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Cutaway view of 1963 L1 circumlunar spacecraft.

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Manufacturer's Designation: 7K. Class: Manned. Type: Spacecraft. Nation: Russia. Manufacturer: Korolev.

The 7K Soyuz spacecraft was initially designed for rendezvous and docking operations in near earth orbit, leading to piloted circumlunar flight. Soyuz continued the themes of the earlier Sever project. In the definitive December 1962 Soyuz draft project, the Vostok-Zh of the 1962 technical project was gone and Soyuz appeared as a complete two-place spacecraft. The design included two other spacecraft - the Soyuz B 9K rocket acceleration block and Soyuz V 11K tanker. All of these would be launched into orbit by Soyuz 11A511 boosters. A circumlunar mission would begin with launch of the Soyuz B 9K rocket block into a 225 km orbit. This would be followed by one to three Soyuz V 11K tankers (depending on the mission), which would automatically rendezvous and dock with the 9K. They would transfer up to 22 tonnes of propellant. Finally the 7K spacecraft with the cosmonauts aboard would be launched, dock with the 9K, and be propelled on a lunar flyby trajectory.

Soyuz ASoyuz A - Original Soyuz A manned spacecraft design as approved in 1963. The Soyuz 7K-LOK that would fly three years later was very similar, except the forward living module was changed from cylindrical to spherical in shape.

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The Soyuz A consisted, from fore to aft, of the living module (BO), the landing capsule (SA), the equipment module (PO), the propulsion module (NO) and the rendezvous electronics module (AO). This last toroidal module would be jettisoned before the Soyuz B rocket burn to minimise mass. It was retained in the initial Soyuz 7K-OK design and is misidentified in most earlier books as a ‘toroidal fuel tank’).

The 7K would be equipped with cinema cameras and scientific sensors to record the lunar surface during the flyby, which would be at from 1,000 to 20,000 km from the lunar surface. Total flight time was 7 to 8 days. The SA would separate from the 7K at 120 to 150 km altitude and re-enter the earth’s atmosphere at 11 km/sec. After decelerating to subsonic speed, the SA’s parachute would open at 10-18 km altitude. Total mass of the L1 in low earth orbit was 23,000 kg and the flyby mass of the Soyuz alone was 5,100 kg.

Soyuz ABV ComplexSoyuz ABV Complex - Soyuz complex of 1963 as it would appear during tanker operations. From left to right: Soyuz A manned spacecraft; Soyuz B translunar injection stage; Soyuz V tanker spacecraft.

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Korolev understood very well that financing for a project of this scale would only be forthcoming from the Ministry of Defence. Therefore his draft project proposed two additional modifications of the 7K: the Soyuz-P space interceptor and the Soyuz-R command-reconnaissance spacecraft.

The Soyuz draft project was submitted to the expert commission on 20 March 1963. However only the reconnaisance and interceptor applications of the Soyuz could be understood and supported by the military. Due to the press of other work it was decided that OKB-1 would concentrate only on development of the 7K spacecraft, while development of the 9K and 11K spacecraft would be passed to other design bureaux. The military projects Soyuz-P and Soyuz-R were ‘subcontracted’ to OKB-1 Filial number 3, based in Samara.

L1 Complex 1961L1 Complex 1961 - The earliest Sever project tackled such problems as manoeuvring in orbit, rendezvous and docking, use of manipulators to move station modules, and testing of lifting re-entry vehicles. Sever was 50% larger than Soyuz, which replaced it by late 1961 in OKB-1 studies.

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The Soyuz A L1 was described in a 23 September 1963 letter of Korolev setting out the space exploration plan for 1965 to 1975. At this time the configuration was still being tinkered with and the Soyuz modules were: the Descent Capsule (SA), Living Module (BO); Equipment Module (AO); Propulsion Module (AO); Rendezvous electronics module (NO) and Docking Unit (SU). The system still consisted of the 7K manned spacecraft, the 9K rocket spacecraft, and the 11K tanker. A total of six launches of the 11A511 Soyuz booster would be required. The 9K rocket stage would be put in orbit first. It would be followed by four 11K tankers which would top off the tanks of the rocket block. Then, when all was ready, the 7K manned craft would be put into orbit and dock with the 9K stage. The stage would fire and put the manned spacecraft on a translunar trajectory.

L1 Complex 1961L1 Complex 1961 - 2 view version.

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To Korolev’s frustration, while Filial 3 received budget to develop the military Soyuz versions, his own Soyuz-A did not receive the support of the leadership for inclusion in the space program of the USSR. The 7K-9K-11K plan would have required five successful automatic dockings to succeed. This seemed impossible at the time. Instead the road to the moon advocated by Vladimir Nikolayevich Chelomei was preferred. Chelomei was Korolev’s arch-rival, and had the advantage of having Nikita Khrushchev’s son in his employ. He attempted to break the stranglehold that ‘Korolev and Co.’, also known as the ‘Podpilki’ Mafia, had on the space program. Chelomei’s LK-1 single-manned spacecraft, to be placed on a translunar trajectory in a single launch of his UR-500K rocket, was the preferred approach. Chelomei issued the advanced project LK-1 on 3 August 1964, the same day the historic decree was issued that set forth the Soviet plan to beat the Americans to the moon. Under this decree Chelomei was to develop the LK-1 for the manned lunar flyby while Korolev was to develop the N1-L3 for the manned lunar landing. The 7K-9K-11K system was cancelled. But the Soyuz A itself would be developed by Korolev as the 7K-OK manned earth orbit spacecraft. Korolev kept his options open and had versions of it designed which would in the end be flown for manned orbital and circumlunar missions.

L1 Complex 1962L1 Complex 1962 - The first 1961 draft of the Soyuz project was used a modernisation of the Vostok 3KA series (Vostok-Zh). Three rocket stages would be assembled in low earth orbit using a manned Vostok tug. They would then launch a Soyuz capsule on a lunar flyby and return to earth.

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Craft.Crew Size: 3. Design Life: 30 days. Orbital Storage: 30.00 days. Total Length: 7.4 m. Maximum Diameter: 2.5 m. Total Habitable Volume: 9.00 m3. Total Mass: 5,880 kg. Total Propellants: 830 kg. Primary Engine Thrust: 417 kgf. Main Engine Propellants: Nitric Acid/Hydrazine. Main Engine Isp: 282 sec. Total spacecraft delta v: 420 m/s. Electrical System: Batteries.

Soyuz A Chronology

01 January 1961 Competing designs for a reliable manned spacecraft to succeed Vostok.

The Soyuz or Sever designs would utilize body lift to reduce G forces and allo the crew to make re-entries at hyperbolic speeds - when returning from the moon, or Mars. An associated design was a manned orbital tug version of the Vostok capsule to assemble spacecraft in low earth orbit.

01 December 1962 Soyuz draft project completed.

The draft project for a versatile manned spacecraft included the Soyuz-A circumlunar spacecraft, the military Soyuz-P fighter and Soyuz-R reconn bird.

Soyuz ASoyuz A

Credit: © Mark Wade. 4,819 bytes. 433 x 328 pixels.

21 March 1963 Soyuz development approved.

Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 'On approval of work on the Soyuz complex' was issued.

23 September 1963 Korolev letter sets out a space exploration plan for 1965 to 1975.

The plan included a series of lunar exploration vehicles: the L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5.

03 December 1963 Soyuz circumlunar spacecraft approved.

Decree 'On approval of work on the Soyuz 7K-9K-11K circumlunar complex' was issued. This elaborated on the Soyuz design made under the prior decree of 16 April 1962. Initial design work was authorised on the Soyuz 7K earth orbit basic version - capable of automatic rendezvous and docking with other spacecraft; and the 9K and 11K tanker / refuelable rocket blocks to put the 7K in high altitude or circumlunar orbits.

Soyuz ASoyuz A

Credit: © Mark Wade. 2,096 bytes. 233 x 198 pixels.


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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