Okay, so… admittedly that’s potentially a clickbait of a post title. But I’m having fun with the titles for the individual posts for this one, and I’ve chose to do some of this build out of order with regards to the steps in the instructions. Especially in this latest build session.

Now, I’ll understand if it’s not obvious what I did that was skipping around in the instructions, because it looks like a perfect stopping point midway through the build, right? Well, that’s exactly why I did this a little different. I didn’t think I would be able to get to a good stopping point in one session if I followed the instructions as is.

So what did I do? I stayed in order to finish Steps 20 through 24, which was building out the four ExPRESS Logistics Carrier (ELC 1 through 4) and another External Stowage Platform (ESP 3). Then I jumped all the way forward to Step 29, where the bulk of the truss assembly begins. Why, you ask? Well, all of those first five steps from this build session are not attached to anything until you get to this step. And everything in Steps 25-28 (the rest of the American managed station components) are not attached until the same step where the main truss assembly is attached, where it’s attached after the truss. So, in this way, I could get to a completely connected together build result by the end of a slightly extended build session. And, as an added bonus, it now sits on the stand like it is supposed to sit on it!

As for what makes up the section I keep calling the main truss assembly, let’s go over that (since I’m doing me some learning about this space station as I go through the build). I’ll try to make this brief. The core beam of the truss, from starboard (left end when viewed from front) to port (right), is composed of the following Integrated Truss Structures (ITS): S3, S1, S0, P1, and P3. The S and P in those designations, unsurprisingly, stand for Starboard and Port. But where are S2 and P2, you might wonder? Well, those were planned to incorporate thrusters for maintaining orbit/altitude, but were cancelled in the end, thanks to the Russian side of the space station being capable of doing that for the whole thing.

Of course, there are a lot of things attached to the truss assembly, so let’s talk about that. Attached to the top (or Zenith) of the S4 ITS is ELC 2 and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), on the bottom (or Nadir) is ESP 3 and ELC 4. Flipping to the opposite end, ELC 1 is attached to the lower side of S3, while ELC 3 is attached on it’s upper side. Inward of both ends are some truly impressive forms attached to the back of ITS S1 and P1. And no, those are not solar panels, like you might think. Those are the thermal radiators for the External Active Thermal Control System. They bleed off excess heat energy into space, via the emission of infra-red light. Sounds crazy, but science is cool like that.

Coming towards the center, spanning across the top of the S1 and S0 ITS, is what I believe to be the Canadarm 1. Farther towards the center, on the front of S0, we find are four small boxes. These are the four Main Bus Switch Units (MBSU) that route power from the solar arrays into the space station. Finally, it is on the bottom of the S0 ITS that the connection to the space-station proper is made, affixed to the Destiny US Lab, which itself connects to the Unity node at it’s back. Of course, it also connects to more forward of that, but I haven’t built any of that yet. Wow, that was a lot of components to cover! Now on to the build review…

And what a build session this was! All of the ELC and ESP work to begin with (steps 20-24) was slow going, but fairly simple work. Lots and lots of teeny tiny pieces that you need to make sure not to mix up. Which I managed to not do for the most part. You know, except for the very first step. I formed the two pairs of boxes (parts49 and 50) at the same time, and then grabbed one of the larger boxes and immediately secured it in a spot where it was supposed to be the smaller box. Had to take it back apart and resecure it. Go me!

From that point forward, I pre-formed all of the individual “greeblies” for each rectangle and placed them on the instruction bubble for the specific part. Per module, that is. I didn’t pre-form across all modules, and then assemble all modules after that. That would be asking for disaster. Anyways, beyond making sure you don’t mix up the greeblies, there is one more thing to contend with: all your tabs have to be folded flat. Otherwise you won’t be closing up those modules correctly. I wanted my greeblies to be secured tight, though, so I did an AnimateOrange special: I twisted the tabs about 45 degrees and then folded them flat. This works great here because it also prevents a lot of “stacked” folded tabs that leave the connection loose (you know, where one tab folds down onto another tabs that’s already folded). Also… I put drops of UV-glue on the backs of most of it, then straighted it up, and cured it so that they would look as straight as possible. Glue is not necessary, but it sure does help sometimes!

Moving forward from there, we jump to the formation of the truss, which is kinda awkward. I mean, it’s big, it’s long, and narrow, and there are some really long folds along it’s length. Thankfully, Metal Earth has never given up on improving the build experience, and that means that there are relief cuts in the folds, not just perforation holes across the whole thing. That being said, shaping the hexagonal length of this part is interesting – it’s not a regular hexagon, so it kinda throws you off. Luckily, you can use part 109 or 114 (the end-cap / junction with outer truss segments yet to be built) to help you judge the shape… mostly. I say mostly, because the way that some of the ELC and ESP components attach to the truss will help you find the right angles as well. But if you do use part 109 or 114, make sure you line it up right.

Moving right along, we come to the radiators. These things intimidated me quite a bit. Mostly because it made me think of the seat of the beach buggy, where you bend some sections of a part one way, while “simultaneously” behind adjacent parts another, and the geometry is such that it should work and hold itself in that shape. The folds in the beach buggy were so stiff that it made executing that operation incredibly frustrating. Turns out, I was not trusting the folks at Fascinations enough. The instructions have you fold it all one way to begin with (common zig-zag front-to-back) and then invert the folds of the narrow strips, which are not stiff at all. That’s not to say that it was without challenge at all, of course. You’re still working in incredibly tight confines and it’s not easy (dare I say impossible?) to get everything lined up and formed close to the same way. I tried for perfection, but gave up so that I didn’t break the folds. Perfection is unrealistic in this situation.

I did find that inverting the angles of the support bars was made easier by focusing on twisting the segments that are attached (by tiny strips) to the larger panels first. All three on each side of each accordion. Then I would go back and invert the segments of support bars that I had missed. And then the tweaking would begin. I also found that my hobby knife, used carefully, make a good tool to help make some of the folds more clean / sharp.

That’s it for the most challenging parts of this build session. Though I do have to admit that I accidentally did one more thing out of order, but I think it was the right choice, at least for me. I attached the front of the truss to the back section before attaching the full truss assembly (plus the Destiny lab) to the rest of the station. The instructions suggest attaching the front of the truss after joining the truss back / radiators / Destiny to the rest of the station. With my track record of mangling models during handling, I feel like that would have been disastrous. Which, I guess, I should say is the actual last challenge of this build session – not mangling it as you assemble everything together.

Clocking in at a little under three hours, this was my longest build session on the ISS so far, despite my efforts to keep it short by building it out of order. Probably due to my fussing over those radiators so much. Nevertheless, it’s all available to watch, in silent real-time, right here: