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Lunex Lunar Lander
Lunex Lunar Lander
Lunex Project Manned Spacecraft

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Class: Manned. Type: Lunar Lander. Nation: USA. Agency: USAF.

The largest single development objective for the 1961 US Air Force Lunex program was to provide a spacecraft capable of transporting men and equipment to the lunar surface and returning them to a selected earth base. This payload would consist of a Lunar Landing Stage, Lunar Launch Stage and a 3-man Lunex Re-entry Vehicle.

This payload was 16.1 m long, and the interface diameter with the Space Launching System was 7.62 m. The complete payload weighed 61,000 kg at escape velocity, and a 9,163 kg Manned Re-entry Vehicle was returned to the earth.

Figure 4-3Figure 4-3 - Overhead view of Lunex Spacecraft

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The Lunex Re-entry Vehicle had to be capable of entering the earth's atmosphere with a velocity of approximately 11.3 km/sec. At that time, basic re-entry information for velocities of this magnitude did not exist. Therefore, engineering design effort for this re-entry vehicle would have to be accomplished concurrently with other major sub-systems developments and integrated with the High-Speed Re-entry test program and the Abort System test and development program.

Another major problem facing the re-entry vehicle development program was the life support package. The planned schedule required the manned life support package to be designed on the basis of earlier primate shots, Mercury shots and the Discoverer series.

Figure 4-3Figure 4-3 - Inboard Profile of Lunex Spacecraft

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The Lunar Landing Stage had to be capable of landing the Lunar Launching Stage and the Lunex Re-entry Vehicle on the lunar surface. This was considered a difficult design problem because little was known about the lunar surface. The only practical design approach was to provide an alighting system capable of landing on an extremely rough surface. An automatic levelling, orientation and launching system was required for system check-out prior to manned flight. Therefore, any assumption that the Manned Lunar Payload could be moved about on the lunar surface or that the payloads might initially transfer fuel on the lunar surface, could be entirely erroneous and jeopardise the complete Lunar Expedition effort. The landing stage would also have to be developed so that it was capable of landing the Cargo Payloads on the lunar surface.

Lunex Lunar LanderLunex Lunar Lander - Two view drawing of Lunex Lunar Lander, showing center of gravity and coordinate system stations.

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The Lunar Launching Stage had to be developed with a different philosophy than the previous sub-systems. First, it only operated in the vacuum of space and on the lunar surface. Secondly, it would be required to function after it had been located on the lunar surface for an extended period varying from several days to many months. Therefore, the stage had to be developed to launch the re-entry vehicle after being subjected to a better vacuum then available in our best earth laboratory facilities, following possible temperature variations of 400 to 500 degrees, following possible meteorite bombardment and from a less than optimum launch angle. Specifically the stage development had to consider propellant boil-off, automatic check-out, self-erection and remote (earth-moon) launching procedures.

Lunex BC-2720 LVLunex BC-2720 LV - Lunex BC-2720 launch vehicle installed on the pad.

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The Lunar Launching Stage represented the major reliability problem of the system because an abort capability was planned for every phase of the Lunex mission except during launch from the lunar surface. This created the requirement to develop an extremely reliable Lunar Launching Stage.

The successful support of the Lunar Expedition required a capability to deliver relatively large Cargo Packages to the lunar surface. These Cargo Packages would be soft landed at the desired lunar sites by the Lunar Landing Stage. Each Cargo Package will weigh approximately 20,500 kg and be specifically designed to carry the items desired to support the expedition.


Craft.Crew Size: 3. Total Length: 16.2 m. Maximum Diameter: 7.6 m. Total Mass: 61,000 kg.

Lunex Chronology

24 April 1959 All three military services studying a base on the moon Program: Navy Lunar Base.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Maj. Gen. Bernard A. Schriever, Commander of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, stated that all three military services should be studying the possibility of a base on the moon. Up to that point, he felt, all such studies had been "in the blue thinking."

28 October 1960 Air Force lunar base briefing to NASA Program: Apollo.

Key staff members of NASA Headquarters and the Commander, U.S. Air Force Research and Development Command, met at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, Los Angeles, Calif., to attend briefings and discuss matters of mutual concern.

At an executive session, Air Force and NASA programs of orbital rendezvous, refueling, and descent from orbit were discussed. Long-range Air Force studies on a lunar base were in progress as well as research on more immediate missions, such as rendezvous by an unmanned satellite interceptor for inspection purposes, manned maintenance satellites, and reentry methods. NASA plans for the manned lunar landing mission included the possible use of the Saturn booster in an orbital staging operation employing orbital refueling. Reentry studies beyond Mercury were concentrated on reentry at escape speeds and on a spacecraft configuration capable of aerodynamic maneuvering during reentry.

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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .