Encyclopedia Astronautica
Luna Ye-8



lunokhd1.jpg
Lunokhod 1 / Ye-8-LS
Mature First Generation Soviet Space Systems
Credit: © Mark Wade
lunokldr.jpg
Lunokhod lander
Credit: NASA
lunokhod.jpg
Lunokhod
The Lunokhod unmanned lunar surface rover.
Credit: Lavochkin
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Lunokhod bus
Lunokhod bus / Ye-8-LS
Credit: NASA
Russian lunar rover. 3 launches, 1969.02.19 (Ye-8 s/n 201) to 1973.01.08 (Luna 21).

The basic Ye-8 was deigned to soft land on the Moon and deliver an automatic, self-propelled lunar vehicle, Lunokhod, for purposes of surveying sites for later manned landings and lunar bases. It was also intended that the spacecraft would provide a radio homing beacon for precision landings of later manned spacecraft.

The design had its origins in Korolev's L2 project of 1963. This evolved within OKB-1 to the globular Ye-8 lunar rover design of 1965 before further development of unmanned planetary spacecraft was passed to the Lavochkin bureau. There the design was refined and modified for a single launch by a Proton launch vehicle. By the time the spacecraft flew, America had won the manned moon race and mission objectives were to collect images of the lunar surface, examine ambient light levels to determine the feasibility of astronomical observations from the Moon, perform laser ranging experiments from Earth, observe solar X-rays, measure local magnetic fields, and study mechanical properties of the lunar surface material.

The lander had dual ramps by which the Lunokhod descended to the lunar surface. The lander and rover together weighed 1814 kg on the lunar surface.

The Lunokhod itself consisted of a tub-like compartment with a large convex lid on eight wheels. It stood 135 cm high, 170 cm long and 160 cm wide, with a mass of 840 kg. The 8 wheels each had an independent suspension, motor and brake. The rover had two speeds, ~1 km/hr and ~2 km/hr. Lunokhod was equipped with four TV cameras, three of them panoramic cameras. The fourth was mounted high on the rover for navigation, and could return high resolution images at different rates (3.2, 5.7, 10.9 or 21.1 seconds per frame). These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. Communications were through a cone-shaped omni-antenna and a highly directional helical antenna. Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay. A Polonium-210 isotopic heat source was used to keep the rover warm during the lunar nights. Scientific instruments included a soil mechanics tester, solar X-ray experiment, an astrophotometer to measure visible and UV light levels, a magnetometer deployed in front of the rover on the end of a 2.5 m boom, a radiometer, a photodetector (Rubin-1) for laser detection experiments, and a French-supplied laser corner-reflector. Lunokhod was designed to operate through three lunar days (three earth months) but greatly exceeded this in operation.

AKA: Lunokhod; Ye-8; 8EK.
Gross mass: 5,590 kg (12,320 lb).
First Launch: 1969.02.19.
Last Launch: 1973.01.08.
Number: 3 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
Associated Engines
  • KTDU-417 Isayev Nitric acid/UDMH rocket engine. 18.920 kN. Luna 15-24 descent stage. Out of Production. Isp=314s. Comprised turbopump-fed high-thrust engine with plus KTDU-417-B low-thrust engine. Eleven ignitions for lunar orbit insertion and orbit corrections. More...

See also
  • Proton The Proton launch vehicle has been the medium-lift workhorse of the Soviet and Russian space programs for over forty years. Although constantly criticized within Russia for its use of toxic and ecologically-damaging storable liquid propellants, it has out-lasted all challengers, and no replacement is in sight. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • N1 1969 Russian heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. The N1 launch vehicle, developed by Russia in the 1960's, was to be the Soviet Union's counterpart to the Saturn V. The largest of a family of launch vehicles that were to replace the ICBM-derived launchers then in use, the N series was to launch Soviet cosmonauts to the moon, Mars, and huge space stations into orbit. In comparison to Saturn, the project was started late, starved of funds and priority, and dogged by political and technical struggles between the chief designers Korolev, Glushko, and Chelomei. The end result was four launch failures and cancellation of the project five years after Apollo landed on the moon. Not only did a Soviet cosmonaut never land on the moon, but the Soviet Union even denied that the huge project ever existed. More...
  • Proton The Proton launch vehicle has been the medium-lift workhorse of the Soviet and Russian space programs for over forty years. Although constantly criticized within Russia for its use of toxic and ecologically-damaging storable liquid propellants, it has out-lasted all challengers, and no replacement is in sight. Development of the Proton began in 1962 as a two-stage vehicle that could be used to launch large military payloads or act as a ballistic missile with a 100 megaton nuclear warhead. The ICBM was cancelled in 1965, but development of a three-stage version for the crash program to send a Soviet man around the moon began in 1964. The hurried development caused severe reliability problems in early production. But these were eventually solved, and from the 1970's the Proton was used to launch all Russian space stations, medium- and geosynchronous orbit satellites, and lunar and planetary probes. More...
  • Proton-K/D Russian orbital launch vehicle. This four stage version of the Proton was originally designed to send manned circumlunar spacecraft into translunar trajectory. Guidance to the Block D stage must be supplied by spacecraft. The design was proposed on 8 September 1965 by Korolev as an alternate to Chelomei's LK-1 circumlunar mission. It combined the Proton 8K82K booster for the LK-1 with the N1 lunar Block D stage to boost a stripped-down Soyuz 7K-L1 spacecraft around the moon. The Korolev design was selected, and first flight came on 10 March 1967. The crash lunar program led to a poor launch record. Following a protracted ten year test period, the booster finally reached a level of launch reliability comparable to that of other world launch vehicles. More...
  • N1 The N1 launch vehicle, developed by Russia in the 1960's, was to be the Soviet Union's counterpart to the Saturn V. The largest of a family of launch vehicles that were to replace the ICBM-derived launchers then in use, the N series was to launch Soviet cosmonauts to the moon, Mars, and huge space stations into orbit. In comparison to Saturn, the project was started late, starved of funds and priority, and dogged by political and technical struggles between the chief designers Korolev, Glushko, and Chelomei. The end result was four launch failures and cancellation of the project five years after Apollo landed on the moon. Not only did a Soviet cosmonaut never land on the moon, but the Soviet Union even denied that the huge project ever existed. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • MOM Russian agency overseeing development of spacecraft. Ministry of General Machine Building (Moskva, Russia), Moscow, Russia. More...
  • Lavochkin Russian manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. Lavochkin Design Bureau, Moscow, Russia. More...

Associated Programs
  • Luna Soviet lunar probe series. Lunas were the first manmade objects to attain of escape velocity; to impact on the moon; to photograph the far side of the moon; to soft land on the moon; to retrieve and return lunar surface samples to the earth; and to deploy a lunar rover on the moon's surface. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Ertel , Ivan D; Morse , Mary Louise; et al, The Apollo Spacecraft Chronology Vol I - IV NASA SP-4009, NASA, 1966-1974. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Kaesmann, Ferdinand, et. al., "Proton - Development of A Russian Launch Vehicle", Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 1998, Volume 51, page 3.
  • Air International, 1992, Issue 9, page 149.
  • Van den Abeelen, Luc, "Soviet Lunar Landing Programme", Spaceflight, 1994, Volume 36, page 90.
  • Vladimirov, A, "Tablitsa zapuskov RN 'Proton' i 'Proton K'", Novosti kosmonavtiki, 1998, Issue 10, page 25.
  • National Space Science Center Planetary Page, As of 19 February 1999.. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Chertok, Boris Yevseyevich, Raketi i lyudi, Mashinostroenie, Moscow, 1994-1999.. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Kamanin, N P, Skritiy kosmos, Infortext, Moscow, 1995.
  • Siddiqi, Asif A, The Soviet Space Race With Apollo, University Press of Florida, 2003.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Baikonur Russia's largest cosmodrome, the only one used for manned launches and with facilities for the larger Proton, N1, and Energia launch vehicles. The spaceport ended up on foreign soil after the break-up of Soviet Union. The official designations NIIP-5 and GIK-5 are used in official Soviet histories. It was also universally referred to as Tyuratam by both Soviet military staff and engineers, and the US intelligence agencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Russian Federation has insisted on continued use of the old Soviet 'public' name of Baikonur. In its Kazakh (Kazak) version this is rendered Baykonur. More...

Luna Ye-8 Chronology


1964 August 1 - . LV Family: N1; Proton.
  • Full scale development of Soviet manned lunar flyby and landing projects authorised. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Korolev; Chelomei. Program: Lunar L1; Lunar L3. Flight: Soyuz A-1; Soyuz A-2; Soyuz A-3; Soyuz A-4. Spacecraft: LK-1; Soyuz 7K-LOK; LK; Luna Ye-8; Soyuz A. Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 655-268 'On Work on the Exploration of the Moon and Mastery of Space--piloted LK-1 circumlunar and L3 lunar landing projects and the Ye-6M lunar lander' was issued. Chelomei was to develop the three-stage UR-500K booster and LK-1 spacecraft for the manned lunar flyby. Korolev was to develop the totally different N1 booster and L3 spacecraft complex for the manned lunar landing. First launch of the N1 was to be by the first quarter 1966, with manned lunar landings in 1967 to 1968. Reprioritization led to work being stopped on Korolev's Zvezda 6-man orbiting weapons platform by mid-1965, after a huge mockup had been built.

    Korolev felt that if he had the full support of the Communist Party, the military, and industry he could achieve this goal, and this decree ordered such support. The USSR would be first on the moon. But in truth the draft project behind the decree had not solved all of the technical problems, or provided a solution on how to achieve the required payload on either the booster or spacecraft side. New technology features required for success of the scheme included an advanced guidance system in the N1 third stage equipment bay, the enormous fuel tanks in the N1 first stage, and the Lox/LH2 fuel cells needed for the LOK lunar orbiter. But the real technical problem with the N1-L3 design was the total lack of any weight growth reserve. Even thought the systems had not even been developed yet, engineers were fighting over tens of grams in their weight allocations, let alone the kilograms normally at issue.

    Development of Korolev's Soyuz A-B-V, a competing circumlunar project, was evidently still authorised, although it duplicated Chelomei's LK-1.


1964 October 28 - . LV Family: N1; Proton.
  • Lunar project orders issued to industry. - . Nation: USSR. Program: Lunar L1; Lunar L3. Spacecraft: LK-1; Soyuz 7K-LOK; LK; Luna Ye-8. Summary: Military-Industrial Commission (VPK) Decree 'On assignment of lunar programs to OKB-52 and OKB-1' was issued..

1965 March 2 - .
  • Babakin takes over Lavochkin OKB - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Chelomei; Korolev; Babakin. Program: Lunar L3. Class: Manned. Type: Manned space station. Spacecraft: Luna E-6; Luna Ye-8. Former Lavochkin bureau, part of Chelomei, regained status of a separate design bureau with former Korolev deputy GN Babakin as its head. By the end of 1965 all materials on the E-6, Ye-8, and planetary probes were passed by Korolev to the Lavochkin Bureau, who took over responsibility for all future lunar and planetary unmanned probes.

1968 February 3 - .
  • Ye-8-5 robot lunar soil return plans - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Babakin. Program: Lunar L1; Luna; Lunar L3. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8. VVS Party Conference. It is clear to Kamanin that there is no support from the Air Force for manned spaceflight. Kamanin only heard yesterday that Babakin is working on an automatic soil sample return spacecraft. He will need a minimum of two to three years to complete it. Kamanin complained that it would interfere with plans for the L1 program. An uninterrupted series of flights will be needed to complete the L1 spacecraft qualification, and the Ye-8, using the same booster, could be an interference in achieving that goal.

1968 February 27 - .
  • Soviet on plan through 1975 for automated probes to the moon and planets. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Keldysh; Barmin; Tereshkova. Spacecraft: DLB Lunar Base; Luna Ye-8; Luna Ye-8-5. Keldysh heads a Soviet on plans through 1975 for automated probes and space research of the moon and planets. Barmin attends, his interest being the relation of this work to his lunar base. Kamanin finds the plan not well thought out... Tereshkova sees Kamanin and tells him she cannot handle the stress of both political demands on her time and cosmonaut training. She wants Kamanin's assistance to get her out of political tasks.

1968 March 20 - .
  • Lunar spacesuit review. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Severin; Mishin. Program: Lunar L3. Spacecraft: Krechet; Orlan; LK; Luna Ye-8. Meeting with Gay Ilyich Severin. Two spacesuits are being developed for the L3 program: the Krechet-94 and Orlan. Both have been in development for two years. The Krechet-94 will allow six hours of lunar surface activity, the Orlan, 2.5 hours. Both weigh about 90 kg. There are consumables for a total of 52 hours of life support in the LK and the LT Lunar Cart. Kamanin feels the suits are too heavy, due to Mishin's demand for a 5 km range from the LK over a three day traverse with the LT. Severin could have instead developed the spacesuit used by Leonov to have a four hour autonomous operation, but Mishin insisted on doubling of the capacity.

1968 December 25 - . LV Family: N1. Launch Vehicle: N1.
  • L3 lunar lander behind schedule - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Malinovskiy; Smirnov; Ustinov; Brezhnev; Keldysh; Mishin. Program: Lunar L3; Apollo; Lunar L1. Flight: Soyuz 7K-L1 mission 1. Spacecraft: Soyuz 7K-L1; Luna Ye-8. The L3 spacecraft still does not even exist in mock-up form. All of the leadership are responsible for this farce - Malinovskiy, Smirnov, Ustinov, Brezhnev. There is no single manager of the space program. The VPK and Central Committee operate on rumours. The Interagency Soviet headed by Keldysh was supposed to coordinate space activities, but in fact has not functioned in the last four to five years. There is no single military space organisation in the Ministry of Defence. Piloted flight tests are being run by former artillery officers in the RSVN. Various organizations of MAP and VVS coordinate ground and flight tests poorly. These are the reasons for the failure of the Soviet Union in space. Today in the Central Committee Ustinov asked - 'how to answer Apollo 8?' Ustinov relies on Keldysh, Keldysh supports Mishin, and Mishin is unfit for his duties. But Mishin is not even there! The program they come up with: In January 1969, 2 Venera probes will be launched, two manned Soyuz missions, and L1 s/n 13 will be sent around the moon. In February the first N1 will be launched. By the end of March the first Ye-8 robot will land on the moon and return lunar soil to the earth. This meeting is followed by a session of the VPK at 16:00. The crews are named for the Soyuz 4 and 5 flights.

1969 January 8 - .
  • Plan for Soviet lunar and planetary launches to answer America's Apollo program during 1969 approved. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Babakin. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod; Luna Ye-8-5; Soyuz 7K-L1; Venera 2V (V-69); Mars M-69. Summary: Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 19-10 'On Work on Research of the Moon, Venus and Mars by Automatic Stations--work on automated lunar and interplanetary spacecraft' was issued.. Additional Details: here....

1969 February 4 - . LV Family: Proton. Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/D.
  • UR-500K failure state commission - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Konopatov; Babakin. Program: Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8. At Area 81 a State Commission is held on failures of the UR-500K booster. A D Konopatov describes the analysis of the stage 2 and 3 failures on the 20 January launch attempt. The number 4 engine of stage 2 shut down 25 seconds into its burn due to high temperatures detected in the turbopump. The same thing occurred on the third stage. The couldn't pin down the source of the problem. Engines of this type had worked correctly 700 times on earlier flights. Despite the cause of the failure not being identified, approval is given at 14:30 for the launch of the Ye-8 to proceed. Babakin confirms the spacecraft is ready.

1969 February 11 - . LV Family: N1. Launch Vehicle: N1.
  • Military space objectives - . Nation: USSR. Program: Lunar L3; Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8. The Ye-8 and N1 are on schedule for their respective launches. Kamanin discusses the cosmonaut training curriculum with Kerimov. No one has ever defined what it is cosmonauts are actually supposed to do in space. No one really knows what their purpose is --- not Keldysh, not Mishin, not Smirnov, not Ustinov. Kerimov agrees to put together a state commission to define the role of man in space and draw up plans for future space missions.

1969 February 19 - . 06:48 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC81/24. LV Family: Proton. Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/D. LV Configuration: Proton-K/D 239-01. FAILURE: First-stage engine failure caused the rocket to crash 15 km from the pad.. Failed Stage: 1.
  • Ye-8 s/n 201 + Lunokhod s/n 201 - first stage malfunction - . Payload: Ye-8 s/n 201 / 8EL No. 201. Mass: 5,600 kg (12,300 lb). Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Program: Luna. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8. Decay Date: 1969-02-19 . COSPAR: F690219A. Attempted launch of a Ye-8 with a Lunokhod lunar rover. Evidently coordinate in some way with the N1 launch two days later. A first-stage booster engine failure causes the rocket to crash 15 km from the pad after a lift-off at 09:48 local time. Kamanin meanwhile has the Hong Kong flu.

1969 June 10 - . LV Family: N1. Launch Vehicle: N1.
  • Revised Soviet lunar plans - . Nation: USSR. Program: Lunar L3; Lunar L1; Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8-5; Luna Ye-8; Soyuz 7K-L1; Soyuz 7K-LOK; LK. The VPK Military-Industrial Commission issues a decree on the schedule for the rest of 1969. There are to be five launches of Ye-8-5 lunar soil return robots, on 14 June, 13 and 28 July, 25 August, and 25 September. There are to be two launches of Ye-8 Lunokhod robot rovers on 22 October and 21 November. Further manned L1 flights are cancelled. There are no plans made for the L3 since the N1 is not ready.

1970 November 10 - . 14:44 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC81/23. LV Family: Proton. Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/D. LV Configuration: Proton-K/D 251-01.
  • Luna 17 - . Payload: Ye-8 s/n 203. Mass: 5,600 kg (12,300 lb). Nation: USSR. Agency: MOM. Program: Luna. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8. Decay Date: 1970-11-17 . USAF Sat Cat: 4691 . COSPAR: 1970-095A. Apogee: 85 km (52 mi). Perigee: 85 km (52 mi). Inclination: 141.0000 deg. Period: 116.00 min. Luna 17 was launched from an earth parking orbit towards the Moon and entered lunar orbit on November 15, 1970. Luna 17 landed on Moon 17 November 1970 at 03:47:00 GMT, Latitude 38.28 N, Longitude 325.00 E - Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains). The payload, the Lunokhod 1 unmanned rover, rolled down a ramp from the landing stage and began exploring the surface. Lunokhod was intended to operate through three lunar days but actually operated for eleven lunar days (earth months). The operations of Lunokhod officially ceased on October 4, 1971, the anniversary of Sputnik 1. By then it had traveled 10,540 m and had transmitted more than 20,000 TV pictures and more than 200 TV panoramas. It had also conducted more than 500 lunar soil tests. Parameters are for lunar orbit.

1970 November 18 - .
  • Luna 17 lands on moon. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Chelomei. Program: Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod. Summary: Luna 17 / Lunokhod have landed on the Sea of Storms on the moon. Chelomei is assisting Kamanin in securing funds for the water basin for zero-G training, further simulators, etc..

1970 November 23 - .
  • First lunar rover. - . Nation: USSR. Program: Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod. Summary: Lunokhod 1 is ready to go on its first lunar drive..

1970 November 25 - .
  • NASA Administrator discussed significance of Russian unmanned lunar probes to Apollo. - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod. George M. Low, Acting NASA Administrator, discussed the significance of unmanned lunar probes Luna XVI and XVII launched by the U.S.S.R. September 12 and November 10. Luna XVI had brought lunar samples back to earth and Luna XVII had landed an unmanned Lunokhod roving vehicle on the moon's surface. Low stated in a letter to Chairman Clinton P. Anderson of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences that while the two launches were impressive their contributions to science and technology were relatively minor. Low suggested that the main lesson to be learned from the two launches specifically and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. space programs in general was that while the Soviet launch rate was increasing that of the United States was decreasing. These trends in the two countries' space programs should be a cause of concern if the United States was interested in maintaining a position of leadership in space.

1973 January 8 - . 06:55 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC81/23. LV Family: Proton. Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/D. LV Configuration: Proton-K/D 259-01.
  • Luna 21 - . Payload: Ye-8 s/n 204. Mass: 5,567 kg (12,273 lb). Nation: USSR. Agency: MOM. Program: Luna. Class: Moon. Type: Lunar probe. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8. Decay Date: 1973-01-15 . USAF Sat Cat: 6333 . COSPAR: 1973-001A. Apogee: 110 km (60 mi). Perigee: 90 km (55 mi). Inclination: 60.0000 deg. Period: 118.00 min. The Proton / Block D launcher put the spacecraft into Earth parking orbit followed by translunar injection. On 12 January 1973, Luna 21 braked into a 90 x 100 km orbit about the Moon. On 13 and 14 January, the perilune was lowered to 16 km altitude. On 15 January after 40 orbits, the braking rocket was fired at 16 km altitude, and the craft went into free fall. At an altitude of 750 meters the main thrusters began firing, slowing the fall until a height of 22 meters was reached. At this point the main thrusters shut down and the secondary thrusters ignited, slowing the fall until the lander was 1.5 meters above the surface, where the engine was cut off. Landing occurred at 23:35 GMT in LeMonnier crater at 25.85 degrees N, 30.45 degrees E. The lander carried a bas relief of Lenin and the Soviet coat-of-arms. After landing, Lunokhod 2 took TV images of the surrounding area, then rolled down a ramp to the surface at 01:14 GMT on 16 January and took pictures of the Luna 21 lander and landing site. It stopped and charged batteries until 18 January, took more images of the lander and landing site, and then set out over the Moon. The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries via the solar panels. At night the rover would hibernate until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source. Lunokhod 2 operated for about 4 months, covered 37 km of terrain including hilly upland areas and rilles, and sent back 86 panoramic images and over 80,000 TV pictures. Many mechanical tests of the surface, laser ranging measurements, and other experiments were completed during this time. On June 4 it was announced that the program was completed, leading to speculation that the vehicle probably failed in mid-May or could not be revived after the lunar night of May-June. The Lunokhod was not left in a position such that the laser retroreflector could be used, indicating that the failure may have happened suddenly.

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