching the first moon landing on television when I was in high school and have been fascinated with spaceflight long before that. While the space modeling market is not the hottest ticket for the industry (and that is a shame), there are numerous subjects available in styrene and even more if you cross over to cardboard and look at the Estes line of flying and static rocket kits.

This important first step into space for the US is nicely captured by Glencoe, and with such a low retail price, you ought to grab a few and capture some history!

My sincere thanks to Glencoe Models for this review sample!