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Lunar program guide:

LK-1

Chelomei's LK spacecraft


N1-3L

N1 No. 3L


5L

N1 No. 5L launch


Program chronology

Chronology of the Moon Race

N1

L3

N1/Block G

N1/Block D

LK/Block E

LOK/Block I


N1 launch facilities


Soviet plans for lunar base


DALS

DALS instrument package


Human missions to the Moon

As Soviet Union mastered manned space flight in a series of early orbital missions, the Moon quickly became a key goal of the manned space program. In May 1961, President Kennedy proclaimed a manned landing on the surface of the Moon before 1970, as the main goal of the US space program.

In 1962, four departments within Sergei Korolev's OKB-1 design bureau began studies of possible scenarios of lunar expeditions. However, the Soviet government was not in a hurry to respond, initially limiting its participation in the Moon Race by preliminary studies of circumlunar missions, such as the 7K-9K-11K project at Sergei Korolev's OKB-1 and by the LK project at Vladimir Chelomei's OKB-52.

It took more than three years after Kennedy's challenge for the cash-strapped Soviet government to commit needed resources for the manned expedition on the surface of the Moon. "Do not leave the Moon to the Americans," Nikita Khrushchev reportedly told leaders of the Soviet rocket industry, "Anything you need in order to do it, will be provided." On Aug. 3, 1964, the Soviet government finally gave full go ahead to the lunar landing effort.

However, the development of a heavy-lifting launcher, needed for the lunar expedition, was plagued with political and technical problems. Powerful captains of the Soviet rocket industry fought for the leadership and influence in the program, stretching the project's already limited resources, while the Soviet military, which financed rocket development, had always remained skeptical about the prospects of giant space launchers.

The fall of Khrushchev in 1964, further delayed the program, which continued suffering from the lack of funds and resources. In 1966, the Soviet lunar program recieved another blow with the death of its legendary leader, Sergei Korolev.

The N1 moon rocket had not reached the launch pad until 1969, and its first and three subsequent test missions ended in catastrophic failures, revealing serious technical flaws in the design of the booster. The program was finally abandoned in 1974 and its leader Vasily Mishin was ousted as a head of the industrial conglomerate responsible for the project.


APPENDIX

Manned lunar exploration projects in the 20th century:

Official name
Country
Mission
Horizon
USA (Department of Defense)
Lunar base
Apollo
USA (NASA)
Lunar landing
7K, 9K, 11K
USSR (OKB-1)
Lunar flyby
L1
USSR (OKB-1)
Lunar flyby
L2
USSR (OKB-1)
Robotic lunar surface rover
L3
USSR (OKB-1)
Spacecraft for lunar expedition
L4
USSR (OKB-1)
Lunar orbital station with a crew of 2 or 3
L5
USSR (OKB-1)
Manned lunar surface rover
UR-500LK
USSR (OKB-52)
Lunar flyby
UR-500K-L1
USSR (OKB-52/OKB-1)
Lunar flyby
N1-L3
USSR (OKB-1)
Lunar landing
L3M
USSR (OKB-1/TsKBEM)
Lunar landing
LK-700
USSR (OKB-52/TsKBM)
Lunar landing
DLB/Galaktika-Kolumb
USSR (KBOM)
Lunar base
Zvezda
USSR (TsKBEM/NPO Energia)
Lunar base

 

Soviet deep-space spacecraft (proposed and developed):

Official name
Mission
Status
7K (Soyuz, LOK)
Manned vehicle for lunar flyby, circumlunar mission
Developed as part of N1-L3 and 7K-OK projects

9K/9KM/9KV

Space tug for circumlunar mission launched by R-7-based rockets
Not built
11K
Space tanker for the 9K spacecraft
Not built
13K
Lunar lander for the L2 rover
Evolved into a Luna lander
19K
Heavy space tug based on the N1 rocket
Not built
21K
Heavy tanker based on the N1 rocket
Not built
TMK-1/2 (M/V)
Manned vehicle for Mars and Venus flyby based on liquid propulsion
Not built
TMKE (M/V)
Manned vehicle for Mars and Venus flyby based on electric propulsion
Not built
SMTK (M1/M2)
Assembled spacecraft for Mars mission
Not built

 

Soviet missions preparing human expedition to the Moon:

Official name
Industry name
Launch date
Landing date
Launcher
Crew
Mission details
Kosmos-133
7K-OK No. 2
Nov. 28, 1966
Nov. 30, 1966
-
Destroyed on reentry
-
7K-OK No. 1
Dec. 14, 1966
-
-
Destroyed on Pad 31 due to an accidental ignition of the emergency escape system
Kosmos-140
7K-OK No. 3
Feb. 7, 1967
Feb. 9, 1967
-
Lost pressure and sunk in the Aral Sea during botched landing
Kosmos-146
7K-L1 No. 2P
March 10, 1967
-
-
Tested systems of the Block D upper stage
Kosmos-154
7K-L1 No. 3P
April 8, 1967
-
-
A second firing of the Block D failed in orbit
Soyuz-1
7K-OK No. 4
April 23, 1967
April 24, 1967
Vladimir Komarov
Planned for docking with a second Soyuz. Developed problems in orbit. Crashed on landing killing Komarov
-
7K-L1 No. 4
Sept. 28, 1967
-
-
Proton's 1st stage failed; escape system saved the reentry craft
Kosmos-186
7K-OK No. 6
Oct. 27, 1967
Oct. 31, 1967
-
Docked with Kosmos-188
Kosmos-188
7K-OK No. 5
Oct. 30, 1967
Nov. 2, 1967
-
Docked with Kosmos-186
-
7K-L1 No. 5
Nov. 22, 1967
-
-
Proton's 2nd stage failed. The escape system saved a reentry craft
Zond-4
7K-L1 No. 6
March 2, 1968
-
-
The descent module self-destructed during reentry
Kosmos-212
7K-OK No. 8
April 14, 1968
April 19, 1968
-
Docked with Kosmos-213
Kosmos-213
7K-OK No. 7
April 15, 1968
April 20, 1968
-
Docked with Kosmos-212
-
7K-L1 No. 7
April 23, 1968
-
-
Escape system self-initiated during launch
-
7K-L1 No. 8
July 14, 1968
-
-
An on-pad explosion of the upper stage killed one person; craft damaged
Kosmos-238
7K-OK No. 9
Aug. 28, 1968
Sept. 1
-
Test flight
Zond-5
7K-L1 No. 9
Sept. 15, 1968
Sept. 21, 1968
-
Flew around the Moon; splashed down in the Indian Ocean
Soyuz-2
7K-OK
Oct. 25, 1968
-
-
Rendezvous with Soyuz-3
Soyuz-3
7K-OK
Oct. 26, 1968
Oct. 30, 1968
Georgy Beregovoy
Attempted to dock with Soyuz-2 but failed due to wrong orientation
Zond-6
7K-L1 No. 12
Nov. 10, 1968
Nov. 17, 1968
-
Flew around the Moon; reentry craft depressurized during landing and crashed
Soyuz-4
7K-OK
Jan. 14, 1969
Jan. 17, 1969
Vladimir Shatalov
Docked with Soyuz-5
Soyuz-5
7K-OK
Jan. 15, 1969
January 18, 1969
Boris Volynov, Yevgeny Khrunov, Aleksei Yeliseyev
Docked with Soyuz-4; Khrunov and Yeliseyev transferred to and landed onboard the Soyuz-4
-
7K-L1 No. 13
Jan. 20, 1969
-
-
Proton's 2nd stage failed; the escape system saved a reentry craft
-
Feb. 21, 1969
-
-
The N1-L3 launch (No. 3L) failed at T+68.7 seconds
-
July 3, 1969
-
-
N1-L3 launch (No. 5L) failed at launch
Zond-7
7K-L1 No. 11
Aug. 8, 1969
Aug. 14, 1969
-
Flew around the Moon
Soyuz-6
7K-OK
Oct. 11, 1969
Oct. 16, 1969
Georgy Shonin, Viktor Kubasov
-
Soyuz-7
7K-OK
Oct. 12, 1969
Oct. 17, 1969
Anatoly Filipchenko, Viktor Gorbatko, Vladislav Volkov
Planned to dock with the Soyuz-8
Soyuz-8
7K-OK
Oct. 13, 1969
Oct. 18, 1969
Vladimir Shatalov, Aleksei Yeliseev
Planned to dock with the Soyuz-7, but docking system failed
-
7K-L1Ye No. 1
Nov 28 , 1969
-
-
Test of the Block D upper stage version for the N1 launcher; Proton failed during launch
Soyuz-9
7K-OK
June 1, 1970
June 19, 1970
Andriyan Nikolaev, Vitaly Sevastyanov
-
Zond-8
7K-L1 No. 14
Oct. 20, 1970
Oct. 27, 1970
-
Flew around the Moon; landed in the Indian Ocean
Kosmos-379
T2K
Nov. 24, 1970
-
-
A lunar lander test in the Earth orbit
Kosmos-382
7K-L1Ye No. 2
Dec. 2, 1970
-
-
A flight test of the Block D upper stage version developed for the N-1 launcher; fired seven times in orbit
Kosmos-398
T2K
Feb. 26, 1971
-
-
A lunar lander test in the Earth orbit.
-
N1-L3
June 27, 1971
-
-
The N1-L3 launch (No. 6L) failed at T+50.1 seconds
Kosmos-434
T2K
Aug. 12, 1971
-
-
A lunar lander test in the Earth orbit
-
7K-LOK
Nov. 23, 1972
-
-
The N1-L3 launch (No. 7L) failed at T+107 seconds

Compiled by Anatoly Zak

Last update: November 19, 2015

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PICTURE GALLERY

Scale model of the launch complex for the Proton rocket with the L1 spacecraft in Baikonur. Copyright © 2002 Anatoly Zak


The Proton rocket with the L1 spacecraft for the circumlunar mission is poised for launch in Baikonur on Nov. 22, 1967.


Scale model of the UR-700 launcher, which Vladimir Chelomei proposed as an alternative to Korolev's N1 rocket. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak


soyuz4

Soyuz-4 approaches Soyuz-5 on Jan. 16, 1969.


The N1-L3 complex during the assembly in Area 112 in Baikonur.


The N1 moon rocket leaves the assembly building at Site 112 in Baikonur.