A SPACESHIP TO CIRCLE THE MOON

The original around-the-moon programme was designed by Tikhonravov’s Depart­ment #9 of OKB-1 in 1960-1, and this became the Soyuz complex of 1962-4. In August 1964, the around-the-moon programme was transferred to Vladimir Chelo – mei’s OKB-52 design bureau. He planned to send a spacecraft, called the LK (Luna Korabl) directly around the moon on his Proton rocket, then nearing completion. The idea that the Soviet Union might attempt to send a man around the moon first was one familiar to Western analysts. The around-the-moon mission required much less rocket power, hardware and testing than a landing. The psychological effect of going around the moon, the excited commentaries, in Russian, of the lunar surface at first hand, would have a considerable effect on world public opinion. Chelomei probably realized this.

Not much is known of Chelomei’s LK design. A design published in the Tsiol – kovsky Museum in Kaluga shows a bullet-shaped cabin with two solar wings at the base, eight aerials and a service module of some kind behind. It resembled a scaled- down Apollo-type command-and-service module, 5.2 m long with 7.27 m wide solar panels and X-shaped antenna system, possibly 4 tonnes in weight. The small, 2.7 m long 2 tonne cabin would have carried one person around the moon. Fitted to the top of the UR-500K, the entire space vehicle would have been 46.7 m tall. The design, completed in July 1965, seems to have made little progress, and it is possible that Chelomei, like Korolev, was severely overstressed with other projects, in Chelomei’s case the development of the Almaz orbital space station. Vladimir Chelomei was an original and imaginative designer who came up with many ingenious designs and solutions and it is possible that his LK might have been one of them. Even today, many years after his death in 1984, his influence is still apparent. His design, the Proton, is still flying, a new version being introduced, the Proton M. The first module in the International Space Station, the functional control block or Zarya, is originally a Chelomei design.

Chelomei’s LK design was to become an academic matter. In October 1964, only a few months after the August governmental resolution, Nikita Khrushchev was overthrown. Khrushchev had been a big supporter, largely because of Chelomei’s success in delivering a fleet of operational ballistic missiles for the Soviet rocket forces.

Korolev devoted considerable energies during 1965 trying to push Chelomei out of the moon programme altogether and instead for OKB-1 to run an integrated pro­gramme for around-the-moon voyages and landing, which he argued made more economic and organizational sense. Eventually, on 25th October 1965, Korolev managed to wrest the LK moonship back from the Chelomei design bureau. Korolev was able to offer a stripped-down Soyuz spacecraft as his alternative, which he called the 7K-L-1. The government must have been persuaded that a design that was already at an advanced stage was preferable to one that had barely got beyond the drawing board. Korolev was not able to remove Chelomei altogether, for the government decided that the UR-500 would continue to be used. Korolev also persuaded the government to use, as upper stage for the Proton, the block D upper stage then being fitted out for the N-1 rocket. On 31st December, Korolev and Chelomei formally signed off on the deal.

It would be wrong to overstate the rivalry between Chelomei and Korolev, for they seemed able to work together when it mattered, albeit sullenly on Chelomei’s part. This was not the case between Korolev and Glushko, whose relationship seems to have become truly venomous. With the man-around-the-moon project using the same block D upper stage and a related cabin, the 7K-L-1, the Soviet moon pro­gramme was at last achieving some economies of scale. The December 1965 agreement specified the construction of no fewer than fourteen L-1 spacecraft, of which seven would be for unmanned tests and four for manned circumlunar missions.

Both the Russian moonships, the L-1 Zond and the LOK, were derivatives or relatives of the Soyuz spacecraft, which in turn was rooted in the designs of the Soyuz complex, 1962-4. The missions of the L-1 Zond and LOK were closely, even inti­mately, linked to the development of Soyuz.

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