Lunex Project

Lunex Project

Infobox Military Structure
name = Lunex Project
location = Moon

caption =
built = planned to begin after 1967
used = project canceled
type = underground Air Force base
controlledby = United States
garrison = 21 airmen
commanders =
battles =
The Lunex Project was a US Air Force 1958 plan for a manned lunar landing prior to the Apollo Program. The final lunar expedition plan in 1961 was for a 21-airman underground Air Force base on the moon by 1968 at a total cost of $ 7.5 billion.

One of the biggest differences between Lunex and Apollo was the decision to land the entire spacecraft on the Moon rather than have a separate lander take some of the astronauts to the surface and rendezvous with the remaining astronauts in lunar orbit for the return to Earth.

Design details

Associated vehicles

Lunex Lunar Lander
*Crew Size: 3
*Length: 16.16 m (53.01 ft)
*Maximum Diameter: 7.62 m (24.99 ft)
*Span: 7.62 m (24.99 ft)
*Mass: 61 000 kg (134 000 lb)
*Agency: USAF
*Manufacturer: USAF


Selection of base sites were to be made by automated probes, with Kepler crater being a studied location.


Lunex planned to make its first lunar landing and return in 1967, in order to beat the Soviets and demonstrate conclusively that America could win future international competition in technology with the USSR. The Air Force felt that no achievement short of a lunar landing would have the required historical significance.

The use of the direct ascent profile was considered to be the most promising because it eliminated some of the complexities of the Lunar orbit rendezvous that would be used by Apollo: in particular there would be no need to develop rendezvous techniques in space. The down side was that the Lunex spacecraft would be much heavier than Apollo to carry the extra fuel required to land the entire spacecraft on the Moon and return it to lunar orbit, and consequently a larger rocket would be required to send it to the Moon.


Three milestones were set:
*1965: recovery of a manned reentry vehicle
*1966: manned circumlunar flight
*1967: manned lunar landing and return

After 1968, a Permanently Manned Lunar Expedition was planned.


The main problems to be solved were:
* Re-entry at 37,000 feet per second, with the flight path within a two-degree angle in order to avoid overheating or skipping out of the Earth's atmosphere. The latter wouldn't kill the crew directly, but would leave the Earth-return spacecraft in an elliptical orbit where they might be exposed to excessive radiation in the Van Allen belts before the next re-entry opportunity.
* Development of the lunar landing stage, which would have to make a precision landing tail-first on rocket thrust: something never previously tested.
* Development of the lunar launching stage, which had no backup capability, so must be extremely reliable and capable of automated checkout on the lunar surface, and capable of putting the crew into the correct orbit to return to Earth.

ee also

*Project Horizon


* "Space Systems Division, Air Force Systems Command", [ Lunar Expedition Plan] , May 1961
* [ Lunex at]
* [ Projekt "Lunex" (in German)]

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