Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

30 September 2011

Next project: N-1

So the Mi-9 Hook has yet to catch its first speck of dust and I have decided on which project will be next. Got to keep myself busy, I guess.
More than a year ago I started Ralph Currell's N1 model in 1/144 but I put it aside after finishing Blok A, when I grew weary of the tedious cutting out of latticework. Today I blew off the dust that gathered during 14 months of shelf life and got out the rest of the A4 sheets with the upper stages. Time to get glueing again. This is the "small" version, I also have the 1/96 version lying around and that one also will be built in the future. I even plan on building this N1 in 1/400. At least I want to try that.
But let's not get ahead of things and start cutting Blok B.
Here's some pictures of where I will be picking up the build.

After the break some more information on the N-1 for those who don't know a lot about this Soviet moon rocket.

At the same time NASA was running their Apollo program, the Soviets developed a giant rocket to beat America to the moon. The first phase of design started in the early sixties. This four-staged behemoth ended up having more than 40 rocket engines and was almost as tall as the Saturn V, just 5 or 6 meters shorter. 

When a U.S. spy satellite made some pictures of Baikonur in 1968 the Americans discovered two huge new launch pads and realised the Soviets were trying to beat America to the moon. It caused them to change their launch scheme and fly Apollo 8 around the moon. This put Apollo in high gear and gave them the chance to get there first. However, the Soviets, however keen they were to get there before the Americans would, had their own problems with the N-1.

the satellite picture of the N-1 launch site at Baikonur

Due to a disagreement over which fuel should be used the designer, Sergei Pavlovoch Korolyov, turned to another engine manufacturer. Normally he used engines made by Valentin Glushko but he insisted on using a highly poisonous and corrosive mix of chemical fuels while Korolyov wanted to use kerosine and oxygen as fuel. so therefore he turned to Nikolai Kuznetsov who made a new very powerful rocket engine. Unfortunately, the engines were small, somehow the Soviets couldn't manage to build engines the size of the monstrous big F-1 of the Saturn V rocket. So they needed a lot to get the N-1 up in the air. The first stage alone used 30 of them. And that was its downfall. The techniques needed to get the engines to run synchronously proved too complicated. Besides, due to the urgent need of getting the rocket ready, the chief designer decided to skip the stage-by-stage testing of the material and just try and launch the complete rocket, untested.  

Launch and failure
Four times they tried to reach space with the N-1. Four times the rocket blew up. Two times high up in the stratosphere, one time during liftoff and one time not even leaving the pad and taking the launch structure with it in the blast of the explosion. All tests were unmanned, luckily, but it caused a lot of damage. Materially, financially, even careerwise this project took its toll on the Soviet space program. Here and there one can find weirdly shaped sheds and gazebos on Baikonur, made by debris of the big N-1's that once were towering over the launch site. After those four launches the project was cancelled in 1974 and it led to the firing of chief designer Wasili Mishin, Korolyov's successor.
The last launch

Only after decades the Russians revealed the story of their failed moonshot: in 1989 the first actual information leaked and in 1991 the program was made public. However, in the late 1970s Charles P. Vick managed to draw some very striking renditions of the rocket which startled the Soviets at the time:

 Anyway, the rocket now is a legend even though it did nothing else than blow up.
the next weeks will be dedicated to the build of a 144th scale replica.
This time hopefully without a new year-long gap!
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