The only Soviet reusable spacecraft to be launched into space: Buran OK-1K1

Buran was the first spaceplane to be produced as part of the Soviet/Russian Buran program. It is named after the Asian wind.

Buran completed one uncrewed spaceflight in 1988, and was destroyed in the 2002 collapse of its storage hangar. The Buran-class orbiters used the expendable Energia rocket, a class of super heavy-lift launch vehicle.

Besides describing the first operational Soviet/Russian shuttle orbiter, “Buran” was also the designation for the entire Soviet/Russian spaceplane project and its flight articles, which were known as “Buran-class orbiters”.

The construction of the Buran spacecraft began in 1980, and by 1984 the first full-scale orbiter was rolled out. Over 1000 companies all over the Soviet Union were involved in construction and development. The Buran spacecraft was made to be launched on the Soviet Union’s super-heavy lift vehicle, Energia. The Buran program ended in 1993.

The automatic landing system is capable of performing a fully automatic descent, approach and landing from any point located in the “admissible starting conditions area” at 100 kilometres (62 mi) altitude, controlling the orbiter’s flight during the descent. Covering 8,000 kilometres (4,300 nmi) during the approach and eventually slowing down from 28,000 kilometres per hour (15,000 kn) to zero.

The first Buran flight was notable for the automatic landing system electing to perform an unlikely (estimated 3% probability) manoeuvre at the 20 kilometres (66,000 ft) key point, which was needed to extend the glide distance and bleed excessive energy. The standard approach was from the south and consisted of two left turns onto the final approach course. Instead, it performed additional turns in both directions and overflew the field to its northern side, before making a right turn back onto the final course. The landing system elected to perform the manoeuvre as the orbiter’s energy didn’t decrease enough due to strong-gusty winds in the area, measured at 15 metres per second (29 kn) and gusting up to 20 metres per second (39 kn) at ground level.

The Buran programme  was a Soviet and later Russian reusable spacecraft project that began in 1974 at the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute in Moscow and was formally suspended in 1993. In addition to being the designation for the whole Soviet/Russian reusable spacecraft project, Buran was also the name given to Orbiter 1K, which completed one uncrewed spaceflight in 1988 and was the only Soviet reusable spacecraft to be launched into space. The Buran-class orbiters used the expendable Energia rocket as a launch vehicle.

The Buran programme was started by the Soviet Union as a response to the United States Space Shuttle program and benefited from extensive espionage undertaken by the KGB of the unclassified US Space Shuttle programme, resulting in many superficial and functional similarities between American and Soviet Shuttle designs. Although the Buran class was similar in appearance to NASA’s Space Shuttle orbiter, and could similarly operate as a re-entry spaceplane, its final internal and functional design was different.

For example, the main engines during launch were on the Energia rocket and were not taken into orbit by the spacecraft. Smaller rocket engines on the craft’s body provided propulsion in orbit and de-orbital burns, similar to the Space Shuttle’s OMS pods. Unlike the Space Shuttle, Buran had a capability of flying uncrewed missions, as well as performing fully automated landings. The project was the largest and the most expensive in the history of Soviet space exploration.

Located in VDNKh park, Moscow

Read more: Aircrafts with Clark Perez ...