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Luna 11



Luna 11 was a lunar orbiting spacecraft built by the Soviet Union. The objectives of the mission included the study of: (1) lunar gamma- and X-ray emissions in order to determine the Moon's chemical composition; (2) lunar gravitational anomalies; (3) the concentration of meteorite streams near the Moon; and, (4) the intensity of hard corpuscular radiation near the Moon. Another objective was an engineering experiment to test the efficiency of lubricants for gear transmission systems in vacuum for future lunar rovers. A failure of the attitude control system resulted in a misorientation of the spacecraft in lunar orbit so the camera could not take pictures of the Moon.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Luna 11 was based on the Ye-6LF spacecraft bus. It was a cylindrically shaped spacecraft, 2.7 meters high and 1.5 meters in diameter. It had an upper cone holding the instrument module and radiators (which took the place of the lunar lander storage cabin on earlier missions), and a lower truncated cone holding the main engine. Launch mass was 1640 kg and on-orbit mass was 1136 kg.

It had a propulsion system, designated SS.5, that comprised a main engine, propellant tank, attitude control engines, helium tank for pressurization, sensors, and avionics. The attitude control engines were mounted on outriggers near the bottom of the spacecraft. Power was supplied by a battery. A cone-shaped omnidirectional antenna, mounted on the side of the cylinder, was used for communications. An SL-1 radiometer was mounted on top of the instrument module.

The instrument module held most of the scientific payload for the mission: a gamma-ray spectrometer, an RFL-F low-energy X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a US-3 ultraviolet reflectance spectrometer, an RMCh-1 micrometeorite detector, a long-wave radio astronomy experiment (Kassiopeya KYa-4), and an R-1 gear drive lubricant technology test. Spacecraft tracking was used to map the lunar gravity field. A facsimile film imaging system, consisting of a camera, developing system, and scanner, was mounted on the side of the spacecraft and could return high and low resolution images.

Mission Profile

Luna 11 lifted of on 24 August 1966 at 8:03:21 UT from Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Molniya-M (modified SS) and Blok-L booster into an initial Earth orbit. It was launched towards the Moon from an Earth-orbiting platform and entered lunar orbit on August 27, 1966 at 21:49 UT. Initial orbit was 163.5 x 1193.6 km with an inclination of 27 degrees. Approximately 3 hours after orbit insertion, an attitude control maneuver to position the orbiter in the correct orientation for lunar photography failed, and the orbiter took 64 images of black space. No data was returned by the UV spectrometer. The other instruments reportedly functioned nominally, but little data were ever published from the mission. A total of 137 radio transmissions and 277 orbits of the Moon were completed before the batteries were exhausted on October 1, 1966. No more tracking of the spacecraft was possible after this time, the orbit presumably decayed fairly rapidly and the spacecraft impacted the Moon in late 1966 or possibly 1967.

A fault investigation concluded that the failure of the orientation system was probably due to a part dislodging in the nozzle of the attitude control system. A redesign was done before the Luna 12 mission to correct the problem.

Spacecraft image for illustrative purposes - not necessarily in the public domain.

Alternate Names

  • 02406
  • Luna11
  • Lunik 11

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1966-08-24
Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with 2nd Generation Upper Stage + Escape Stage
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
Mass: 3616 kg

Funding Agency

  • Unknown (U.S.S.R)


  • Planetary Science
  • Space Physics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. Artem IvankovGeneral ContactLavochkin

Selected References

  • Luna 11, 12 and 13, TRW Space Log, TRW Systems Group, 6, No. 4, 50-53, Redondo Beach, Calif., 1967.
  • Shelton, W., Soviet space exploration - the first decade, Arthur Barker Ltd., Unnumbered, London, England, 1969.
  • Johnson, N. L., Handbook of soviet lunar and planetary exploration - volume 47 science and technology series, Amer. Astronau. Soc. Publ., 1979.
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