Encyclopedia Astronautica

Credit: © Mark Wade
LK-3 vs LK-700
Credit: © Mark Wade
Soviet Lunar Landers
Landing stages for Soviet lunar expeditions. Top row, left to right: L3 original version; LK; LK-3; LK-700; two versions of the L3M; LEK for Energia-launched lunar landing. Bottom row, lunar base elements: Chelomei KLE; Chelomei Heavy Lunokhod; Barmin DLB base module; LZM, LZhM, Lunokhod, and LEK for Glushko LEK Vulkan-launched lunar base.
Credit: © Mark Wade
Russian manned lunar lander. Reached mock-up stage, 1972. The LK-3 was Chelomei's preliminary design for a direct-landing alternative to Korolev's L3 manned lunar landing design.

It would have used the 1966 version of the UR-700 booster to send a crew on a direct flight to the lunar surface and back. By the time of the draft project and mock-up stage, it had evolved into the more elegant LK-700 design.

Chelomei's TsKBM began work on the UR-700 launch vehicle for manned lunar landing missions in 1962. Variants were studied with 70 to 175 metric tons low earth orbit payload, and rocket stages of various thrust levels, including nuclear stages. The conclusion was reached that a direct lunar landing would require a payload of 130 to 170 metric tons. Initial designs of the lunar lander, dubbed LK-3, were derived from the 'Raketoplan' family of manned modular space vehicles and LK-1 circumlunar manned spacecraft.

Korolev's N1-L3 design lunar orbit rendezvous concept was selected in 1964 for the manned lunar landing. However the project quickly encountered delays and weight growth which threw into question its fundamental feasibility. On 20 October 1965 authorization was given for Chelomei to take the UR-700 and the lunar landing spacecraft, now officially dubbed the LK-700, to the draft project stage. At this time Chelomei's lunar landing configuration consisted of the preliminary UR-700 design (8 unitary blocks arranged around the core second stage as the first stage; second and third stages taken from the UR-500K). The first and second stages would fire simultaneously at launch, using nitrogen tetroxide and UDMH propellants.

The original LK-3 design consisted of a BSO was equipped with the retro-rocket for deorbit of the VA capsule following separation from the space station. It also provided the additional battery power, orientation rockets, and radio equipment that gave the VA a 31 hour autonomous flight duration after separation from the station. The original UR-700/LK-700 design was evaluated in October 1966 by an expert commission headed by Keldysh. Keldysh managed to ensure that the N1-L3 continued for the lunar landing mission. But it could not be denied that the UR-700 showed much better growth potential than the N1. Therefore, in order to support future lunar landing and manned interplanetary projects, Keldysh recommended continued extensive research on the UR-700/LK-700 design in order to obtain confidence in the technical solutions proposed. Further development of the LK-700 manned lunar landing spacecraft was undertaken in accordance with decree 1070-363 of the Soviet Ministers and Central Committee of the Communist Party on 17 September 1967 and MOM decree 472 of 28 September 1967. By the time the final mock-up and the draft project had been completed, the original LK-3 layout had been significantly modified to the final LK-700 configuration.


Crew Size: 2. Spacecraft delta v: 9,061 m/s (29,727 ft/sec).

Gross mass: 45,000 kg (99,000 lb).
Height: 23.50 m (77.00 ft).
Diameter: 4.10 m (13.40 ft).
Span: 4.50 m (14.70 ft).

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Lunar Landers Lunar lander design started with the British Interplanetary Society's concept of 1939, followed by Von Braun's 3964 tonne monster of 1953. It then settled down to more reasonably-sized variants. Landers came in three main types: two stage versions, with the first stage being a lunar crasher that would brake the spacecraft until just above the lunar surface, then separate, allowing the second stage to land on the surface; two stage versions consisting of a descent stage that went all the way to the surface, and an ascent stage that would take the crew from the surface to lunar orbit or on an earth-return trajectory; and single stage versions, using liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen propellants. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • UR-700 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. The UR-700 was the member of Vladimir Chelomei's Universal Rocket family designed in the 1960's to allow direct manned flight by the LK-700 spacecraft to the surface of the moon. However Korolev's N1 was the selected Soviet super-booster design. Only when the N1 ran into schedule problems in 1967 was work on the UR-700 resumed. The draft project foresaw first launch in May 1972. But no financing for full scale development was forthcoming; by then it was apparent that the moon race was lost. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Chelomei Russian manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Chelomei Design Bureau, Reutov, Russia. More...

Associated Propellants
  • N2O4/UDMH Nitrogen tetroxide became the storable liquid propellant of choice from the late 1950's. Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine ((CH3)2NNH2) became the storable liquid fuel of choice by the mid-1950's. Development of UDMH in the Soviet Union began in 1949. It is used in virtually all storable liquid rocket engines except for some orbital manoeuvring engines in the United States, where MMH has been preferred due to a slightly higher density and performance. More...

  • Afanasyev, I B, Neizvestnie korabli, Kosmonavtika, Astronomiya, Znanie, 12-91..
  • Przybilski, Olaf, and Wotzlaw, Stefan, N-1 Herkules - Entwicklung und Absturz einer Traegerrakete, Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Raumfahrtausstellung e.V., 1996.
  • Borisov, A, and Zhuravin, Yu, "Alternativnaya Luna", Novosti kosmonavtiki, No. 9/1999 page 75.
  • Yeteyev, Ivan, Operezhaya vremya, Ocherki, Moscow, 1999..
  • Yevteyev, Ivan, Zolotoy fond akademika Chelomeya, Bioinformcervic, Moscow, 2004.

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