Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 47, pp. 357-362, 1994 / updated June 1997.
Despite the large amount of information that has now emerged on the Soviet manned Lunar effort, many unanswered questions remain about hardware and poorly defined historical related questions. What is clear from my own research is that only about 45% of the full programme story had been told and officially released as of the end of 1993. Much of the programme still remains a secret, but thanks to seven direct meetings with retired General Chief Designer Acad. V. P. Mishin totalling over seven hours, many hardware questions have been answered.
The first meeting was held in Paris in June 1991 at the then Soviet pavilion at the Paris Air Show; the rest were carried out over several days at the IAF Congress in Montreal, Canada on October 6-10, 1991 and the World Space Congress, in Washington, D.C. United States of America, Aug. 28-Sept. 5, 1992.
Attending those meetings were the interpreters Acad. Milkhail Ya Marov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Harvey R. Wasiuta formerly of Space Commerce Corporation and others in subsequent meetings. Also, participating in the various sessions led by Charles P. Vick were Trevor WIlliams, David R. Woods, Dietrich Haeseler, and Christian Lardier in 1991. Subsequently, in 1992 Charles Vick and David R. Woods did the questioning. Thanks to Mr. Theo Pirard, of the Space Information Center, who took a series of photographs that filled in critical details, it has now become possible to define the L3 spacecraft hardware details precisely (not shown here).
Three of the drawings were, by request, signed by Acad. V.P. Mishin even though they were still undergoing revisions. This should not be construed to constitue his approval or disapproval of the drawings, but merely acknowledges that he has seen them and like all research projects, remains a work in progress and will be subject to changes. He had specified changes which have been completed and he had registered copies for himself. Subsequent changes were made in light of actual photographs of the hardware and discussions with the individual component designers for precise working and understanding of the details. The result is a series of drawings on the Soviet manned Lunar programmes hardware reflecting many years of research, though only part of the total series of drawings have been developed on the programmes physical layout.
(2) The N1 Soviet Manned Lunar Program booster systems layout for the L3 payload. N1-L3 is also compared with the Apollo/Saturn booster of the United States. All details are based on photographs.
(3) The N1-L3 competitors UR-700, UR-700M (UR 900) and R-56. The N1-L3 featured for comparison is the 1969 design variant. Also shown is the Proton LK-1 that evolved to the Proton Zond SL-12. (See the previous drawing). It featured a spacecraft that evolved over the years into a manned Mars return spacecraft design configuration concept. The manned lunar landing booster UR-700 booster concept as envisioned by the US intelligence community and its manned lunar spacecraft LK-700 design is based on interviews with the late chief designer and associate designers of the spacecraft. It was formally proposed in 1966 and in-house mock-up work on the spacecraft was started in 1967. The program, which envisioned a mere three years of development and utilised intense ground testing, was cancelled in 1968 by Minister S. A. Afanasyev. The three stage Proton booster, then nearing development completion, was to serve as its second, third, and fourth stages. Proton's RD-253 engine was to be replaced by an altitude version of the same engine, RD-254. UR's 700's design was developed over the period 1962-1965 under the General Chief designer V.N. Chelomey's design bureau in Moscow. Its launch thrust, using nine RD-270's (8D420), was 5,760 tonnes, with a useful low-Earth orbit payload capacity of 120-150 tonnes, depending on the upper stage propellants. The boosters design philosophy was to utilise a basic building block approach to which the previous heavy booster was to be stacked on top of the new first stage. This was the manned lunar booster design expected by US intelligence analysis before N1-L3's roll-out appearance of its facilities systems test vehicle.
The Chelomey design bureau UR-900, also known as the UR-700M, proposed in 1969 and rejected by the Ministry, was designed for a manned Mars mission. Its useful payload capacity to low-Earth orbit was 200-230-240 metric tons, depending on the propellants utilised in the upper stages. Fifteen RD-270's were utilised in its first stage producing a total of 9,600 tonnes launch thrust. There were six RD-270's on the core stage's engine boat tails respectively. The precise tankage construction is not certain.
The M. K. Yangel design bureau competitive N1 design, known as the R-56 is now defined thanks to Mr. James J. Harford, Exective Director Emeritus, AIAA, who is writing a book on Acad. S. P. Korolyov. Like the UR-700, it was intended to utilise four Glushko RD-270 engines in its multi-modular first stage. The design suggests a definite relationship to the original Zenit super, ICBM concept is confirmed by Acad. Vladimir F. Utkin. It was developed in 1965 as a one year design study and was ultimately cancelled by the Ministry of General Machine Building after OKB-1's protest.
(4) N1-L3 and the N1-L3M compared with the Saturn-V and the G-1-e design concept I developed and published in the former BIS President Kenneth W. Gatland's, Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space Technology in the late 1970's and early 1980's. The precise design for the N1-L3M is now actually understood. It was to utilise one of three totally redesigned booster airframe with all new hydrogen/oxygen second and third stages. N1-L3M was designed between 1971 and 1974 but the Soviet government did not sanction its final development. It would be interesting to know the exact design of the fifth flight test N1-L3 booster in order to know how much the design had changed from the previous four flight test boosters verses the most radical design change suggested.
Ultimately the radical design was dropped in favour of the more conservative design for N1-L3M-(N1-F).