Friday, March 31, 2017


This is not the Space Shuttle. This is Buran. Buran was a soviet project from 1974, to build a craft that could counter a perceived military threat from the US Space Shuttle. It was believed by the designers of Buran that the shuttle's entire purpose was military due to its large cargo capacity.

(Left to right: Soyuz, Space Shuttle, Buran)

Surprisingly, it appears that no espionage was involved in the development of Buran other than external photos, as there are are many differences between the two spacecraft.

Most notably, it did not have an external tank which had no engines on it like the space shuttle, rather it launched piggyback on a Energia rocket which had its own engines. Also, rather than using two solid strap-on boosters, it had four liquid oxygen-kerosene strap-on boosters.

It also used two liquid oxygen-kerosene engines for maneuvers in orbit, rather than MMH/N2O4 engines.

Buran made its first and last flight in 15 Novemeber 1988. It was entirely unmanned for the entire flight, and worked perfectly, despite landing in crosswinds of 38 mph (61.2 kph). After that the project was put on hold, and finally cancelled in 1993. The only Buran to have flown, OK-1K1, was destroyed in 2002 when the roof of the hangar it was stored in collapsed.

There were four other flight articles (craft that were built to fly), and a handful of test articles for various systems. Wikipedia has a full list here.

Ralph Mirebs took pictures of two of the remaining flight articles, which you can see here.