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Vulkan LEK program - Valentin Glushko

The collapse of the Soviet lunar program affected the career of Vasily Mishin. In May 1974, he was dismissed from the post of chief designer of the Central Design Bureau of Experimental Mechanical Engineering. TsKBEM itself was reorganized into the Scientific and Production Association "Energia", directed by Valentina Glushko.

In October 1974, Glushko, having got rid of the program of the "hated" missile "N-1", proposed his comprehensive work plan for the next few years. At the same time Valentin Petrovich posed to his staff more extensive tasks than a short visit to the moon. Pre-sketch design of new heavy spacecraft for lunar expeditions, various variants of residential complexes and vehicles on the Moon began.

Although the projects H1-L3 and Zvezda were canceled, Glushko, as the chief designer, is considering a program to build a lunar base, which could become the main federal space program. After the Americans first landed on the moon, it became known that the Apollo 17 flight would be the last. There was an opportunity to take the lead in space again. A permanent base on the moon was able to completely overshadow the success of the Americans. By that time, a preliminary program of scientific research on the Moon had been drawn up, which could have been carried out during the work of astronauts in the stationary lunar laboratory.

The main vehicle offered by Glushko for the delivery of astronauts and cargoes was the Lunar expedition ship LEK of direct landing. "LEK" was to be released into space by the colossal carrier "Vulkan". The new rocket impressed with its characteristics: launch weight - 3810 tons, total height - 88 meters, main diameter - 7.8 meters. It could lift a cargo of 200 tons to a low near-earth orbit, 65 tons to the Moon, 54 tons to Venus, and 52 tons to Mars. The delivery of LEK to the near-moon orbit was supposed to be carried out with the help of the Vesuvius cryogenic block with oxygen-hydrogen LRE of small thrust, but high specific impulse.

Unlike previous lunar projects, everything here was created anew. If the Zvezda was used only for work on the lunar surface (lunar base), and the LC (lunar ship) was used only for delivering astronauts to our natural satellite, then the Vulcan program also created the means for delivering the crew to the Moon and the necessary components for long stay on it. The whole complex consisted of an expeditionary and transport spacecraft, as well as equipment to create a permanent lunar laboratory.

  • LEK - lunar expeditionary ship. Like the moon ship (LC), the landing gear in this project used one engine for landing and for takeoff. The module in which the crew returned to Earth was increased (relative to the project H1-L3), which made it possible to increase the crew. LEK itself was created to perform the expedition according to a purely "direct scheme" and consisted of three blocks: the landing and take-off steps and the inhabited block. The landing stage, equipped with a powerful main and four steering liquid rocket engines, resembled the octagonal landing stage of the lunar module of the Apollo ship. The inhabited block and take-off stage were similar to similar blocks of "N1-LZM".

  • LVM is a lunar living module. In it, the three astronauts were to live during the entire lunar expedition.

  • Lunokhod - provided the movement of astronauts on the Moon within a radius of 200 km from the lunar base. Its main purpose is to conduct research on large areas, but it could be used for unloading / loading operations, as well as for the disposal of radioactive waste (arising from the operation of a nuclear reactor) far from the base.

  • Laboratory and factory module. Consisted of two compartments. In the first, various biological-physical experiments were carried out, and the second provided the production of oxygen from the lunar soil. In terms of its size and method of delivery to the moon, it corresponded to the residential lunar module. Radioisotope power generators. Each module of the entire complex was equipped with its own power plant, which after landing and placing the module in the desired position (relative to other parts of the base) were placed at a safe distance before they began to be operated.

  • Cargo ship for delivery of additional equipment, water, etc. As today's Progress stations provided the Mir station and will provide the ISS, so these devices were supposed to support life on the lunar base. Each module of the entire complex was equipped with its own power plant, which after landing and placing the module in the desired position (relative to other parts of the base) were placed at a safe distance before they began to be operated.

In one version of the expedition the crew would start, being in the descent vehicle, located inside the inhabited block "LEK". However, it was proposed to launch the crew to the unmanned LEK and with the help of a separately put into orbit "Soyuz" with the subsequent docking of ships and the transfer of astronauts to the inhabited block of the lunar ship. Otherwise, the LEK flight was standard for the "direct" scheme: launch from near-earth orbit and exit to circumlunar orbit with the help of the Vesuvius upper stage, then the separation of LEK from the empty block and descent to the surface with the help of the landing stage engines. Further, after executing the program of the expedition, the take-off stage with the help of its own engine was supposed to lead the inhabited unit to the flight trajectory to the Earth. Before entering the atmosphere - separation of the descent vehicle from the inhabited unit. The dimensions of LEK were chosen as follows: the total length is 9.7 meters, the maximum diameter is 5.5 meters, the total weight is 31 tons. The crew is 3 people, the maximum operation time is 365 days.

Various astronomical studies of the planets of the solar system and astrophysics. Unlike the Earth, there is no atmosphere on the Moon, and observations can be made at once in the whole spectrum of electromagnetic waves. Medical and biological experiments in conditions of weak gravity and the influence of cosmic radiation. Production of various substances from the lunar soil, mainly oxygen (for astronauts and for the oxidizer of lunar ships returning the crew to Earth). In the future, it was possible to obtain one of the helium isotopes, which is constantly formed in the lunar soil when it interacts with the solar wind, and it does not exist on Earth. This substance is a fuel for promising thermonuclear reactors (although they are still under development), and the production of this isotope on the Moon can be of an industrial scale.

The delivery of components to the moon was supposed to be carried out in three stages. The first one included three launches of the Vulkan launch vehicle, during which the lunar living module (LVM), the lunar rover and the lunar ship with a crew of three were delivered to the moon. At the second stage, two more Vulcans were launched, delivering another residential lunar module and another lunar rover. At the third stage, the lunar factory module (LZM) was launched, which is additional scientific equipment. From that moment on, the lunar base began to produce oxygen for its own needs.

In the future, it was planned to carry out one more launch of an unmanned transport ship per year. To change crews, periodically (also about once a year) Volcanoes were launched with manned spacecraft.

A study of the lunar base project and the Vulkan rocket launcher was completed by the end of 1975. A special commission from the USSR Academy of Sciences decided that this project should be delayed at least until the next century, but for now all the forces of the NPO Energia should be directed to the MKTS (Energia-Buran) program of the MKTS.

The country's leadership did not feel any enthusiasm for the "new" lunar program and did not hurry to allocate money for the implementation of the plans of the NGO Energia. The task of creating a reusable transport ship put before the domestic cosmonautics pushed the development on the lunar theme to the background.

Glushko until the very last days of his life tried to convince the "top" in the need to finance the program for the development of the moon, but he did not succeed in doing this, although the development of certain parts of the system had already reached the preliminary design.

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Page last modified: 22-03-2019 21:48:48 ZULU