On August the third 1964 Decree number 655-268 was issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. For the first time a command was given for OKB-1 to put one man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the United States (Keep in mind the US already had already begun their Lunar program more than three years earlier, in April 1961).
N1-L3 as per advanced project, 1964. Credit Astronautix
The L-3 manned spacecraft was designed to make a direct lunar landing using the earth orbit rendezvous method. It was a 200 metric ton spacecraft requiring three N1 launches and a single Soyuz 11A5ll launch to assemble in low earth orbit. The first N1 launch would place the 75 metric ton partially-fueled Trans Lunar Injection stage and L3 spacecraft into low earth orbit. Two further N1 launches would orbit 75 metric ton tankers which would rendezvous and dock with the first payload and top off its propellant tanks. Then the Soyuz would be launched for an automated rear-end docking with the entire L3 stack.
Comparison of U.S. Saturn V with Soviet N1/L3
N-1 draft project design of 1962. credit Astronautix
After 1957, the Soviets became accustomed to achieving “world firsts” in space accomplishments. Nevertheless, 10 years later they were not confident that they could pull off the world’s first fully automatic rendezvous and docking of two un-piloted Soyuz spacecraft. At the time the chance for success was estimated at only 50/50.
Vasily Mishin at Baykonur in 1967. Credit B. Chertok
Armen Mnatsakanyan the main designer of Igla. Credit B. Chertok
“It’s a terrible scene. Komarov burned up. All the instruments burned. We must quickly find out what prevented the main parachute from unlatching.” Chief Designer Mishin after he arrived at the Soyuz 1 crash site.
With the success of Kosmos 146 and in spite of the failures of the first three 7K-Ok’s it was now time to plan for a Soyuz manned mission. The planned involved the launch and docking of two piloted Soyuzes. Soyuz 7K-OK production model number 4 was assigned the role of the active vehicle. The active vehicle was supposed to carry one cosmonaut into earth orbit. Twenty-four hours later, vehicle No. 5 (the passive vehicle) carrying three cosmonauts would be inserted in orbit. After rendezvouing, two cosmonauts from vehicle No. 5 would transfer through open space to vehicle No. 4.
Kosmos 146. A 7K-L1 model.
7K-OK and 7K-L1 Rendezvous Concept. Credit Mark Wade