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Stock Lunokhod 1/ Luna 17


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Lunokhod 1

For the anniversary of the launch of Luna 17 I present to you: stock replicas of Lunokhod 1 and Luna 17! Built at 75% scale to fit on my Proton K/D (included below). It took a lot of fiddling to get the stock hinges working and they're a bit of an eyesore but I still think it turned out well enough. Also, it took a lot of reading to get some of the details right so I hope you don't mind if I regale you with my newfound knowledge.

Lunokhod 1 was a Soviet lunar rover launched on November 10, 1970. It was carried to the Moon by the Luna 17 lander, which was launched atop a Proton rocket. On November 17 Luna 17 touched down on the Moon and released onto the surface Lunokhod 1, which became the first roving vehicle to land on another world.


The Lunokhod Program



Lunokhod 2 mission diagram 

The Lunokhod was a series of Soviet unmanned lunar rovers launched from 1969-1973. They were large robotic rovers intended to be landed on the Moon and radio-controlled from Earth. Apart from roving they were primarily tasked with taking pictures and making measurements using an array of scientific instruments.

Lunokhod was originally conceived to supplement the Soviet manned lunar program. To support future manned missions robotic rovers were to be landed on the Moon to scout and survey future landing sites. After the site was certified the rover would stand by and act as a radio beacon to guide the cosmonauts down. In the event of an ascent vehicle failure the rover could carry a stranded cosmonaut to a backup ascent vehicle.

Later, the Soviet lunar program cancelled its manned exploration efforts in favor of a purely robotic approach. Lunokhod was re-conceived as a scientific research and exploration vehicle. It was to be launched atop the four-stage version of the Proton rocket with a newly designed payload shroud.


Proton K/D as it may have appeared carrying Lunokhod

In 1969 Lunokhod 0 was destroyed shortly after launch when its payload shroud disintegrated. By the end of 1970 Lunokhod 1 had been successfully landed on the Moon. This was followed by Lunokhod 2 in 1973, which was the most advanced of its kind to launch. Lunokhod 3 was set to launch in 1977 but was shelved due to a lack of funding.


Models of Lunokhod 1 (left) and Lunokhod 2 (right)


The Rover



Lunokhod was designed to endure multiple lunar day/night cycles with temperatures reaching 120°C in the day and -150°C at night. To achieve this much of the rover's body was devoted to temperature regulation.

The main body consisted of a large hermetically sealed tub filled with nitrogen. The tub was covered by a large hinged lid. In the lunar daytime this lid could be swung open to expose a solar array on its underside. This also exposed a top mounted radiator, cooling the rover in the harsh daytime sun. At night the lid would close and a polonium-210 isotopic heat source kept internal components at operating temperature. 




At night nitrogen circulates over the isotopic heat source, warming the electronics (left)

In daytime the lid is opened and heat is dissipated away from the skin of the craft (right)

The body was suspended over eight independently controllable wheels. Each wheel had its own motor and steering was achieved by adjusting the speed of each motor individually. Lunokhod could afford to lose two wheels on each side and still move, and if any of the wheels got stuck they could be severed remotely.


Lunokhod 1 had two speed settings, 1 km/h and 2 km/h

To maintain communications with ground operators Lunokhod used a low-gain conical antenna and a steerable high-gain helical antenna. This kept communications stable, though there was a 5 second signal delay which had an impact on operations. Controllers navigated using the rover's two front-mounted TV cameras, and a pair of side-mounted panoramic cameras.


Several scientific instruments were carried on Lunokhod for use on the Moon. To test soil characteristics the rover used an X-ray spectrometer and penetrometer. It also possessed a cosmic ray detector and an X-ray telescope. A French-built laser retroreflector was installed next to the helical antenna. 

The Lander



The Luna 17 lander consisted of four spherical fuel tanks connected by cylindrical instrument bays. Additional fuel for use in lunar orbit was carried in two sets of detachable tanks. Lunokhod 1 would sit on top on a set of tracks, and would disembark using one of the folding ramps.


After separating from Proton's Block D stage the lander deploys antenna for communication and cruises to the Moon.


Upon arrival it maneuvers into a circular orbit at less than 100 km lunar altitude. A second maneuver brings the perilune low over the landing site, less than 20 km.


Before landing, the side tanks are jettisoned in lunar orbit and the lander fires its engine to eliminate horizontal velocity.


After arresting its horizontal speed the lander free falls before reigniting the main engine and verniers low over the surface.


Engines cut out 2 meters above the surface and Luna 17 soft lands on the Moon.



Moon Walker



With the lander having done its job, operators stationed on Earth established radio links with Lunokhod for the first time. Later, the folding ramps were deployed and Lunokhod 1 disembarked from the lander, becoming the first rover on the Moon.



The protective lid is opened, exposing its solar array.

Over the next few lunar day cycles Lunokhod 1 roved across the surface, collecting a plethora of photographs and soil measurements. When night fell Lunokhod closed its lid and parked, keeping warm until the next day. When day arrived Lunokhod reopened its lid, charging the batteries before embarking once again. By the third lunar day Lunokhod was steered back to its lander to take more photographs.


Lunokhod 1 continued to operate for 11 lunar days, greatly exceeding its mission lifespan. It would travel at most over 2km per lunar day. Along the way it would encounter small craters which the team would name, such as Albert, Leonid, and Koyla. It had conducted 25 soil analyses with its X-ray spectrometer and used its penetrometer in 500 different locations. The retroreflector was used to bounce laser pulses back to Earth allowing precise measurement of Earth-Moon distance to within 30 cm. With its cameras it took over 20,000 photographs and more than 200 high-resolution panoramas of the Moon's surface. By the 11th lunar night the odometer measured a total travel distance of over 10 km.


Lunokhod 1 completed its last communications session on September 14 1971. The rover parked for its 11th lunar night and waited to be revived. However by the next day Lunokhod failed to respond to radio instructions for revival. Efforts to reestablish communications were unsuccessful, and Lunokhod 1 was officially declared 'dead' by October 4. 

Lunokhod 1's final resting place was not discovered until 2010 when it was spotted in an image taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. A team from the Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation (APOLLO) used images from the LRO to locate the rover again using the rover's laser retroreflector. Lunokhod 1 rests about 2.4 km north of its lander in the Sea of Rains at 38.32507 N, 324.9949 E.


Image taken by the LRO showing Lunokhod 1 resting on the surface.

Built in stock KSP v.1.8.1, no DLC required

Updated for 1.9.0

↓ ↓Download here↓ ↓

rover + lander only (257 parts): https://www.dropbox.com/s/z20y3l1xtksrmln/Lunokhod 1.craft?dl=0

launch configuration atop Proton rocket (835 parts): https://kerbalx.com/tehmattguy/Lunokhod-1


Lander RCS/ vernier systems are toggled off by default- press 4 to toggle attitude vernier control and press 5 to toggle landing vernier control.

For the Proton, stage timings are written in the description.

Edited by tehmattguy
added kerbalX link
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  • 3 weeks later...
3 hours ago, jost said:

Great job. Just curious: How do you mange to make the hinges work? They consist of reverted solar cells but how did you get the mechanics done?

Thank you! And the hinges are made of the Linear RCS Ports held in place by thermometers. For the ramp each segment is clipped slightly into the main craft so that when I decouple them they get a slight kick and are pushed out at the right speed. The heat shield on top of the Lunokhod has an oversized collision mesh, so it pushes the lid out when it's decoupled. However this also means that the lid can't close completely over the heat shield so I haven't added a mechanism to close the lid, unfortunately. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
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