The N1 Moon rocket
At the end of the 1950s, the OKB-1 design bureau led by Sergei Korolev began development of a super-heavy rocket booster, later designated N1. Originally, it was proposed as a multipurpose vehicle for a variety of military and scientific tasks, including launches of space stations, expeditions to the Moon and even a potential human missions to Mars. In its early incarnation, the giant rocket was expected to deliver 75 tons of payload to the low Earth orbit.
The N1 project was ultimately approved by the Kremlin for a single mission -- to beat America to the Moon. However, the N1's catastrophic failures during four test launches on Feb. 21 and July 3, 1969, June 27, 1971, and Nov. 23, 1972, doomed the Soviet effort to land a man on the Moon and left the ill-fated rocket under a veil of secrecy for almost two decades.
Test launches of the N1 rocket
Feb. 21, 1969: The first test launch of the N1 rocket (Vehicle No. 3L) carrying a 7K-L1A (7K-L1S) spacecraft failed 68.7 seconds after liftoff from Site 110 in Tyuratam.
July 3, 1969: The second test launch of the N1 rocket (Vehicle No. 5L) carrying a 7K-L1A (7K-L1S) spacecraft failed at liftoff from Site 110 in Tyuratam.
Nov. 23, 1972: The fourth launch of the N1 rocket (Vehicle No. 7L) carrying an operational LOK spacecraft and a mockup of the LK lunar module failed about 107 seconds after liftoff from Site 110 in Tyuratam.
N1-L3 system overview:
Overview of the N1 family:
Major contractors in the N1 poject:
A scale model of the N1 rocket and its launch pad. Copyright © 2002 Anatoly Zak
The NK engine, which powered the first stage of the N1 rocket. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak
Test station No. 2 (IS-2) at NIIKhimmash research facility near Sergiev Posad, formerly Zagorsk, was used for test firings of the engines for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th stages of the N1-L3 complex. Credit: NIIKhimmash
First launch of the N1 rocket on Feb. 21, 1969.
The second launch of the N1 rocket on July 3, 1969.
The third launch of the N1 rocket on June 27, 1971
Years after the demise of the Soviet lunar program, shrouds, tanks and other pieces of the giant N1 rockets remain scattered around Baikonur, serving as storage, gazebos and playgrounds. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak