Friday, August 1, 2014

It has been a long time coming. But as any successful builder will tell you, it's wize follow the axiom, "measure twice, cut once" - meaning plan and then double check everything before you start the work so as to avoid going back to "repair" an error later (which could add weeks to the process).

   One of the unique aspects of this project is taking the available measurements from multiple sources, and then making them work. This would seem to be easy, but soviet era measurements standard were as mysterious as thier political system. By their very nature, they seemed to conflict. The height wouldn't match with the width, the cabin measurements wouldn't match the height or width, and the Block E engine didn't match with any of the aforementioned measurements. The reality is that when using soviet era measurements you have to determine from which point to which point were used as reference. For example: was the measurement between the deployed landing struts face-on or diagonally, and are they measuring the outside edge to edge, or from the center of the landing pads to each other? What I really needed was assistance from someone able to make actual measurements of one of the five remaining LK ... and a Rosetta Stone! And after months of searching, I finally acquired that Rosetta Stone... in two parts

    The first part was a copy of an actual Engineer Construction Drawing* (blue print of sorts) which contained the precise measurement to the millimeter of the height with distinct lines showing where these figures applied: a to b, and b to c. The other half of the Rosetta Stone was an Engineering Drawings of the Power Supply. There are the five batteries used to power the LK; three on the landing section, and two on the Ascent Stage. This document contained a 2-way drawing with enlarged details and with all measurements.

     With these pieces of information I was able to decipher complete measurements and begin the process of preparing my own construction drawings . Here is one of the MANY working drawings I've made in preparation for this project.

* I'd love to say how I obtained this Engineering Drawing, but I gave my word not to. 
Additionally at no point am I to show this document to any other person. To violate
 either of these would risk the reputation and confidence of this high profile source.

     There are separate drawings detailing the Block E, the Landing Struts, the Antenna Dish, the Radiator/Docking Plate, the size of each sphere, and on and on and on. That said, I am almost ready to begin construction!

Now comes step two: The Studio!!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Perpetual Common Mistake

You will find something similar in many of the drawings of the Lunniy Korabl made by people who were not involved with its' creation. It's the size, shape and position of the Lading Radar. It's a Doppler Antenna located at the bottom of the LK's Starboard side, right below the Strap-on Instrument Pod. But what's really strange is that anybody who has seriously studied the Lunniy Korabl would know this radars shape and size quite well.

And yet, they don't.

If you look at these two very popular images released a few decades ago, you'll see the answer to the shape and size of the Planeta Landing Radar is very clear:

No. 17 in the top image is of the LK Radar Landing system. But we only get to see it from the side. However No. 1 in the T2K image is the same instrument. But unlike the LK image, the T2K image has this seen from the side & the frontt. Now, if you use the logic our furry little ancestors gave us, you'll come to the inescapable realization that the Landing Radar doesn't look like an Acorn from the front. It's only the side view that has that Acorn profile.

In 2011 the Russian periodical  Радио published a history of this radar in thier #8 edition. Copies of that account can be received by contacting

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Recharging the Warp Drive!

   One of my work philosophies is, "If you throw enough lines in the water, eventually a fish will bite!"

   I continually write the General Directors of all these Design Bureaus which played a part in creating the Lunniy Korabl. Many remain unanswered, but that doesn't mean they won't answer. Business in the former Soviet Union is not the same as it is in America. In the USA it is fast paced, hustle bustle, get it done NOW! In Russia there is much more relaxed and methodical process. I understand this. One the one hand, I need to be patient. On the other hand I need to write to these companies well in advance. Even if it will be a year before I will work on a particular part, I need to contact the Design Bureau now, so that I may receive the required information by the time I need it. Every once in a while, though, I get a rather prompt reply. Such is the case with the Power Supply designed for the Lunniy Korabl.

   The Lunniy Korabl was equipped with five batteries located on the Port side of the ship - three on the LPU, and two on the LPA. Since a Reserve LK (LK-R) would be launched to the Moon in advance of the manned LK, the batteries were designed to last for three months. To ensure optimal charge of the batteries, they would be mounted after the N1 was on the pad, just prior to launch*. This meant that the location of the batteries needed to be on the outside of this ship and facing the gantry. The three LPU batteries were hung on a specially designed frame just aft of the ladder, and the two LPA batteries on a frame mounted between the cabin and instrument compartment.

In this photo you can see the LPU Battery Rack with three "Imitator" Batteries.
A special thermal regulating enclosure has been installed
 between the batteries and the rack.

   Mock-ups of these batteries are not installed on any of the five remaining LK and to the best of my knowledge no photographs of these batteries have been published. The only clues to the design of these batteries are "Imitators" on the LK at Orevo. and simplified images of the power supplies on drawings of the LK. From these we can get the basic size of the batteries, but very little detail 

Engineering drawing showing the relative size and basic
 configuration of the Power Supplies on the Lunniy Korabl.

   Until yesterday, this was all the information I had on the LK Power Supplies. And then ...

The cover of a NPP "Kvant set of Dimensional Drawings of  Block 820 circa 1968.
  I received an NPP "Kvant" document which provided the schematics, measurements, and performance specifications of the Power Supply designed for the 11F94! This is more than I was expecting. The drawings show all the measurements including details of attachment points, and cut away details of individual parts. To coin a phrase...


   This just goes to show you that a little perseverance and a lot of patience goes a long way! And in all reality, this is what charges my Warp Drive! If you could have seen the spectacle I made as I was opening the emails, and seeing the documents download and open up. I was flipping out, jumping up and down, and doing my "Happy Dance"! Not a good thing to do with my body in the shape it's in, but when the excitement's this great, it's got to come out! But on the sober side of the spectrum, this gives me the encouragement to continue with this momentous task. There's still so much I don't understand about the Lunniy Korabl, but it's coming together bit by bit.

   I can't show the documents right now, but they will be shown in a future publication. In the meantime I will translate the documents (Soviet Engineering Drawings have their own "unique" font. It's not quite, but sort of, italics), and make the master for the Battery. From there I can mold and cast replicas.
*The batteries would be installed by a special team of experienced "mountain climbers". More on this in another entry.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Best Lunniy Korabl Book EVER!!!

   If you want to learn about the amazing spacecraft designed by the Soviet Union to transport cosmonauts to and from the lunar surface, then you need to read "Memories of Our Lunar ship" by Vyacheslav M. Filin! 

   Published just three years after the USSR official acknowledged the existence of their participation in the Race for the Moon, this 1992 classic is the single best reference for those wanting to learn about the history and creation of the Lunniy Korabl. Written in the style of a memoir, this 71 page book provided the first glimpse into the soviet lunar conquest.

   From its' first conception to the complete design and testing, this book describes the creativity, emotion, and euphoria that went into creating the technological counterpart to Americas' Lunar Module.  

   Many photographs and diagrams of the L-3 components, flight systems, and work-up drawings showing the evolution of the LK design were published for the first time in this book.

About the Author:  Born in 1939 Vyacheslav Michailovich Filin holds the title of Honored Designer of the Russian Federation.

   Upon graduating from the Moscow Aviation institute in 1963, he began his career with OKB-1 and was a member of the team of designers and engineers who worked to develop the L-3 Lunar Complex.  He went on to become the Chief Designer of the the Soviet Unions Energia/Buran Space complex. He has served as Vice President, and First Deputy General Designer to RSC Energia, the worlds' largest rocket and space corporation.
   V. M. Filin has also authored several other books related to space projects in which he had direct participation, including:  The Path to Energia, and Launch Site - The Ocean. In 2005 he published an abridged "Memories of Our Lunar ship" under the title, "Our Attraction to the Moon". This updated version included the "Memoirs of (five other) Leading Designers".

   Vyacheslav Filin is retired, but still acts as a private consultant for RSC Energia.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting to know the Lunniy Korabl

   If you want to get to know a vehicle really well, try building a large scale visually accurate model of it from scratch. Unlike putting together a model in a box, there are no instructions to read, no pictures to show you what goes with what. Everything here has to be analyzed and measured. Plus, in this case since I'm trying to make it a technical replica, so I have to look at what every thing looks like from every view and angle, and I have to know what's under and inside of everything. It's not enough to know what the Control and Display Panels look like, and how they are positioned inside the Cabin; I need to know what's supporting the Control Panels, and how those supporting structures are fastened to the ship.

   Why? Why is something like knowing how the Display Panels are fastened to the ship important? Let me answer that question with an example.

   Let's say I'm a classic muscle car fanatic, and I especially love the '71 Mustang Mach I with the 327 Cleveland engine. I go to the Mall and find that someone has displays of Classic Muscle cars in 1:5 scale, and better yet, they have a beautiful model of a '71 Mach I with a 327 Cleveland engine. Cool!!! 

   But as I look at the model closely I see that whoever built this model didn't put any kind of score-line between the Headers and the Block on the engine. It's just one solid looking piece. This is a HUGE distraction, because I know that whoever built this model doesn't have a clue how a 327 Cleveland works, let alone the basic principles of the Internal Combustion Engine! 

   I walk away with much less fascination than I had when I first saw the display.

   It's a little more complicated with the spaceship the Soviet Union designed to take their cosmonauts to the Moon (after all, I want this to be an educational display), but the principle is the same. If I'm going to put a landing radar on this spacecraft then I need to know what the landing radar was, how it operated, and in particular which design model was used on the Lunniy Korabl.

This DA-019 "Planeta" Landing Radar (seen here without its cover) was
 the predecessor of the model later developed for use on the Lunniy Korabl.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mission Statement

   Today there are a number of small businesses which create museum quality display models of spacecraft in various scales. Many are impressive, and all are quite expensive. But in my view they lack one particular component of the original spacecrafts: they are useless from a real engineering perspective. It's not enough to build a replica in the correct scale and color. These spacecraft were built by man, from unique materials, and invariably they all show the signs of their construction. There are welds, seams, fabrics, nuts and bolts used to create the original ships. This is where my designs will separate themselves from what is the normal standard for today's display pieces. I want to recreate every detail, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

   When people go to museums, they are at times mesmerized by the actual spacecraft. Sometimes it is because of where it's been, but most always it is because, in reality, there is so much to see on these creations. There are various textures and colors, and always ... details. Put a child in front of a scale model of a spacecraft, and you may catch their attention. But put this same child in front of a real spacecraft, and it tends to make them stop, stare, and sometimes even dream. I want to reproduce scale models that mimic the real creations, so that a child not only sees the ships, but so that they can see the details at a scale which makes it wondrous.

   The first scale replica I will create is the first one I dreamed of creating 15 years ago. The 11F94 Lunniy Korabl. This was the spacecraft designed during the1960's, and early 1970's to carry Soviet Cosmonauts to and from the lunar surface. It's not so much that it took me this long to get started, but rather that it took this long to get enough information and photographic evidence to get a reasonable idea of what one actually would have looked like. 

   It is only in the past year that two major pieces of information about the Lunniy Korabl became available. The first is the scale. You just can't build a model based on the published information that will be in sync with the published illustrations. As with every other part of this project, I received help from a knowledgeable source. Although this time the helper had two of the best tools a scale modeler could ever hope for ... access to the real thing, and a tape measure!

   In October of 2009 I received an email from a Russian comrade who is a legend in his own time. And this email had seven attachments. I nearly wet myself with excitement as I opened each attachment to find a sketch with notes and measurements from an actual LK! Several weeks ago I obtained the other piece of critical information; photographs of an LK with the remains of the Thermal Cloth which would have covered key parts of the spacecraft, PLUS a copy of a sketch by V.M. Filin showing where this fabric was located, and also where it wasn't.  But last week I got the "Rosetta Stone" of the Lunniy Korabl scale! I was privy to an actual Engineering Drawing of my revered Lunniy Korabl!!!!

   There was a single Engineering Drawing of the Lunniy Korabl shown at an Exhibition for The State Archives of the Russian Federation.  It was a side view of the LK with legs folded, and the railing used to protect it from its' own launch shroud attached. Aside from verifying several features about the LK, it had only two measurements on it. But they were to the exact millimeter, and they showed precisely where the measurements related to! No more guessing how correct my scale is. I could care less that almost two years of calculations had to be thrown out, and all the parts I've been working on are now scrap. Because now, I OWN this thing!!!

This image originally appeared on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki Forum
 in a distorted form. Using information obtained from an actual 
Engineering Construction Drawing it has been adjusted to scale. 
   What follows will be a record of the construction of a 1:6 scale* model of the 11F94 Lunar Spacecraft. What I won't do is create speculative items. There will be no Hula-Hoop for the cosmonaut, or winch to haul an unconscious cosmonaut back to the lunar cabin. Until I find proof, such things are speculative, and may or may not have existed. Only IF I find evidence of something, will I include it. Everything I put on or in this model will be based on study of all five remaining LK, and what I believe would have been the most likely appearance based on real hardware, credible statements, technical illustrations, and photographic evidence.

   I don't know how long it will take me to build this, but I do know that NASM will be remodeling their museum for an opening in 2017. I intend for this to be there by then.

   David L. Rickman

*This was originally to be 1:5 scale, but reduced to make the entire display visible to the younger, impressionable minds... of dreamers.