The Buran spacecraft (Russian: Буран, Snowstorm or Blizzard), GRAU index 11F35 K1, was the only completed and operational space shuttle vehicle from the Soviet Buran program. The Buran completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988 before cancellation of the Soviet shuttle program in 1993. The Buran was subsequently damaged and rendered inoperable by a hangar collapse in 2002.
Orbiter 1K1 at the 1989 Paris Air Show
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.
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 (38.0 mi) /hour, it landed only 3 metres (9.8 ft) laterally and 10 metres (33 ft) longitudinally from the target.
Video and speculations
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.
In 1989, it was projected that Buran would have an unmanned second flight in 1993, with a duration of 15–20 days. Due to the cancellation of the project, this never took place. Several scientists have been looking into trying to revive the Buran program, especially after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Currently, none of these plans have come to further fruition; however, there have recently been new interests in renewing the program temporarily while Russia struggles with the CSTS and Kliper design stages.
Published in July 2009.
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