the Russian Shuttle
It is one of the less known stories of the cold war and space race:
the secret soviet shuttle program.
Although it has now been abandoned, the Buran program was a huge
investiment and did produce at least one (unmanned) space mision.
The Russian Shuttle Buran ("Snowstorm" in Russian) was authorized
in 1976 in response to the United States' Space Shuttle program.
Building of the shuttles began in 1980, with the first full-scale
Aero-Buran rolling out in 1984.
The first suborbital test flight of a scale model of Buran took
place in July 1983. There were five additional flights of the scale
model in following years. Aerodynamic tests of the full-scale Buran
analogue began in 1984. This aero-Buran was worn out after 24 test
flights and would not fly again. The last of these aerodynamic test
flights was in April 1988.
The first and only orbital launch of the shuttle Buran was at 3:00
GMT on November 15, 1988. The flight was unmanned, as the life support
system had not been checked out and the CRT displays had no software
installed. The vehicle was launched on the powerful Energiya booster
into an 247 by 256 km orbit at 51.6 degrees inclination. The Buran
orbited the Earth twice before firing its thrusters for reentry.
The flight ended at 6:25 GMT when the vehicle touched down at Tyuratum.
The Buran 1 mission was limited to 2 orbits due to computer memory
Although the first orbital flight of Buran was unmanned,
it demonstrated much promise. The autopilot that landed the shuttle
was able to overcome a 34 mph crosswind to land within 5 feet of
the runway center line. Also, of the 38,000 heat shield tiles that
covered Buran, only 5 were missing.
After the first flight of Buran, funding for the project was cut.
Although the project wasn't officially canceled until 1993, much
of the work was halted long before that date. There were two other
Buran shuttles under construction. The second orbiter, "Ptichka"
("Little Bird" in Russian) was originally scheduled for completion
in 1990. The third Buran was due in 1992. Neither was finished.
In November 1995, the partially completed shuttles were dismantled
at their production site.
The reasons of this cancellation were probably economic. The manufacturing
plant is scheduled to be converted for production of buses, syringes,
(Informations from NASA
and Russian Space Agency)
For other stories of the secret soviet space program,