by igel

Download: Full Vostok-Luna set, 2.9 Mb


Version 1.0

Build: 24.01.2009

Orbiter addon by Andrew Thielmann (igel)

Luna-3 is probably the most admired space probe of all times. Launched on 4 October 1959, only two years (exactly day to day) after the first satellite, it had achieved what many people dreamed for millenia - ventured far behind the Moon, took the photos of its Far Side and sent them back to Earth. This achievement required many technological breakthroughs and yielded many smaller technical "firsts".


Thorton (Nikita Vtyurin) - meshes and textures.

Bloodest - imaging code.

astronavt (Dmitry Pritykin) - base R-7 addon.

Big thanks to all beta testes for tons of valuable feedback!

Requirements and Compatibility

This addon is designed for Orbiter 2006 P1.

This addon requires R-7 project by astronavt. In other words, it is specifically designed for and tested with this addon. Many of its "out of the box" scenarios reference this addon and will crash without it, unless modified.

However, addon may [happen to be] compatible with other R-7 addons (and maybe even with other rockets!)

Automation and Manual Control

This addon is designed to perform its mission in the fully automated sequence, from launch to finish, without any intervention. Automation includes flying to the Moon, getting behind it, opening photo camera covers, getting into proper orientation, taking photo, flying back to Earth and transmitting the obtained photo to the Russian DSN center in Eupatoria.

Of course, all operations can also be done in Manual Control mode.


Luna-3 trajectory was anything but ordinary, especially in these early days. Starting in the relatively high latitudes on the Northern Hemisphere, and advancing even further north, the probe had transitioned into the Southern Hemisphere halfway to the Moon. It then flew pretty low over the Moon's South Pole (unaware of the high hopes this site will hold for the 21-st century folks) and zoomed by at high, but still elliptic (relative to the Earth) velocity.

Moon's gravity turned the trajectory back to "northbound". At about 63 Mm away from the Moon, Luna-3 found itself perfectly aligned for the photo session of the century. Almost over the middle of the Far Side, with Sun perfectly behind and Earth way to the side (so it did not had a chance to be confused as a target).

Luna-3 activated its cold-gas RCS (first designed by a group of very young people in the dormitory rooms), found the target with the optical sensors (initially tested with the plain light bulbs) and snapped the full film roll.

The continued northbound travel put the probe back on return leg of the journey. Completing the first "slingshot" gravity maneuver, Luna-3 returned back to Earth from the Northern Hemisphere, most convenient for the photo transmission.


Luna-3 was the first spacecraft for which the term "autopilot" would make sense. It had to have an autopilot to lock on its photo target. So it is implemented in this addon.

In autopilot mode flight, you don't have to bother: target lock will be activated automatically as the probe enters the photo window. But you can use it in the manual override as well. Understandably, it its use is limited to the photo window (which extends from 63 to 67 Mm over the Far Side). And watch for your gas supply - there is not much of it!

Photo System

In autopilot mode, photo system activates only at a predefined distance _behind_ the Moon, and takes only one photo. This is enough for the mission success. However, it holds capacity for a total of ten photos. If you switch to manual control mode, you can activate the photo system as soon as the probe separates from the 3-rd stage and its antennas get opened.

To activate photo system, simply open the photo camera covers and start shooting. Earth and discarded 3-rd stage provide good-looking candidate targets. So does the Moon at a close flyby range.

The last taken image can always be viewed in the photo panel, opened with the Orbiter's regular F8 key.

Remember: the camera is designed to take images from a very large distance - so it has a very powerful zoom!

Photos taken by the camera (up to ten per flight) are saved on your hard drive in the Orbiter's Photo\Luna3\Acquired directory. File names are reused every flight - so if you obtained any especially good images that you want to save, copy them elsewhere.

Photo Transmission System

Taking photos is only half of the story. For complete mission success, they need to be transferred back to Earth. although Luna-3 used film and chemicals to obtain photos, it did not have reentry capsule and relied on radio to transmit the images. The radio link in these early days was very noisy and unreliable, and Russia had only one ground station suitable for this task.

So, when Luna-3 returns back to Earth and enters the transfer window, it has to wait for the sufficient signal level - which is a function of distance and probe's elevation in Eupatoria sky.

In autopilot mode, transmission triggers when the signal strength reaches 0.1. This results in very noisy and non-contrast on-the-ground images (stored in the Photo\Luna3\Received directory - but they look surprisingly similar to the real Luna-3 photos! In manual control mode, you can watch the signal level indicator on the photo panel and wait for better radio reception condition - and receive better-quality images.

In autopilot mode, only one "success" photo will be transmitted to the ground station, preceded by the "zero frame" (a TV calibration chart stored onboard). In Manual mode, you can freely browse through all taken images and transmit them at your will. Photo system is still active in transmission window (if any frames are left) - so you can continue snapping pictures.

Control keys

C open photo camera covers;
M toggle between manual and autopilot control mode;
K activate Moon search navigation mode;
P take photo;
G open transmission panel;
F8 open/close photo panel or transmission panel (depending on the flight phase);

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© 2018 Andrew Thielmann