Buran space shuttle and the Energia launcher
Buran Reusable Shuttle
The Buran spacecraft (Russian: Snowstorm or Blizzard), GRAU index 11F35 K1, was the only completed and operational space shuttle vehicle from the Soviet Buran program. Clearly influenced by the earlier American Space Shuttle design, the Buran completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988 before the cancellation of the Soviet shuttle program in 1993. The Buran was subsequently destroyed by a hangar collapse in 2002.
The Buran spacecraft was designed for the delivery to orbit and return to Earth of spacecraft, cosmonauts, and supplies. 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. It was piggy-backed on the Antonov An-225 Mriya aircraft, which was designed for this task and remains the largest aircraft in the world, based on length.
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 booster rocket. The life support system was partially installed and no software was installed to run the computer display screens.
The shuttle orbited the Earth twice in 206 minutes of flight. It performed an automated landing on the shuttle 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.
Part of the launch was televised but the actual lift-off was not shown. This led to some speculation that the mission may have been fabricated, and that the subsequent landing may not have been from orbit but from a shuttle-carrying aircraft, as with the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The launch video has since been released to the public, confirming that the shuttle did indeed lift off with the poor weather conditions described by the Soviet media at the time easily seen.
On May 12, 2002, a hangar housing Buran in Kazakhstan collapsed, due to poor maintenance. The collapse killed eight workers and destroyed the orbiter as well as a mock-up of an Energia carrier rocket.
The Soviet reusable spacecraft program Buran began in 1974 at TsAGI as a response to the United States Space Shuttle program. The project was the largest and the most expensive in the history of Soviet space exploration. The Buran completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988 before its cancellation in 1993. The Buran spacecraft was similar in appearance to the NASA Space Shuttle, and was destroyed in the Buran hangar collapse on May 12, 2002.
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