21 January 2020

LEGO® Ideas review: 21321 International Space Station

Posted by Elspeth De Montes
The next LEGO® Ideas set to be released is 21321 International Space Station. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ISS as it has been maintaining a continuous human presence in space since November 2000. It seems apt that it is being enshrined as a LEGO Ideas set this year.

The selection of the ISS as an Ideas set was via a slightly different route as a mark of the 10 years anniversary of LEGO Ideas (originally LEGO Cuusoo). This time, the LEGO Ideas team looked back at all the submissions that had reached 10K but had not passed review, and selected four for fans to vote for to make the final decision. The ISS by by fan designer Christophe Ruge won the public vote. The new LEGO Ideas International Space Station is rated 16+, contains 864 pieces and priced at US $69.99 / CA $99.99 / DE €69.99 / FR €59.99 / UK £64.99 / DK 549DKK from LEGO stores and online from February 1st.
Let's take a look at those new elements...

In the Box

There are 6 numbered bags and one instruction booklet and NO STICKER SHEET - yay!  Much like the other Ideas sets, the instructions book contains some interesting information about the ISS and its history, plus it also it has a page about the fan designer Christophe Ruge and the history of his idea from start to final set via the public vote.

A suitably quirky, spacey image of the three LEGO Designers involved in the project can also be found - Corvin Alexander Stichert, Samuel Johnson and Graphic Designer Crystal Fontan turned the ISS fan design into a stable, LEGO approved set.

One other point that is noted in the instructions is the fact that this is the third LEGO Ideas set that is a space-related set -  although if LEGO Cuusoo sets are included 21101 Hayabusa would also be included but this set had limited availability. Some might disagree but I am not counting Peter Reid's EXO-Suit as I see this more as Sci-fi rather than the models of actual Space vehicles or people. Either way, there is clearly a thirst for more Space-related LEGO sets.

New Elements

There are no new moulds in the set, but there are quite a few elements debuting in a new colour.

3.2 Shaft W/3.2 Hole in White (6290268|23443) appears in White for the first time with four supplied in the set. I am a big fan of this element since its arrival in 10252 Volkswagen Beetle back in 2016 and now it comes in Black, White, Blue, Warm Gold, Medium Blue, Dark Red and the original colour of Medium Stone Grey/Light Bluish Grey.

Round 2x2 Tile with Hole in White (6310185|15535) appears for the first time in White - believe it or not. There are four in the set.

Cross Holes w/ Double 3.2 Shaft in White (6310183|49133) and Dark Stone Grey/Dark Bluish Grey (6310174|49133) have previously appeared in Black and Titanium Metalllic/Pearl Dark Grey. There are two White and sixteen Dark Stone Grey supplied.

T-Piece in White (6289866|4976) is a nice re-colour of this useful element for connections, joints and small builds.  White joins the other five known colours for the first time.

Brick, Round 2 x 2 x 2 Robot Body in Medium Stone Grey/Light Bluish Grey (6310181) appears for the first time. If you want to have Medium Stone Grey Droid Legs (6278503) to add to the body, you will find that they only come in one set from last year, 75240 Major Vonreg's TIE Fighter included R1-J5 who is the only source thus far.

New Printed Elements


4x6 Modified Plate in Black with ISS print (6309250) shows an image of the ISS, Earth and a sprinkling of stars with the words INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION in White below.

LEFT is in 21321 ISS and RIGHT  Millenium Falcon Cockpit from 2014
When I first saw the 2x2 Truncated Cone with Black Windows in Medium Stone Grey (6313734) I thought that I recognised it.  It is definitely a new printed element but I think I was remembering the other 2x2 Truncated Cone with Black Windows in Medium Stone Grey with the Millenium Falcon cockpit print (6059017) from 2014. 


There are two new solar panel elements and all are printed onto Earth Blue/Dark Blue elements.


First we have the 2x3 Tile with clips  with Solar Panels in Dark Blue(6309239) and there are 46 included in the set.

Next we have Flag 3X8, W/ 3.2 Shaft with Solar Panels in Dark Blue (6314969). These are printed on one side only and two are included in the set.

While on the subject of solar panels, the set also contains 64 x Flat Tile 1X4 with 'solar panel' in Earth Blue/Dark Blue (6215341) which has appeared in five previous sets, but was first seen in 21312 Women of NASA in 2017. They get their own bag, something that I was quite excited to see as it is not often that 64 attractive tiles come in their own little bag in an Ideas set.

Of Interest


Flag 3X8, W/ 3.2 Shaft in White (6284173|35252) has only appeared the promotional set 40346 LEGOLAND, a LEGOLAND exclusive set from 2019.

Flat Tile 2X2, Round, No. 1112 in Med Stone Grey (6237231) was first seen in 21319 Voltron and then later in 70423 Paranormal Intercept Bus 3000, there are three in this set.

You may remember these little NASA Astronaut statuettes (Mini Figure Trophy, No. 12 - 6199668) from the awesome 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V where they were approximately to scale.  The two Astronauts included with the ISS are the exact same, my set contained the two listed on the inventory and one spare - yay I love spare astronauts!

The Little Builds

The first thing to be built are the four mini-builds encompassing a NASA space shuttle with three mini cargo spacecrafts and two astronaut microfigures. These can be placed onto the base of the final model but I left them separate in the main image for clarity.

The shuttle in 21321 is very similar but not exactly the same as the shuttle in 21312 Women of NASA.  If you look at the final 21312 model on the Right, it is more obvious on direct comparison.

There are a couple of subtle differences that might be overlooked on first glance; the nose has an extra 1x1 Round Tile in Silver Metallic, the area below the rudder/brake is actually quite different in construction,  the addition of Roller-skate in Black (6088585|18747) and the Cockpit windscreen changing from Trans Brown/ Trans Black to Black.

The Main Build

The main build starts with the stand. This is a relatively simple build that uses a mix of Technic and system to elevate the ISS and, more importantly, allow it to be displayed on a stable stand.

I liked the little central 'seat' for the ISS as it nestles into the stand and clips on easily to the exposed studs at either end of the platform.  This allows for secure connection but the clutch is not so strong as to prevent the ISS from being lifted off the stand to spin it around your model of the Earth 16 times a day (should you wish to do this).

The main part of the ISS is the central portion which attaches to the frame and all of the various modules, communication arrays and nodes extend beyond this central start point.

The rear of the main modules will then extend from the Yellow axle that runs through the centre  thus helping to keep the model stable despite the T-shaped weight distribution. At either end, where the Orange tiles can be spotted, a Brick 2X2 W. Cup For Ball in White (6021315|92013) waits for further expansion as the ISS grows.

The various research modules, service modules with crew quarters and laboratory module are attached all with their accompanying solar panels from the start point where the yellow axle emerged. 

3.18mm connections are utilised extensively in the build.  For example, the various nodes and solar panels that extend from the central modules are built using a central 3.18mm bar with the attached elements connecting via the bar or another 3.18mm hole. They are also used for 180 degree stud reversal, a technique that I have seen used a great deal in fan creations but perhaps less so in LEGO sets.

Once the P5 and P6 Trusses are attached via ball and cup joints , the ISS began to look a little larger than I expected.

One small detail that I particularly liked was the perfect use of the Fence 1X4X1 in White (4550171|3633) to give the criss-cross texture to the trusses. You can see these in their final position in the image below.

The rear view shows all 6 larger white panels that represent the photovoltaic radiators, these are made from either the Flag 3X8, W/ 3.2 Shaft in White (6284173|35252) or plates and slopes. The P5/P6 trusses can rotate using the ball joints to allow the photovoltaic radiators to be positioned, while the two attached to the central portion can spin on their Technic pin connections.

Solar Panels

The final stage of the build is really the only repetitive part of the build - those 64 1x4 solar panel tiles were printed for a reason!  The construction of the 8 photovoltaic arrays (aka solar panels) as shown by the central completed version is relatively simple and utilises both Technic components and the 3.18mm bar connections.

Once the 8 photovoltaic arrays are in position, the main build is complete.  All ready for positioning incorrectly as I imagine those arrays will be facing the wrong direction but my knowledge of solar panel angles on the ISS is sadly lacking. The great thing is that they are definitely moveable and if someone more knowledgeable passes the model on display, it will be easy to correct!


The fan designer spent an inordinate amount of time researching to try and ensure accuracy of the model and this is reflected in the relatively similar design of the final model to his own.

The major differences are within the main central portion as this has been improved both aesthetically and in term of stability. I think the  LEGO Ideas Designers have done a great job staying true to the model that was voted for (twice) in this case.

I am pleased that there are no stickers as their presence in an Ideas set is always a bone of contention. Since there are no new moulds in an Ideas set, I would rather spend a little more for printed elements than place stickers as I am unlikely to want to keep the new element for other builds.  In this case, I am very grateful for every one of the 112 printed solar panel elements!

It is swooshable but not really a play set for the younger audience, as noted by its 16+ rating. This is a set for display and, while you can move the photovoltaic arrays and the photovoltaic radiators, I would give the shuttle to a younger LEGO fan to swoosh around while you keep your ISS in a display cabinet away from the horror of dust - a glass case with an internal vacuum would be idilic display conditions. You will need a big display though as it is measures over 7” (20cm) high, 12” (31cm) long and 19” (49cm) wide when complete.

I think a lot of adult fans will love this set, it was designed by a dedicated fan designer and has been turned into a great LEGO representation of the ISS. I can also imagine this being used as an educational tool as even the most reluctant student will become more engaged with a class when LEGO is involved.

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  1. I feel like I had been wanting the white donut tile for something, but I have no idea what. The white pneumatic T, while not something I ever desired, will probably come in useful for something (I actively chased down some black ones when they first showed up).

    The various non-ISS craft apparently represent all of the different generations of manned spacecraft that have serviced or are currently planned to service the ISS. Someone on Brickset explained them all, but the basic capsule and the "satellite" with the white fez are apparently the new SpaceX and Boeing craft that are still in testing, and the ones with the black ball joints are Soyuz capsules. I was a bit surprised to find out that there are solar panels on some of these command capsules, since the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo capsules are what I'm more familiar with.

    The fact that the solar panels are printed is nice...except now there's no way to add print to the back of the large flags. I was also hoping the new tiles would be 1x3, but then I guess they might have just made do with the existing 1x4's. As for the real solar panels, they work most efficiently when they face the sun as directly as possible. They're so much more efficient than when the sun shines at an oblique angle that it nets more power if you rotate them to "chase" the sun like many flowers do. If you look at the digital image of the original project at the bottom of the article, all of the main solar panels are oriented in the same manner, which is what you usually see with photos of the real ISS. The smaller arrays light not have as much flexibility in how they can be oriented, and certainly the LEGO versions have much less articulation than the main arrays. Generally speaking they would probably be stretched out as flat as possible

  2. Didn't the white flag 3×8 in white come with the Hanzo/Genji overwatch set from last year too?

    1. No but I can see why you thought that as it was Flag 7 x 3 with Rod (6196680|30292) that came with 75971: Hanzo vs. Genji - a little bit smaller!

  3. Wow, i had no clue there are different lengths of it...just never had many sets with them. Are there any more variants?

    1. No just the two flags with the rod, one 7x3 and the other 8x3. :-)

  4. Where is 6313734 used? I didn't see it in instruction.