Before I get started I must give credit. The illustrations here are largely by Galina Balashova. Little known in the west, she was responsible for the interior design of pretty much every Soviet spacecraft. Combining Art and Architectural skills, it was her job to make the spacecraft a productive, pleasant environment.
If you have any interest in this area, the book “Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program” is absolutely essential, and is packed with elegant and informative paintings and drawings.
The Lunar Craft, An Introduction
It is not always clear from the illustrations exactly what stage of the craft’s development they show. Many are clearly a bad fit to the final designs of the craft. I have tried to show them in roughly chronological order, but there’s an element of guesswork here.
For those new to this, the two key craft are the Lunar Orbiter (LOK), and Lunar Lander (LK Lander).
Lunniy Korabl / Lunar Lander
Here’s an early sketch of the LK lander looking distinctly different from it’s final form. I suspect these early designs were significantly bigger, before the weight challenges shrunk them down.
Some elements are clearly the same though. Note the hold down jets mounted near the base of each leg. These were used to stop the craft from bouncing up immediately after landing.
Update! Thanks to Paul Drye – this is an error in the book, the craft shown is the LEK, Lunar Expeditionary Complex, by Glushko, from the early seventies.
Here’s a photo of mine of the LK Lander exhibited in London:
The LOK / Lunniy Orbitalniy Korabl
Some drawings refer to a Lunar Orbital Station, and these seem considerably more ambitious than the orbital module of a Soyuz based craft:
It clearly provides a spacious, shirt-sleeves environment:
These are early sketches for what clearly became the LOK.
Port and starboard views of the developing design:
LOK – Final Design
If anyone can provide more information on the timing of these designs, and how they relate to the overall program, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
But in the meantime, I’m just happy to have a new view of some key elements of the early Soviet Space era.
For more information, there’s an excellent article with an interview here:
And another here:
6 thoughts on “Soviet Manned Lunar Craft Designs”
The lander with the egg-shaped compartment post-dates the LK. It’s Glushko’s LEK lander, from about 1973-75.
Aha! Thanks for that – the book has it as 1964-1968, LK.
I was thinking that some elements looked VERY like the LEM, which didn’t make a lot of sense if it pre-dated it.
Errors or not, I really do need to get this book. Early Christmas present to myself, I think!
Ms. Balashova had a very prominent role in the design of the soviet early spacecraft, I wish we had known earlier about her work.
Thanks a lot for including the diagram of the LEK, I found it very useful. Is there informati0n on its design dimensions, for example the diameter in centimeters of the spherical (or egg-shaped ) compartment?
Also the diameter of the Lunar Orbital Station?
Hello again, I saw your animation of the Soyuz LOK, I liked it a lot.
I did not know of the LOK version with solar panels, can you point me to sources to learn more about it?