Soviet Manned Lunar Craft Designs

Lunar Orbital Station Design

Galina Balashova

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.

Galina Balashova, left, presenting her designs
Galina Balashova, left, presenting her designs in 2017

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. 

Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program.
Galina Balashova, Architect of the Soviet Space Program.

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

Lunar Lander Sketch
Lunar Lander Sketch – Galina Balashova

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:

Soviet LK moon lander
Soviet LK moon lander

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:

Lunar Orbital Station Design
Lunar Orbital Station Design

It clearly provides a spacious, shirt-sleeves environment:

Lunar Orbital Station
Lunar Orbital Station
Lunar Orbital Station
Lunar Orbital Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early LOK:

These are early sketches for what clearly became the LOK.

LOK Initial Design
LOK Initial Design
LOK Initial Design
LOK Initial Design

Port and starboard views of the developing design:

LOK - Port View
LOK – Port View
LOK - Starboard View
LOK – Starboard View

LOK – Final Design

LOK Final Design
LOK Final Design

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

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:

http://sk.ru/news/b/articles/archive/2017/07/03/galina-balashova-the-spaceship-designer-the-soviets-forgot.aspx

And another here:

https://phys.org/news/2017-01-hidden-artist-soviet-space-programme.html

Galina Balashova
Galina Balashova in 2017

3 thoughts on “Soviet Manned Lunar Craft Designs”

    1. 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.

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