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LK Overhead
LK Overhead
Overhead view of the LK lander, showing Kontakt docking system hexagonal grid docking structure. Exit hatch and ladder are to the right; scallop for main view port at front. Two high gain antennae at either side provided transmission of television from the lunar surface to earth.
Russian manned lunar lander. The LK ('Lunniy korabl' - lunar craft) was the Soviet lunar lander - the Russian counterpart of the American LM Lunar Module. Manned Lunar lander test satellite, Russia. Launched 1970 - 1971.

AKA: 11F94;T2K. Status: Operational 1970. First Launch: 1970-11-24. Last Launch: 1971-08-12. Number: 3 . Thrust: 20.10 kN (4,519 lbf). Gross mass: 5,560 kg (12,250 lb). Unfuelled mass: 3,160 kg (6,960 lb). Specific impulse: 315 s. Height: 5.20 m (17.00 ft). Diameter: 2.25 m (7.38 ft).

The LK was to have landed a single Soviet citizen on the moon before the Americans, winning the moon race. It completed development and test flown very successfully in earth orbit, but never reached the moon because the N1 booster required to take it to the moon never had a successful flight.

Because the translunar payload of the Russian N1 rocket was only 70% that of the American Saturn V, the LK differed in many ways from the LM. It had a different landing profile; it was only 1/3 the weight of the LM; it was limited to a crew of one; it had no docking tunnel (the cosmonaut had to space walk from the LK to the LOK lunar orbiter). Unlike the LM, the LK did not use a separate descent stage to go from lunar orbit to landing on the surface. A braking stage, the Block D, took the LK out of lunar orbit and slowed it to 100 m/s at an altitude of 4 km above the lunar surface. From there the LK used the engines of its Block E stage to soft land on the moon. The Block E also served as the ascent stage to return the LK to lunar orbit.

The LK consisted of four primary modules:

Consider now the LK in depth. This article is organized into the following main sections:

The N1-L3 Lunar Mission Profile

On 3 August 1964, Command number 655-268 issued by Central Committee of Communist Party gave Soviet Chief Designer Korolev the objective of putting one man on the moon and returning him safely to earth - ahead of the Americans.

Prior to this, Korolev had concentrated on the earth orbit rendezvous method. His September 1963 L3 design was a 200 metric ton direct-lander requiring three launches of his giant N1 rocket and assembled in low earth orbit. This L3 spacecraft would make a precision 'blind' landing, homing in on a beacon aboard an L2 robotic lunar rover which had already been parked at a suitably flat touch-down point. The 138 metric ton trans-lunar injection stage would propel the L3 spacecraft towards the moon. The 40 metric ton lunar braking stage would ignite 200 to 300 km above the surface. After burnout, it would separate above the surface, allowing the 21 metric ton lunar soft landing/ascent stage, with variable-thrust engines to make a soft landing on the surface. The landing leg structure and soft landing engines would be left behind on the moon. The ascent stage would propel the 5 metric ton Soyuz L1 manned spacecraft back to earth. This capable but expensive spacecraft would have accommodated a crew of three for ten days of lunar surface exploration.

In order to beat the Americans, the redesigned N1-L3 exploited a variant of the Apollo program's lunar-orbit rendezvous method to reach the moon's surface. In this way the mission could be accomplished in just one launch of an improved N1 rocket. The L3 complex designed for the mission, with a total mass of 95 metric tons, would consist of the Block G translunar injection rocket stage; the LOK lunar orbiter; the LK lunar lander; and the Block D deceleration stage.

The N1-L3 lunar flight plan evolved during the course of the program. By the end of LK development it was as follows:

Development of the LK

The N1-L3 project was too big for one enterprise. Korolev's OKB-1 was assigned general management of the project. V M Filin was named manager for the LK within OKB-1. However detailed design, qualification, and construction of the LK Block E engine system was subcontracted to Yangel's OKB-586 in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine.

The advance design project for the N1-L3 was completed on 30 December 1964. The decree for production of 16 shipsets of spacecraft and boosters was issued on 26 January 1965. The N1-L3 was to manufactured to the following schedule: 4 in 1966; 6 in 1967; and 6 in 1968. The plan was for the first launch of the N1 to be in the first quarter of 1966, with the first lunar landings in 1967 to 1968, ahead of the American goal of 1969.

But as soon as detailed design of the LK began it was realized that the mass of the spacecraft in the draft project was completely unrealistic. The young engineers that had done the preliminary LK design had made numerous absurd assumptions. They had assumed a soft landing delta v of only 30 to 40 m/s (200 to 300 m/s was a more realistic estimate). A thirty degree braking angle was assumed after separation, but at this angle the radio altimeter couldn't detect the surface. Such optimistic assumptions resulted in the draft project putting the mass of the LK at 2 metric tons, with a crew of two. (The final LK would have a mass of 5.5 metric tons and be able to accommodate only one cosmonaut!)

Still, Yangel wanted to be sure to leave room for a crew of two in the cabin. But it was quickly discovered that this simply could not be done within the 40 to 50 metric ton low earth payload allotment for the LK/Block D. Given the original mis-estimate, throughout the project weight reduction was a constant concern. A separate descent stage would have had greater economy, but this presented numerous other problems not well understood when the project started. The Chief Designers offered prizes of 50 to 60 rubles per kilogram of weight reduction identified by project engineers. 500 kg was saved just by optimizing the rendezvous orbit.

The capability and accuracy of the landing radar system was the crucial first problem in development. The prompt and precise determination of the velocity and altitude of the LK after separation from the Block D was the key to minimizing propellant usage for the landing and determined the sizing of the whole LK vehicle (due to the propellant reserves required for touchdown and hover maneuvers).

The landing radar system was designated Planeta. Planeta consisted of four antennae, with their beams arranged in an asymmetric pyramid. Three determined the velocity vector using Doppler, while the fourth beam, in the central position, determined altitude above the surface. The system was simple and reliable. It was later proven on the Luna Ye-8 automated lunar sample return probes.

Numerous problems had to be solved regarding the reflection of the radar beam from the surface - problems analogous to those tackled a decade later in America in the design of stealth aircraft. Tests of the Planeta system aboard MiG-17 aircraft indicated that the initial radar reflectivity assumptions were wrong by several orders of magnitude.

Ignition of the Block E stage was commanded automatically by the Planeta system when the LK was 3 km from the touchdown point. After eliminating the vertical velocity, the final landing maneuver was commanded by the cosmonaut. Landing was made in the deep throttle range of the Block E. Engine shutoff was commanded automatically by the Planeta system.

OKB-1 Chief Designer Mishin allowed only a 280 kg propellant reserve for the entire landing maneuver. This constraint prolonged development of the Planeta system. In 1967 Yangel finally went to the Chief Designer's committee and informed them that he could not meet the requirement for two complete lunar landers until 1971.

In 1968 the L3 scheme was overhauled. The original scheme had assumed a landing on the lunar equator. This meant that the LOK orbiter would pass over the landing site once per orbit, every hour. For the ascent of the LK to the rendezvous orbit in this case, a simple gyroscopic platform could accomplish the launch, as was used on the V-2 and R-7 missiles.

At landing sites away from the equator, within two to three orbits the LOK orbital plane would move too far away from the landing site to make such a pre-programmed ascent into the rendezvous orbit. Therefore a new type of guidance system was required. There were three possible choices:

The second alternative was chosen. The LK would use the gyro platform to begin a bank maneuver at 25 to 30 km altitude. The program calculated the angle of tangency and the function of the cut-off of the LK engine. Soviet computer technology was not good enough at that time to equip the LK with an on-board re-programmable digital system. So instead an analogue parametric calculator was developed that took into account all conceivable problems and emergencies and the times at which they could occur. The resulting system was very effective and represented the major avionics system development for the LK.

A major difficulty during development was getting the cabin center of mass on the thrust axis. It could not deviate more than 30 mm from the thrust axis or stable flight of the LK would not be possible. This requirement dictated the design of the propellant tanks of the Block E stage and Integrated Orientation System; required the development of special restraints for the cosmonaut in the cabin; and dictated the placement of equipment on the exterior of the LK. In particular the location of the heavy batteries was continually shifted during development.

LPU Development

The LPU - lunniy posadocnie ustroistviy - was the landing leg assembly of the LK. It would remain behind on the surface, acting as a launch pad for the Block E rocket stage. .Therefore the LPU not only to had to absorb the shock of landing, but provide a level base for the ascent stage as well. All systems not necessary for ascent were attached to it. A A Sarkisyan was in charge of LPU design.

The overall LK mass problem meant that there was only sufficient reserve propellant to move no more than 100 m from the original landing point selected by the automated system. Studies of Ranger photographs of the lunar surface indicated that the 100 m requirement meant that it was most likely the LK would land in a crater of 7 m diameter. This translated into the specification that the LPU be able to handle slopes of 30 degrees with the LK center of gravity being 2.5 m above the surface. The requirement for high confidence unmanned landings also played a role in the stiff requirement.

The minimum design, as used on the US Surveyor, was three legs. But a three legged craft would require double the span of a four legged design for the same stability, and could not meet the thirty degree slope requirement. The design of the LPU was such an 'interesting' engineering problem that engineers from many sections of OKB-1 and Yangel's bureau proposed solutions. In the end over twenty variants of LPU landing gear layouts were studied, including toroidal rings, within which the LPU equipment would be housed, and some bizarre water-stabilized designs.

Many of these ingenious approaches were too complex and mechanically risky. Finally V H Shaurov conceived the idea of 'nesting' engines - engines that would fire DOWNWARD at the instant of touchdown to remove all tipping moments from the spacecraft. This 'active' method of touchdown would reduce the complexity of the gear themselves while meeting the 30 degree requirement. In the end two gear schemes - passive (Feoktistov) and active (Shaurov) - were studied using scale models. Volcanic tuff believed to resemble the lunar regolith was imported from Armenia to simulate the lunar surface. A 300 x 400 mm sand pit was modeled with the tuff, including craters. The tests proved the active system, which was used on the LK.

A full scale mock-up of the final LPU design was built and tested. The shock absorbing techniques developed for the LK gear were later used in the androgynous APAS docking systems developed for Apollo-Soyuz and Mir. Kiselev proposed additional development of an altimeter-triggered soft landing rocket to cancel all vertical velocity, as was done for earth landings of the Soyuz system. But there was no time to develop the system.

Mounted on the LPU were those systems not required after the landing on the moon: the landing altimeter, parabolic antennae, chemical batteries, and three water tanks for the evaporative cooling system (a fourth was added late in development to trim the center of gravity).

Lunar Cabin

A cabin environment using pure oxygen at 0.40 atmospheres was considered, but the need to develop special armatures, fire-proof materials, and the safety of the cosmonaut resulted in this being rejected. So the cabin environment selected was air at 0.74 atmospheres. This meant the cabin pressure vessel had to be twice as heavy, but this was considered worth it from a crew safety point of view.

Soviet experience in manual control of spacecraft was limited at the time of LK development. The development team had to return to first principles in determining the control layout and the position of the cosmonaut. The challenging requirements included the need to operate the controls in a pressurized space suit in the event of cabin depressurization. Therefore foot pedals couldn't be used as in a fixed wing aircraft or helicopter. The design team consulted with helicopter and VTOL specialists at aviation design bureaus to solve these problems.

Development of the correct arrangement and placement of cabin control panels and windows was a long trial-and-error process. It was determined that the optimum viewing angle downwards for landing was 7 degrees. This lower view port was equipped with a collimator for predicting the landing point.

The Kretchet spacesuit developed, the ancestor of those still used on Mir today, could be entered through a hatch in the back. There was an elaborate system of braces and tie-down strips to fix the cosmonaut in a standing position during spacecraft maneuvers. This was because it was necessary to keep the center of mass of the cosmonaut on the thrust axis of the engine.

Ingress/egress development was conducted again by trial-and-error, using full-size LK and suit mock-ups. It was found that the standard hatch developed for the Soyuz orbital module was too narrow for the cosmonaut in the lunar suit. So a special oval hatch had to be developed. This was a controversial solution but was finally approved. The asymmetric mass of the cosmonaut's ladder had to be balanced by placement of equipment on the other side.

Due to weight considerations, no automatic docking system could be considered, as was used on the Soyuz spacecraft. The system objectives were minimum weight, manual operation, and tolerance to low accuracy docking. Since the cosmonaut would spacewalk from the LOK to the LK and back, no hard dock system, with system connections and a hermetic seal between the spacecraft, was required. The Kontakt system that was developed used a snare-like probe on the active LOK spacecraft. The LK was the passive vehicle, and was equipped with a 1.8 meter diameter, lightweight hexagonal alloy grid. Each of the 108 hexagons was a potential receptacle for the LOK's docking probe.

The Kontakt system was to have been tested on a series of earth orbit test flights using Soyuz spacecraft. These were postponed as continued N1 launch failures pushed the date of any possible lunar mission further and further back. In April 1969, two separate docking missions were planned for late 1969/early 1970. After Apollo 11's successful lunar landing, the development and launch of the Salyut space station (to beat the American Skylab) took priority. By December 1970, Kontakt missions were scheduled only after Salyut was successfully flown. Kontakt development was finally terminated in October 1971.

Block E Development

Originally development of the Block E landing/ascent stage was considered the pacing item in LK development. Drawings for the Block E were already issued in parallel with the draft project. The original specification of 510 kg empty mass for the stage could not be met. There were constant mass allocation fights between the rocket block design team and the cabin design team.

The LK variable-thrust, restartable engines represented a huge engineering development task. Unusually, Yangel decided to develop the system within his own OKB rather than entrust it to one of the traditional engine design bureau. New materials and new mechanical solutions were required to obtain a reliable, safe, redundant, durable engine that could be used over a wide variation of payload mass. In charge of Block E engine development was Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, known to all as I-Cubed.

A key problem in design of both the Block E and the LPU was the flow of gases reflected from the surface during touchdown. In Apollo, the descent stage and its engine were left behind on the lunar surface; therefore it did not matter if the descent engine was damaged on landing (as actually occurred several times). But the LK used the same engine for landing and ascent from the surface. A hydrodynamic design had to be found that would prevent any damage to the engines during the landing maneuver. The final approach was streamlined propellant tanks for the Block E, which allowed the gases to flow up and away from the LPU during landing. The Block E engines were also equipped with clamshell doors, which closed at engine shut-off and prevented damage from foreign particles while the LK was on the lunar surface.

The propellant tanks were of unusual form. There were not only external gas flow considerations, but their geometry had to be specifically designed to keep the center of mass within limits during the landing and ascent to orbit. Since the oxidizer was consumed at twice the rate as the fuel, the geometry had to accommodate this fact. Numerous tank layouts were studied before the optimum compromise between geometry and minimum mass was achieved. The self-igniting storable N2O4/UDMH propellants were stored in nested tanks of identical 1.2 cubic meter volumes.

Integrated Orientation System

The Integrated Orientation System was mounted above the Lunar Cabin. Yangel had no experience in microthrusters, so development of this system was subcontracted to Isayev. The same N2O4/UDMH propellant combination was used as in the Block E. The forward mounting of the package meant that the installation was 'unclean' - i.e. it introduced not only motion around the center of gravity of the LK, but translation motions as well. The thrusters were arranged in two independent, redundant systems. In each system 2 x 40 kgf thrusters provided pitch; 2 x 40 kgf yaw; and 4 x 10 kgf for roll. Propellant totaling 100 kg was stored in two tanks. The problem arose how to preserve the center of mass of the module on the main thrust line of the LK. The solution was to enclose the oxidizer tank within the propellant tank in a double-walled barrel construction.

The thrusters were pressure-fed using internal diaphragms. This was the first use of such a technique in Soviet spacecraft, and a new steel alloy was developed by Stepanov for the purpose. The tanks were pressurized to 10 atmospheres by helium gas. Operation of the thrusters for continuous periods of up to ten seconds required development of new materials for the nozzles - niobium and graphite. Minimum thrust impulse was as lows as 9 milliseconds. The nozzles were canted 20 degrees from the horizontal when studies revealed that 95 out of 100 times a straight-through design would lose propellant after engine shutoff. This resulted in a mass savings to the LK of 12.5 kg.

LK Development

When the final drawings were reviewed, there was a major fight between the Yangel and Korolev bureaus over a 12 kg 'deficit' in the computed total mass out of the five metric ton total. Korolev's bureau used this to put the entire design into question. After frantic study, the difference was traced to calculation involving the inert gas used for propellant tank membrane pressurization.

Vibration and environmental tests were conducted on equipment at selected stages of fabrication and assembly. Flight tests were conducted of some components.

Military engineering experts from the Baikonur Cosmodrome had to review the design in order for it to be cleared for use at the launch site. They were experienced in missiles and could not understand the unpressurised operation of some of the equipment in a vacuum, the lack of aerodynamic fairings for cable runs, missing shrouds around the cables, etc.

Mock-ups and test stands used in LK development included:

LK Flight Tests

The T1K and T2K versions of the LOK and LK, respectively, were designed for independent earth orbital flight tests of the spacecraft. The T1K was to be launched by Proton and the T2K (also designated LK6/T2K ) by the Soyuz launch vehicle. This special 11A511L version of the Soyuz booster was equipped with a strengthened upper stage and bulbous fairing to accommodate the LK. An entire separate development team under Yu M Labutin was required to develop the special systems necessary for unmanned earth orbit test operations. 20 such systems were used on the T2K, including modifications of those developed for the Soyuz spacecraft. The Labutin team also had to decide what systems could logically be tested in earth orbit and which could not.

Three T2K's were built, in what was envisioned as a three flight program:

Flight 1 - Follow the standard engine profile Flight 2 - Induce or simulate various abort profiles Flight 3 - Reserve in case of failures on Flights 1 and 2

The flight programs were carefully constructed to allow time after each maneuver before the next one would be conducted. This allowed careful measurement of the resulting orbit after each maneuver in order to verify telemetered performance data, as well as time for playback of all telemetry, radio, and television of the events. It was difficult to arrange the schedule within the available LK battery amp-hours.

Inputs that would normally be done by the crew in the landing phase would have to be simulated and commanded from the ground. In order to accommodate the extra diagnostic and telemetry equipment, a second equipment section was installed on the T2K. Unique earth orbit sensors (solar/stellar, ion flow) were installed as well. These were required to orient the LK along the axis of the orbit.

The T2K crews worked day and night preparing the spacecraft, and finally the first T2K was shipped to Baikonur for launch. Each T2K was tested before flight in a vacuum insolation chamber. During vacuum chamber tests at Baikonur, one of the equipment sections decompressed. It was found to have had ten microscopic holes punched into it during transport. These were repaired. Finally fuelled and cleared for launch, the first T2K was launched on a sunny morning in November 1970. The three tests of the T2K went of without a hitch:

End of the LK

A two-crew version of the LK was studied for support of the Zvezda DLB lunar base planned after the initial landings. Space was so limited that special recesses would have to made in the cabin wall to accommodate the helmets of the two suited cosmonauts. However this was a moot point, since the increased payload required major modifications of the engines and propellant tanks, which were specifically designed for the single-crew, 5,500 kg LK. In the end it was decided that this was not practical. Larger lunar landers were instead designed by Korolev's bureau using Soyuz return capsules and descent stages copied from the American lunar module layout.

Yangel died soon after completion of the successful T2K flights, content that he had done his part for the program.

LK landers are preserved at the MAI museum in Moscow (this was a flight model that was displayed at Eurodisney in 1997), the MAI museum at Orevo (an engineering article), St Petersburg, the Energia plant at Korolev, north of Moscow, and at KB Yuzhnoye in the Ukraine.

Description of the LK

At the end of development the LK as designed had a mass of 5,560 kg, with the Block E stage weighing 2,950 kg. Takeoff mass from the lunar surface was 3,800 kg. The total height was 5.2 m. As with most aerospacecraft, the LK must be looked at from both a systems and a module viewpoint.

LK Modules


The LPU - lunniy posadocnie ustroistviy - was the landing leg assembly of the LK. The LPU was able to handle slopes of 30 degrees with the LK center of gravity being 2.5 m above the surface. Solid propellant 'nesting' engines fired downward at the instant of touchdown to remove all tipping moments from the spacecraft. Mounted on the LPU were those systems not required after the landing on the moon: the landing altimeter, parabolic antennae, chemical batteries, and three water tanks for the evaporative cooling system (a fourth was added late in development to trim the center of gravity). A video camera was externally mounted to give the ground a view of surface operations. It may be calculated from data given that the LPU, with its associated equipment, had a total mass of about 1,440 kg (5,560 kg LK mass - 280 kg descent propellant - 40 kg orientation system propellant used during descent - 3800 kg given as LK mass at start of ascent).

Block E Rocket Stage

The streamlined shape of the Block E allowed engine exhaust gases reflected from the lunar surface to flow up and away from the LK during landing. The Block E engines were equipped with clamshell doors, which closed at engine shut-off and prevented damage from lunar soil while the LK was on the lunar surface.

Total Block E mass has been given as 2,950 kg. It was stated that the original specification of 510 kg empty mass for the stage could not be met; assuming a 10% weight growth during development, the empty mass was probably around 550 kg. This would give a propellant load of 2,400 kg (volumetric capacity of the 2 x 1.2 cubic meter tanks was 2,600 kg). Propellant consumption in the landing maneuver was 280 kg, leaving about 2,100 kg for the ascent into orbit. The engines were rated to burn up to 2,900

Crew Size: 1. Orbital Storage: 30 days. Habitable Volume: 5.00 m3. RCS Coarse No x Thrust: 4 x 390 N. RCS Fine No x Thrust: 4 x 98 N. RCS total impulse: 245 kgf-sec.

More at: LK.


LKR Russian manned lunar rescue spacecraft. Version of the LK that would act as a reserve spacecraft in a two-launch scenario. The LKR woud allow return of the cosmonaut to lunar orbit in the event of failure of the primary LK lander.

Family: Lunar Landers, Moon. Country: Russia. Engines: RD-858. Spacecraft: L3, DLB Lunar Base. Launch Vehicles: R-7, N1, Soyuz 11A511L, N1 1969. Propellants: N2O4/UDMH. Projects: Lunar L3. Launch Sites: Baikonur, Baikonur LC31. Agency: Korolev bureau, MOM. Bibliography: 123, 125, 164, 165, 168, 184, 2, 21, 23, 367, 376, 474, 6, 72, 75, 11340, 12762.
Photo Gallery

LK Landing ProfileLK Landing Profile
Landing and abort profile of the LK lander.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Credit: Manufacturer Image

Overall view of the LK preserved at the Orevo Museum of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Lunar landerLK Lunar lander
LK lunar lander in assembly hall.
Credit: RKK Energia

LK egress testsLK egress tests
Numerous tests were conducted to determine the best hatch and ladder configuration for the cosmonaut in the bulky Kretchet spacesuit. It was found the standard Soyuz hatch had to be replaced by a customized oval hatch.
Credit: RKK Energia

LK InteriorLK Interior
Rare view of suited cosmonaut in the interior of the LK Interior during landing training. The cosmonaut had a viewing angle to the surface through the main window of 7 degrees from the vertical. A collimator indicated the predicted LK landing point.
Credit: RKK Energia

Top of LK at MAITop of LK at MAI
MAI, March 1994
Credit: © Dietrich Haeseler

LK at MAI in rigLK at MAI in rig
MAI, March 1994
Credit: © Dietrich Haeseler

T2K in ShopT2K in Shop

LK First MockupLK First Mockup
Early egress tests in the very first LK mock-up. This mock-up shows the earlier configuration of the lunar cabin, Block E landing / ascent stage, and LPU landing gear.

LK interior leftLK interior left
View of the LK interior to the left of the cosmonaut, showing the cabin depressurisation control panel, the radio control panel, cabin depressurisation valve, and the edge of the exit hatch to the left.
Credit: © Mark Wade

T2K Shroud on PadT2K Shroud on Pad

LK interior rightLK interior right
View of LK interior to the right of the cosmonaut. The large viewport provides good visibility for the piloted descent to the lunar surface. The smaller viewport is for use in rendezvous and docking with the LOK lunar orbiter. Pre-programmed sequences were called up on the blue sequencer master panel, with guarded switches for initiating major engine burns and explosive events. Environmental control system box at left provides connections to the cosmonaut's Krechet space suit.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK EvolutionLK Evolution
Steps in evolution of the LK lunar lander. Top row, from right to left: development of the Lunar Cabin progressed from a simple sphere housing a seated cosmonaut with separate twin equipment sections, to a single equipment section, then finally to the complex shape with separate equipment module required to provide good visibility for landing and docking. Middle row: Development of the Block E landing/ascent rocket stage was dictated by the requirements of minimum weight, symmetric depletion of the propellant tanks, and an aerodynamic shape to deflect exhaust at landing away from the engine bell. Bottom row: alternate LPU landing gear approaches considered. From left: toroidal landing ring, housing LPU equipment; wild landing bag/water stabilised approach; variants on conventional gear.

LK LPU-Draft & FinalLK LPU-Draft & Final
Detailed design of the LPU landing gear. At the top: design at the stage of LK draft project. At the bottom: the final production design.

LK interior backLK interior back
View of the LK behind the cosmonaut. Environmental control, cooling, and electrical connections snake around the cabin. The round connection port to the left provides connection of interior service lines to the exterior cable/line bundle. The large round aft cover goes to the instrument section mounted to the rear of the spherical LK cabin.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Landing TestsLK Landing Tests
A subscale model of the LK's LPU landing gear were used in tests to verify the use of 'nesting rockets' - downward-firing motors that would plant the lander firmly on the surface at slopes of up to thirty degrees.
Credit: RKK Energia

T2K CabinT2K Cabin

LK Crew StationLK Crew Station
A view of the actual fully-equipped LK crew station. Significant equipment is present that is not in the mock-ups that can be viewed today. Note the collimator/aiming reticule over the landing viewport; the cabin crowded with pilot restraints, pipes, and equipment racks. It is clear why accommodation of more than one cosmonaut in this space was not feasible.

View of the LK Block E to the right of the cosmonaut ladder. The blue antenna is part of the landing radar system. The instruments for this were mounted in a globular housing (missing on this mock-up) mounted on the aluminium struts. These would have been left behind with the landing platform when the LK ascended to lunar orbit. Tanks for oxygen and water are arranged around the LPU in a manner to ensure the centre of gravity of the LK remains on the thrust axis. That's the fin of a Scud missile in the foreground.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Egress TestsLK Egress Tests
Another view of LK egress tests. This view makes clear the large size of the backpack of the Kretchet suit and the tight squeeze getting into and out of the LK lander.
Credit: Filin

LK panelsLK panels
The cosmonauts' view of the LK viewports and control panels. On the left, environmental control and cabin depressurisation controls (light blue panel); radio controls (dark green panel); large porthole looking down at lunar surface during landing. The small porthole looked upward for docking. The optical devices that were associated with these portholes are not present in this mock-up. To the right, sequencer panel for calling up sequences for manoeuvres, landing, rendezvous, and docking. Guarded switches initiated major events. One of two hand controllers is visible below the green radio panel.
Credit: © Mark Wade

View of the LK Lunar Cabin and the Integrated Orientation System at the top of the cabin. Note the angled position of the main thrusters, the omni directional 'carrot' antenna at the lower right, and the hexagonal housing of the solar/stellar sensors at the upper right.

LK at KorolevLK at Korolev
Large size photo of the production LK. Note the Vzor optical device fixed to the upward-looking porthole, which allowed the cosmonaut to determine and command attitude, range, and range rate information for docking with the LOK lunar orbiter.

Krechet SpacesuitKrechet Spacesuit
Krechet lunar space suit as displayed at NPO Zvezda. As in the Orlan suit still used on Mir, the cosmonaut entered the suit by swinging open a hatch at the rear. The backpack containing the life support system was housed in the backpack which made up the hatch door. As in Apollo, the gold-coated outer visor of the helmet reflected ultra-violet radiation. The integrated Kretchet design meant that no external hoses were required as in the American Apollo suit.
Credit: Andy Salmon

Krechet SpacesuitKrechet Spacesuit
Front view of the Krechet lunar space suit
Credit: Andy Salmon

LOK-LK DrawingLOK-LK Drawing
Unusual alternate diagram of LOK and LK lunar craft in docked configuration, with bottom view of LK. Korolev School.
Credit: Jakob Terweij

LK Base / KorolevLK Base / Korolev
Close-up view of the engines of the LK exhibited at Korolev School.
Credit: Jakob Terweij

LK Interior-KorolevLK Interior-Korolev
Interior of the an unknown LK also exhibited at Korolev school. This has partially-installed lunar landing instruments.
Credit: Jakob Terweij

LK at KorolevLK at Korolev
LK exhibited at Korolev School. Note the optical device on the upper porthole, part of the semi-automatic optical docking system. This is not seen on other LK's exhibited.
Credit: Jakob Terweij

LK Interior-KorolevLK Interior-Korolev
Interior of the LK exhibited at Korolev school. Note the optical device on the upper porthole, part of the semi-automatic optical docking system. This is not seen on other LK's exhibited. Otherwise this LK seems to be equipped with earth-orbit systems of the T2K, rather than the lunar landing system panels.
Credit: Jakob Terweij

LK Test ArticleLK Test Article
Subscale dynamic test article of a late configuration of the LK, as preserved in the TsniiMash museum. This shows well the complex shape of the Lunar Cabin and the final LPU configuration.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK interior hatchLK interior hatch
View of the LK exit hatch. This is a simplified representation of the real hatch. Note the spherical bulkhead that forms the floor of the LK.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK landing legLK landing leg
View of the LK leg to the left rear of the cosmonaut. Note the solid fuel nesting rocket mounted at an angle to the gear strut.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Block ELK Block E
The Block E landing/ascent stage of the LK, viewed separately from the LPU landing gear. Note the clean aerodynamic shape and the engine guards, necessary to divert exhaust gases and debris away from the engine nozzle during landing.

LK baseLK base
View of the base of the LK, below the ladder coming from the hatch.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Kontakt Dock GridLK Kontakt Dock Grid
The LK was normally the passive vehicle in docking with the LOK. Atop the LK was this grid of 108 hexagonal holes, each a potential docking port for the snare docking probe of the LOK. This system allowed docking to take place without precision alignment of the two vehicles.

LK aft viewLK aft view
View of the aft of the LK behind the cosmonaut. The dish antenna is for beaming of television of the landing back to earth. The conical antenna is for omnidirectional radio communications. A water tank of the cooling system is flanked by the two gear with their nesting rockets.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Egress TestsLK Egress Tests
Another view of LK egress tests, showing the challenge of squeezing through the LK hatch in the Kretchet suit.

LK plumbingLK plumbing
Close-up of plumbing at the base of the LPU. This water tank was part of the LK cooling system. The markings indicate a capacity of 25.3 l.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK LPU detailLK LPU detail
Close-up of the LK LPU section to the right of the cosmonaut. The red boxes are mock-ups of electronic black boxes. The oxygen tank and solid rocket nesting motors are clearly seen.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Block E detailLK Block E detail
Close-up of the LK LPU section to the right of the cosmonaut. The red boxes are mock-ups of electrical / electronic black boxes and batteries.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Block ELK Block E
Close-up of the side of the LK LPU section behind the cosmonaut. The large antenna would have deployed pointing upward to relay television pictures of the landing and moonwalk back to earth.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Early Egress TestEarly Egress Test
Close-up of the earliest version of the Kretchet suit and LK mock-up during egress tests.

LK landing padLK landing pad
Close-up of a landing pad, showing the construction of the strut and the fillets machines into the pad.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK ladderLK ladder
Close-up of the ladder leading to the LK hatch.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK entrance hatchLK entrance hatch
The entrance hatch to the LK lunar lander. On the right is the large instrument section, with connector plates for interior/exterior connection of electrical, electric, and piping services.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK IOS CloseupLK IOS Closeup
Close-up view of the Integrated Orientation System block above the exit hatch, topped by the disk-shaped hexagonal mesh platform that the LOK would use to grapple the LK. The top of the instrument section, with the connection plate, is visible on the right.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK ladder baseLK ladder base
Detail of the base of the ladder, showing the battery racks below the ladder. Note the shape of the foot pad.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK cabinLK cabin
View of the LK cabin with a crude mock-up of the Integrated Orientation System block atop it. The disc antennae around the top of the block are of unknown purpose; possibly part of a radio-locator system to assist in finding the LOK during rendezvous operations.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK landing legLK landing leg
View of the landing leg to the cosmonaut's front left. Note the solid rocket motors mounted above each leg that fired DOWN to settle the LK securely on the surface once the lander was near the surface. These greatly improved the chances of a safe landing. The system could handle landing on a 20% slope or with one leg on a moon rock. The descent ladder is seen coming from the hatch. The box at the base of the latter houses batteries for electric power.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Main EngineLK Main Engine
The LK engine cluster at the base of the lander. The single chamber RD-858 of the 2,050 kgf main engine is at the centre. It is flanked by the two nozzles of the RD-859 2,045 kgf backup engine. The smaller nozzles are exhaust nozzles for the turbines of the pump-fed engines. At landing or takeoff, both the primary and backup engines would ignite. Only if both engines were operating, would one shut down. The thick clamshell doors closed over the engines after landing to insulate them and prevent ingestion of lunar soil.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK landing legLK landing leg
View of the landing leg to the cosmonaut's front left. Note the solid rocket motors mounted above each leg that fired DOWN to settle the LK securely on the surface once the lander was near the surface. Yangel OKB tests proved such rockets greatly improved the chances of the rocket not toppling if landing on a 30 degree slope or with one leg on a moon rock. The descent ladder is seen to the right of the picture.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK with Block DLK with Block D
LK with Block D Lunar Crasher stage. This is the configuration that would have braked until just above the surface, when the LK would have jettisoned the Block D, extended its legs, and manoeuvred to a soft landing on the surface.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Block D / 11D68Block D / 11D68
Aft view of the Block D lunar crasher stage and its 11D68 engine. The Block D would have taken the LK lunar lander to near the surface of the moon. This stage remains in use today atop the Proton rocket.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Engine 11D68 detailEngine 11D68 detail
Close-up view of the 11D68 Block D lunar crasher stage showing detail of the BOZ orientation/ullage thrusters that control the stage during coast, restart, and manoeuvre.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Apollo vs N1-L3Apollo vs N1-L3
Apollo CSM / LM vs L3 Lunar Complex
Credit: © Mark Wade

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

Detail forward view drawing of the LK lunar lander.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Two ViewLK Two View
Two view layout drawing of LK lunar lander.
Credit: © Mark Wade

LK Lunar LanderLK Lunar Lander
LK lunar lander.

LK drawing at KalugaLK drawing at Kaluga
Cutaway drawing of LK lunar lander, showing position of cosmonaut in cabin.
Credit: e

LM vs LKLM vs LK
US Lunar Module compared to Soviet LK lunar lander
Credit: © Mark Wade

1964 July 19 - .
1964 July 21 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1964 July 27 - .
1964 August 1 - .
1964 October 28 - .
November 1964 - .
During 1965 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1965 February 10 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
Spring 1965 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1965 September 1 - . LV Family: N1. Launch Vehicle: N1 1964.
1965 September 6 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1965 December 20 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1965 December 31 - . LV Family: N1. Launch Vehicle: N1 1964.
1966 January 24 - .
1966 February 17 - .
1966 March 6 - .
1966 May 11 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1966 September 1 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
September 1966 - .
1966 September 2 - .
1966 September 14 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1966 September 17 - .
1966 November 1 - .
1966 December 2 - . LV Family: N1, Proton, .
1967 March 14 - .
1967 April 1 - .
1967 August 15 - .
1967 October 4 - . LV Family: N1.
1967 October 14 - .
1967 November 14 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1967 November 25 - .
1967 December 3 - .
1968 January 23 - .
1968 February 1 - .
1968 February 1 - .
1968 February 7 - . LV Family: , Proton, .
1968 March 13 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1968 March 13 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1968 March 20 - .
1968 June 17 - .
1968 October 24 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1968 November 21 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1968 November 26 - .
1968 December 12 - . Launch Vehicle: Spiral 50-50.
1968 December 23 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1968 December 25 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 January 10 - . LV Family: N1.
1969 January 23 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 January 24 - .
1969 January 25 - . LV Family: N1, Proton.
1969 January 27 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 February 3 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 February 9 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 February 16 - . LV Family: N1.
1969 March 20 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 April 16 - .
1969 May 10 - .
1969 May 29 - .
1969 June 1 - .
1969 June 1 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 June 3 - .
1969 June 10 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1969 August 1 - . LV Family: Proton. Launch Vehicle: Proton-K/D.
1969 October 5 - .
1969 October 19 - .
1970 February 16 - . LV Family: N1.
1970 February 26 - .
1970 October 20 - . LV Family: N1.
1970 November 24 - . 05:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC31. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 11A511L.
1970 December 30 - .
1971 January 27 - .
1971 February 26 - . 05:06 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC31. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 11A511L.
1971 March 1 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1971 April 14 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1971 June 1 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1971 July 23 - . LV Family: N1.
1971 August 12 - . 05:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Complex: Baikonur LC31. LV Family: R-7. Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 11A511L.
1972 January 1 - .
1972 September 1 - .
1974 January 2 - . LV Family: N1, R-7, N11, Molniya 8K78L.
1974 May 1 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1974 June 24 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.
1974 August 13 - .
1974 August 14 - . Launch Vehicle: N1.

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