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Appearance of the LK-700 spacecraft at each phase of its direct lunar landing mission.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Russian manned lunar lander. Chelomei's direct-landing alternative to Korolev's L3 manned lunar landing design. Developed at a low level 1964 to 1974, reaching mockup and component test stage.

Status: Mock-up 1964. Thrust: 131.40 kN (29,540 lbf). Gross mass: 154,000 kg (339,000 lb). Specific impulse: 326 s. Height: 21.20 m (69.50 ft). Span: 2.70 m (8.80 ft).

The LK-700 was Chelomei's direct-landing alternative to Korolev's L3 manned lunar landing design. It would have used the monster UR-700 booster to send a crew of three on a direct flight to the lunar surface and back. Although Korolev's N1-L3 design was selected in 1964 for the manned lunar landing, work on the UR-700/LK-700 continued in parallel at a low level.

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 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 LK-700 spacecraft designs were derived from the 'Raketoplan' family of manned modular space vehicles. Although Korolev's N1-L3 design was selected in 1964 for the manned lunar landing, the project quickly encountered delays and weight growth. A revised UR-700/LK-700 design was presented on 16 November 1966 to an expert commission headed by Keldysh as an alternative to Korolev/Mishin's N1-L3 lunar lander project. Although Chelomei had lined up the support of Glushko, and Mishin was in a weak position after Korolev's death, Keldysh managed to ensure that the N1-L3 continued. However continued design work on the LK-700, the UR-700 booster, and development of the RD-270 engine were authorized. Chelomei took a sound conservative design approach (i.e. no docking required, no cryogenics) with the capability for evolutionary later improvement (propellant utilization system, 'hot' backup engines). The design directive documents were signed by Chelomei on 21 July 1967.

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. Study index number 4855CC by TsNIIMASH in 1966 showed that any development of improved versions of the N1 would be practically equivalent to design and qualification of a new rocket, while the UR-700 modular approach allowed a range of payloads without requalification. The UR-700/LK-700 combination could support the DLB lunar base better, as well as Venus/Mars manned flybys and Mars landing expeditions.

It was planned that a total of 16 prototype articles of the LK-700 would be built for: component qualification test, dimensional fit test, static test, functional mock-up, ECS test, thermal test, module interface test, landing gear trials, antenna deployment test, SAS launch escape system test, impact and sea recovery trials, engine test, heat shield trials, and crew training.

A total of five ship-sets of UK-700/LK-700 flight articles were to be built. Two unmanned flights were to be followed by three manned flights.

Project plan was as follows:

To support development of the LK-700, a range of research would be required to characterize cis-lunar space:

The draft project selected a preferred launch vehicle configuration using RD-270 engines, delivering 150 metric tons in low earth orbit, which could place two cosmonauts on any point of 88% of the visible lunar surface. The crew would spend one day on the surface, with the return trajectory taking 3.5 to 6.5 days depending on the landing site. The preferred landing site was in the Sea of Fertility or Ocean of Storms, which allowed the best angle of intersection of the hyperbolic departure trajectory with the lunar surface, requiring the minimum rearrangement of internal systems.

Following initial LK-700 landings the LKE Lunar Expeditionary Complex would be delivered to the surface. This would permit long duration investigations of the surface and a much wider range of research. Precision landings in support of the LKE and lunar base would use Ye-8 Lunokhods equipped with radio homing beacons. The complex would be delivered in two to three UR-700 launches:

Three to six months of operations would be conducted on the lunar surface. It was recommended that a reserve LK-700 lander be standing ready for launch in case of emergencies or stranding of the crew on the surface.

The later DLB lunar base would require 80 metric tons per year of payload delivered to the surface starting in 1975, followed by 150 metric tons per year after 1980. Versions of the UR-700/LK-700 could handle this more easily than modifying the N1.

Lunar versions of the Almaz OPS would be placed in lunar orbit to conduct detailed reconnaissance of the surface using manned assistance. The OPS would also be used as a command post to co-ordinate the work of lunar surface operations and organize rescues in the case of emergencies on the surface.

Although mock-ups were built, no financing for full scale development was forthcoming by the required October 1968 date. By then it was apparent, that barring some disaster with an Apollo spacecraft, the moon race was lost. Kremlin interest in supporting such projects waned.

Following the explosion of the first N1 in January 1969, Pilyugin was called to a meeting at the Kremlin. Chelomei was again proposing the use of his UR-700/LK-700 in the place of the N1-L3, and a flight to Mars using an even larger version of the launch vehicle. Afanasyev was preparing a decree along these lines. Pilyugin refused to participate in this 'adventure'.

Nevertheless Chelomei's bureau continued to study the design until 1974, when the project was finally and definitively suppressed with the cancellation of the N1 and the lunar base projects.

Technical Description

The RKS Rocket-Space System was designed for direct landing on the moon without docking in earth or lunar orbit. It consisted of:

Chief Designer Vladimir Chelomei felt that the lunar orbit rendezvous approach of Korolev's N1-L3 system compromised crew safety to an unacceptable degree. The fact that there was no backup method of return to the earth after the LK separated from the LOK lunar orbiter was particularly troubling. For this reason he favored the 'direct landing' approach. The LK-700 was also a universal spacecraft suitable for other applications beyond the landing on the surface. The principles of its design were: The total mass of the LK-700 in low earth orbit was 154,000 kg for the Sea of Fertility mission. The spacecraft had a total length of 21.2 m with the ADU abort system and the spacecraft and stages had a basic diameter of 2.7 m. The components were:

The mission profile for the typical Sea of Fertility 8.3 day mission with a crew of 2 was:

Crew Size: 2. Orbital Storage: 45 days. Spacecraft delta v: 9,061 m/s (29,727 ft/sec).

Family: Lunar Landers, Moon. Country: Russia. Engines: 8D423. Spacecraft: LK-700 Block 1, LK-700 Block 11, LK-700 Block 111, LK-700 VA, LK-700 Block 1V. Launch Vehicles: UR-700. Propellants: N2O4/UDMH. Agency: Chelomei bureau. Bibliography: 191, 26, 288, 367, 376, 429, 443, 474, 72, 73, 74, 6656.
Photo Gallery

Soviet Lunar LandersSoviet 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

LK-700 SpacecraftLK-700 Spacecraft
LK-700 Spacecraft with landing stage and landing gear deployed.
Credit: © Mark Wade

UR-700 Launch Vehicle for Direct Lunar Landing Mission
Credit: © Mark Wade

UR-700 CutawayUR-700 Cutaway
UR-700 lunar landing launch vehicle - From left: cutaway and bottom views; cutaway of core vehicle after six external stage one modules and shrouds were jettisoned; external view. The cutaway shows the arrangement of N2O4 oxidiser tanks (green) and UDMH fuel tanks (orange). The six outer 4.1 m diameter modules contained fuel and oxidizer tanks for stage 1 and fuel or oxidiser tanks for the three core modules. After propellant depletion, the six outer modules would separate, leaving the three core modules to continue their burn. The third stage, based on the Proton first stage, placed the LK-700 spacecraft into a 200 km earth orbit. The LK-700 was equipped with four nearly identical clustered stages and a lunar landing/ascent stage. The three outer stages fired to place the spacecraft on a translunar trajectory. The inner core stage was used for midcourse corrections, braked the spacecraft into lunar orbit, and then again until it was just above the lunar surface. The ascent stage performed the final soft landing on the moon and then, using the landing legs as a launch platform, launched the LK-700 capsule back towards the earth.
Credit: © Mark Wade

UR-700 ProfileUR-700 Profile
UR-700 Launch Profile. At lift-off, nine engines - six on the six outer stage 1 modules, and three on the three core modules - fired. During the stage 1 burn, the three engines of the core modules were fed by propellants in forward tanks of the outer six modules. Therefore the Stage 2 core burn started with full tanks in the core modules. Stage 3, a modification of the Proton first stage, placed the 151 tonne LK-700 spacecraft into a 200 km earth parking orbit.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK- 700 Profile 2LK- 700 Profile 2
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK-700 Profile 1LK-700 Profile 1
Credit: © Mark Wade

1962 During the Year - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1962 During the Year - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1964 September 24 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1964 October 31 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
November 1964 - .
1965 October 20 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1966 September 17 - .
1966 November 16 - .
1966 December 28 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1967 July 21 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1967 September 17 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1967 September 20 - .
1970 December 31 - . Launch Vehicle: UR-700.
1971 March 4 - .

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