Encyclopedia Astronautica
1966.12.28 - Almaz and LK-700 development status


Kamanin accompanies 17 generals and other officers of the VVS in a tour of Chelomei's OKB-52. Chelomei spends five hours personally acquainting the visitors with his bureau's space technology capabilities. It was the first in-depth meeting Kamanin and Vershinin have had with Chelomei, despite meeting with him occasionally since 1961. They have mainly interacted with Korolev and now Mishin.

The expansion of Chelomei's facility has been enormous, and the in the quality of the rockets and spacecraft the influence of the higher standards of the aviation industry is obvious. The meticulous project planning, the high quality of the hardware, the intricate finishing of details - all are significantly better than at OKB-1. The UR-100, cancelled UR-200, and UR-500 missiles are exhibited.

Chelomei has designed the UR-700 heavy booster based on the proven UR-100 and UR-500 technology. The design was reviewed favourably by an expert commission, but no resolution authorizing its development and production was forthcoming. The development of Korolev's N1 has already consumed hundreds of millions of roubles, and the leadership will not authorise a similarly expensive parallel project. The Saturn V has a payload of 130 tonnes to a 200 km orbit, the N1 95 tonnes, but the UR-700 would beat both with a 145 tonne payload. The technology of the N1 was frozen 5-6 years ago, and there is no growth in the design. By contract, the UR-700 uses the latest technology and its modular design would allow easy growth to more powerful versions.

It is tragic for Soviet Union that Smirnov and Ustinov supported Korolev rather than Chelomei. It is true that Chelomei's manned boost-glide vehicle never got off the drawing board, and he has had only limited success developing umanned satellites. His primary task now is development of the Almaz military space station. The visitors closely examine the Almaz mockup and Kamanin concludes it is a good multipurpose spacecraft.

The first Almaz station is expected to be launched within a year. Crews of three will be rotated every two months. Metal is already being cut for the first station. Perhaps it will be launched that soon, but Kamanin has no confidence that by 1967-1968 the experience will exist for keeping each crew in space for two months. The crews will probably have to be changed more frequently.

Three years ago Chelomei was charged by the Central Committee and Council of Ministers with developing and flying a manned circumlunar spacecraft. But Korolev was able to take this project away from Chelomei after the fall of Khrushchev. This was a pyrrhic victory for the state - it resulted in a delay of two years in the project. Chelomei and OKB-52 continued development of his lunar spacecraft quietly, on their own risk. Kamanin finds it a pleasure to familiarise himself with Chelomei's LK-700 manned spacecraft and to sit in its crew seat. He finds Chelomei's spacecraft to be considerably simpler, more reliable and more fully thought out and developed than OKB-1's L3. Unfortunately, Chelomei's spacecraft is designed only for direct flight to the moon. It has a mass of 45 tonnes, which means it can only be orbited by a booster in the class of the N1 or UR-700.

Kamanin's general impression of OKB-52 is outstanding - the competence of its people, the order in the shops, and the quality of products. The production base at OKB-52 greatly resembles that of a contemporary aircraft plant. By comparison OKB-1 still shows vestiges of its origin as an ordnance factory. Improved contacts with Chelomei are agreed, and Kamanin promises to bring Vershinin and Rudenko to visit the plant in January. Kamanin sends Chelomei films of the Gemini 6, 7, 11 flights and the Apollo program as thanks for his hospitality.

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