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astronautix.com US Lunar Bases


Spacecraft: Lunex.

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.

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.


Spacecraft: Navy SLV.

A US Navy lunar landing program was headed by the inimitable Dr. Nicolaides at China Lake. The team's Soft-Landing Vehicle (SLV) began control testing in a large rig in 1961. Termed in the official history 'an outgrowth of NOTS' unparalleled propulsion expertise', the SLV was an early prototype moon-lander that demonstrated advanced hypergolic-fuel, demand-thrust, and autonomous-control technologies. The history states cryptically 'this unit committed suicide following the final test of the program'....

The SLV would have sent a dog to the moon in 1963, and returned a soil sample in 1964. A scaled-up version of the lander was to have put a Navy man on the lunar surface by 1967.

Further Navy lunar efforts, like those of the Army and Air Force, were discontinued after NASA was given the Apollo moon landing project in April 1961.


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Last update 28 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .