Buran on launch pad 110/37
|Status||Decommissioned; one destroyed in a 2002 hangar collapse, two mothballed |
15 November 1988
15 November 1988
|Number of missions||1|
|Time spent in space||3 hours|
|Number of orbits||2|
The Buran spacecraft (Russian: Бура́н, IPA: [bʊˈran], Snowstorm or Blizzard), GRAU index 11F35 K1 was a Soviet orbital vehicle analogous in function and design to the US Space Shuttle and developed by Chief Designer Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy of RKK Energia. Buran completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988 and remains the only Soviet space shuttle that was launched into space, as the Buran programme was cancelled in 1993. One of the three mothballed shuttles was destroyed in 2002 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, when the hangar in which it was stored collapsed.
In addition to the shuttle Buran, four other space shuttles were being built in the Buran programme before its cancellation:
- OK-1K2 Ptichka (95-97% complete)
- OK-2K1 Baikal (30-50% complete)
- Shuttle 2.02 (10-20% complete)
- Shuttle 2.03 (dismantled)
The Buran orbital vehicle program was developed in response to the U.S. Space Shuttle program, which in the 1980s raised considerable concerns among the Soviet military and especially Defense Minister Dmitriy Ustinov. An authoritative biographer of the Russian space program, academic Boris Chertok, recounts how the program came into being. According to Chertok, after the U.S. developed its Space Shuttle program, the Soviet military became suspicious that it could be used for military purposes, due to its enormous payload, several times that of previous U.S. spaceships. The Soviet government asked the TsNIIMash (ЦНИИМАШ, Central Institute of Machine-building, a major player in defense analysis) for an expert opinion. Institute director, Yuri Mozzhorin, recalls that for a long time the institute could not envisage a civilian payload large enough to require a vehicle of that capacity. Based on this, as well as on US profitability analyses of that time, which showed that the Space Shuttle would be economically efficient only with a large number of launches (one every week or so), Mozzhorin concluded that the vehicle had a military purpose, although he was unable to say exactly what. The Soviet program was further boosted after Defense Minister Ustinov received a report from analysts showing that, at least in theory, the Space Shuttle could be used to deploy nuclear bombs over Soviet territory. Chertok recounts that Ustinov was so worried by the possibility that he made the Soviet response program a top priority.
Officially, the Buran spacecraft was designed for the delivery to orbit and return to Earth of spacecraft, cosmonauts, and supplies. Both Chertok and Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy suggest that from the beginning, the program was military in nature; however, the exact military capabilities, or intended capabilities, of the Buran program remain classified. Commenting on the discontinuation of the program in his interview to New Scientist, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov confirms their accounts:
|“||We had no civilian tasks for Buran and the military ones were no longer needed. It was originally designed as a military system for weapon delivery, maybe even nuclear weapons. The American shuttle also has military uses.||”|
Like its American counterpart, the Buran, when in transit from its landing sites back to the launch complex, was transported on the back of a large jet aeroplane — the Antonov An-225 Mriya transport aircraft, which was designed in part for this task and remains the largest aircraft in the world to fly multiple times.
Flight into space 
The only orbital launch of Buran occurred at 3:00 UTC on 15 November 1988 from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 110/37. It was lifted into orbit unmanned by the specially designed Energia rocket. Unlike the NASA Shuttle, which was propelled by a combination of solid boosters and the Shuttle's own liquid-fuel engines fueled from a large fuel tank, the Energia-Buran system used only thrust from the rocket's four RD-170 liquid oxygen/kerosene engines developed by Valentin Glushko and another four RD-0120 liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engines. From the very beginning Buran was intended to be used in both fully automatic and manual mode.
Although the program accumulated a several-years delay, Buran was the first space shuttle perform an unmanned flight, including landing in fully automatic mode. The Buran automated launch sequence performed as specified, and the Energia rocket lifted the vehicle into a temporary orbit before the orbiter separated as programmed. After boosting itself to a higher orbit and completing two revolutions around the Earth, ODU (engine control system) engines fired automatically to begin the descent into the atmosphere. Exactly 206 minutes into the mission, the Buran orbiter landed, having lost only five of its 38,000 thermal tiles over the course of the flight. The automated landing took place on a runway at Baikonur Cosmodrome where, despite a lateral wind speed of 61.2 kilometres per hour (38.0 mph), it landed only 3 metres (9.8 ft) laterally and 10 metres (33 ft) longitudinally from the target mark.
The unmanned flight was the first time that a spacecraft of this size and complexity had been launched, completed maneuvers in orbit, re-entered the atmosphere, and landed under automatic guidance.
Projected flights 
In 1989, it was projected that Buran would have an unmanned second flight in 1993, with a duration of 15–20 days. Because the project was cancelled after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this never took place. Several scientists looked into trying to revive the Buran program, especially after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. More recently, the director of Moscow's Central Machine Building Institute has said the Buran project will be reviewed in the hopes of restarting a similar manned spacecraft design, with rocket test launches as soon as 2015. Russia also continues work on the PPTS but has abandoned the Kliper program, due to differences in vision with its European partners.
On 12 May 2002, a hangar housing Buran collapsed in Kazakhstan, as a result of poor maintenance. The collapse killed eight workers and destroyed the craft as well as a mock-up of an Energia carrier rocket. 
See also 
- Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-105 — Soviet orbital spaceplane
- Space Shuttle
- N1 (rocket)
- "Buran". NASA. 12 November 1997. Archived from the original on 4 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-15.; Buran at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 January 2008)
- Eight feared dead in Baikonur hangar collapse, RSpaceflkight Now.
- Buran, Russian Space Web.
- Chertok, Boris (2005); Rockets and People
- Paul Marks (2011-07-07). "Cosmonaut: Soviet space shuttle was safer than NASA's".
- "Antonov An-225 Mryia (Cossack)". The Aviation Zone.
- Chertok, Boris (2005). In Asif A. Siddiqi. Raketi i lyudi (trans. "Rockets and People") (PDF). NASA History Series. p. 179. Retrieved 2006-07-03.
- "Экипажи "Бурана" Несбывшиеся планы" (in Russian). RU: Buran. Retrieved 2006-08-05.
- Birch, Douglas (2003). "Russian space program is handed new responsibility" (url). Sun Foreign Staff. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
- "Russia To Review Its Space Shuttle Project". Space Daily. Xinhua. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- "Soviet space shuttle could bail out NASA". Current.com. 2008-12-31. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "Soviet space shuttle could bail out NASA". Russia Today. Retrieved 2009-07-15.[dead link]
- "Russia, Europe abandon joint space project — Roscosmos". RIA Novosti. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- Whitehouse, David (2002-05-13). "Russia's space dreams abandoned". bbc.co.uk (BBC). Retrieved 2007-11-14.
- Buran.ru: Photo of collapsed hangar
- Buran.ru: Remains of Buran photo with right front windscreen still visible under the debris
- "Buran: The Abandoned Russian Space Shuttle" Urban Ghost Media, 30 September 2010. Retrieved: 21 August 2012.
Further reading 
- Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle, Bart Hendrick and Bert Vis, Springer-Praxis, 2007, pp. 526, ISBN 978-0-387-69848-9.
- Heinz Elser, Margrit Elser-Haft, Vladim Lukashevich: Buran — History and Transportation of the Russian Space shuttle OK-GLI to the Technik Museum Speyer, two Languages: German and English, 2008, ISBN 3-9809437-7-1