Buran (space program)

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The Soviet Buran space program ( Russian Буран for Buran - snowstorm, emphasis on the second syllable ) began in 1976 at ZAGI in response to the US space shuttle . The name is derived from the name of the first space shuttle Buran 1.01 (snow storm), but is also used for the entire Soviet space shuttle program. The project was the largest and most expensive single project in Soviet space travel. For financial reasons, there was only one unmanned mission. At times, up to 30,000 people worked on the project. The space shuttle was developed by the NPO Molnija under the direction of Gleb Losino-Losinski (space shuttle Buran) and the NPO Energija under the direction of Valentin Gluschko (launch vehicle Energija, overall project). The Buran program officially ended in 1993.

The Buran orbiter is outwardly similar to the space shuttle, but has a number of conceptual differences.


The Soviet space shuttle program has its roots in early space projects in the 1950s. The idea for reusable spacecraft, although quite old, was in the meantime neither consistently pursued nor centrally organized by Soviet space travel. Wind tunnel tests with models took place as early as 1965. Before Buran, no project was brought to series production.

The first ideas emerged with the W-350 Burja cruise missile , but it never left the prototype phase. Some test flights were carried out before the project was discontinued by the political leadership. Burja should be able to bring a nuclear weapon into American territory and then return to the base. Carried out the setting of the program, since intercontinental ballistic missiles were considered promising. In the early 1960s, the Mikojan-Gurewitsch MiG-105 Spiral project was started under the direction of Gleb Losino-Losinski , but it did not get beyond the prototype status. The experience from this project was incorporated into the Buran program.

The Buran space program began in the early 1970s in response to the US space shuttle. After work on the N1 moon rocket was stopped and Mishin was dismissed in 1974, the ZKBEM and KB EnergoMash were merged as NPO Energija under the direction of Gluschko. Gluschko was considered an advocate of a concept for an extremely heavy modular launcher. Now that NPO Energija controlled practically the entire Soviet space program, developments began on what would later become known as Energija . At this point in time, however, there were no specific plans for later use.

Under the direction of Vladimir Nikolajewitsch Tschelomei , the development of the space shuttle LKS ( Russian Лёгкий Космический Самолёт , German: "Light Cosmos Airplane") began. In 1975, Chelomei presented his idea of ​​a smaller and cheaper Soviet Union response to the space shuttle. However, this small space shuttle was discarded in favor of the larger Buran. A mock-up of the LKS was produced in its original size.

After NASA started working on the space shuttle, the Soviet government feared that it would lose touch with a technology that could be used by the military and pushed for the development of a corresponding system. While Soviet engineers preferred a smaller version based on a support hull design, political influence was exerted at an early stage and, for reasons of prestige, a copy of the space shuttle design was pushed.

On February 17, 1976, the Central Committee and Council of Ministers signed a formal decree on the Buran program. It envisaged the development and production of a reusable delivery system that included a launcher, space shuttle, space transporter and extensive ground facilities. The overall project management was handed over to NPO Energija under the direction of Gluschko. Losino-Losinski, the former head of the Spiral project, was commissioned to develop the space shuttle.

Since accessible NASA publications were assessed as overly optimistic about the cost of the space shuttle concept in the specialist literature, a strong military background was suspected. As part of the cold war competition, the Buran program had a military background to justify the enormous cost. Consequently, there have been specific military studies on the use of Buran that go beyond the mere transport of military satellites. Buran was thus also designed as a potential weapons platform as well as for the installation and maintenance of possible military combat platforms in orbit in response to the US American SDI program.


Buran 1.01 at the Antonov An-225 , Paris Air Show in June 1989

Due to imprecise system definitions and internal power games, the actual development of the orbiter only got underway in the early 1980s.

OK-GLI on barge: Transport to the Technik Museum Speyer on the Rhine near Koenigswinter

First, different mock-ups were built for different system tests. Particularly noteworthy is OK-GLI , which was built in 1984 for flight tests. It was equipped with four AL31 jet engines and was self-launching.

Most of the MKS orbiters were built at the NPO Energia plant in Kaliningrad near Moscow . From there, they were on the back of a converted 225 An-Antonov to Baikonur Cosmodrome transported.

Tests of the heat shield were carried out in parallel . For this purpose, under the name BOR-4 , tests were first undertaken with reduced test versions of the glider of the former MiG-105 / Spiral program . Since the aerodynamics of this glider are completely different, further test flights were carried out with a 1: 8 model of the Buran space shuttle type as BOR-5 . The newly developed heat protection was able to prove itself with these. The materials used, TZMK-10 and TZMK-25, proved to be on a par with those of the US space shuttle, and in some cases their mechanical properties were significantly exceeded.

The first actual space shuttle Buran 1.01 (11F35 K1) was built in 1986. After the successful test of the Energija launcher on May 15, 1987, the first and only launch of the Buran Energija system took place on November 15, 1988. The unmanned flight ended successfully with an automatic landing after two orbits of the earth, which corresponds to a time of 206 minutes.

The second ferry Buran 1.02 (11F35 K2), the completion of which was planned for 1990, should actually start flight operations in 1991. But that never happened. Construction of three more modified ferries (Buran 2.01 to 2.03) began, but was discontinued after the end of the program.

As part of the program, two alternative landing sites with a special landing guidance system were set up at Simferopol International Airport in the Crimea and about 150 km from Vladivostok near Khorol .

The End

With Glushko's death in early 1989, the program lost its most influential supporter. The program was officially discontinued in 1993 after budget problems and the end of the Cold War . Various attempts to revive the program or to market the results commercially have also failed.

Buran 1.01 was stored in the assembly hall “MIK-112” at the spaceport in Baikonur and destroyed along with the Energija launcher on May 12, 2002 when the ceiling of the hangar collapsed due to poorly executed repair work. Seven workers died. Ptitschka 1.02, the unofficial name of the ferry, is located in Baikonur in a hall (MIK building 80, area 112A). The two other, unfinished Orbiters 2.01 (11F35 K3) and 2.02 (11F35 K4) are stored in the Tuschino factory in Moscow. The only partially built Buran 2.03 (11F35 K5) was scrapped immediately after the program was terminated.


Model by Energija / Buran

Carrier system

In contrast to the space shuttle, the Buran orbiter has no main engines. The Energija two-stage rocket, which can also be used as an independent system, is used as a carrier system . The main stage of the Energija is separated at a great height after the fire, enters the earth's atmosphere after about half a circle around the earth and burns up to avoid space junk or a later uncontrolled reentry due to its deliberately low perigee . Only the boosters were designed as reusable components. With this design as an independent system, the Energija could also be used as a launch vehicle for other payloads. The number of boosters could be varied between two and a maximum of eight to adapt to different payload weights and train heights . In the configuration as a carrier for the Buran, the Energija was equipped with four booster levels.


The Buran orbiter has a total length of 36.37 m, a maximum fuselage width of 5.5 m, a wingspan of 23.92 m and a maximum height of 16.52 m. The maximum take-off weight was 105 t with a payload of up to 30 t. Up to 14 t of fuel could be carried for the maneuvering and braking engines. At the start, these maneuver thrusters were ignited after separation from the Energija in order to raise the perigee, which was too low for orbital orbits. An increase in speed of 60 to 100 m / s was sufficient for this. The landing weight could be 82 t, with a landing speed of 312 km / h 15 t payload and at 360 km / h 20 t payload. The system was designed for a higher payload capacity compared to the US system. Theoretically, the ferry offered space for up to ten people (two to four crew members plus six passengers). Technical and increasing financial problems prevented the completion of the manned version until the program was discontinued, so on-board computers and life support systems had hardly been further developed since the earlier projects of Soviet space travel . At the end of its development, the program failed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, mainly due to budget problems.

For comparison with the Space Shuttle, see also: Comparison of Buran and Space Shuttle

Heat shield

Heat shield of the orbiter in the Technikmuseum Speyer

Similar to the space shuttle , the heat shield consists of around 38,800 individual ceramic tiles made of quartz fibers ( TZMK-10 / TZMK-25 ) on the underside of the orbiter and other areas with high thermal loads . The tiles are glued to the actual surface with a felt substrate. Small gaps between the tiles allow thermal expansion, as the tiles sometimes heat up to 1600 ° C when they re-enter. A major problem was the sealing of the actually highly porous ceramic material against moisture.

The fuselage tip and leading edges of the wing are clad with large ceramic elements based on carbon and borosilicate ( GRAVIMOL, GRAVIMOL-B / carbon-carbon ). These elements are hollow and attached to the ferry with thermally insulated connections. The gaps between the elements are filled with felt-like or brush-like fillings made of ceramic fibers, but do not hinder the thermal expansion of the tiles.

Areas with little stress (temperature <370 ° C; e.g. top of the fuselage, top of the wings) are protected with flexible mats made of organic fibers (ATM-19PKP).

The heat shield exceeds all the stress values ​​of the materials that were used in the space shuttle.

The orientation of the tiles was chosen differently for Buran than for the Space Shuttle. Continuous joints are aligned here at right angles to the direction of flow. Short joints (the tiles are arranged in staggered rows) lie in the direction of the flow. This arrangement promised better aerodynamic properties and lower mechanical and thermal loads on the heat shield. In the space shuttle, the joints are aligned diagonally to the direction of flow.

The heat shield was designed for 100 flights. Then they could have been renewed.

Further use of the Buran technique

The technology developed in the Buran program was partially reused elsewhere when the program was discontinued. So that was Zenit rocket, which corresponded to the four Energija boosters to about 75%, a great success, the RD-170 -Triebwerk is z. B. modified as the RD-180 engine of the main stage of the US Atlas III and later the Atlas V used. The Russian Angara missile, which is currently under development, is also expected to propel an RD-170 derivative. The Buran fuel cell Photon was presented in a modified version as a drive for a Russian Niva fuel cell car at the 2001 Moscow Motor Show. The complete docking system was also adopted almost identically for the Space Shuttle and the Shuttle Mir missions and is still in use today in the ISS program. The Jubileiny runway , which was originally built only for Buran, is now served by international transport aircraft, mostly loaded with commercial satellites.

List of Buran orbiter and prototype versions


Name / year of construction No.
( GRAY index )
image First flight commitment comment
Buran 1.01
OK-1K / (1986)
1.01 (11F35 K1) Antonov An-225 with Buran at Le Bourget 1989 Manteufel.jpg November 15, 1988 Unmanned test flight, automatic landing after two orbits. The only flight of a shuttle from the Buran program into space (flight time: 2 hours, 20 minutes), destroyed when the northern part of the roof of the assembly hall MIK-112 ( 45 ° 55th) built for the N1 program and used for the Energija-Buran program collapsed ′ 41 ″  N , 63 ° 17 ′ 53 ″  E ) in Baikonur on May 12, 2002. The space shuttle was originally called Baikal .
Buran 1.02
OK-2K / (1988)
1.02 (11F35 K2) [1] - About 95% completed
Buran 2.01
2.01 (11F35 K3) Buran 2.01 Space Shuttle (OK-2K1) Baikal (8605746284) .jpg - not completed Whereabouts: Since 2004, under the open sky in Tushino in a subcamp of the Molniya -Werks (near Khimki in Moscow ). Put on a barge on June 22, 2011 , to be exhibited at the MAKS 2013 in Schukowski after a “restoration” and assembly . Spotted on the Moscow River on the night of June 23, 2011 . Currently an exhibit on the grounds of the Mikhail Gromov University for Flight Research ( 55 ° 33 ′ 47.1 ″  N , 38 ° 8 ′ 49.7 ″  E ).
Buran 2.02
OK-TK (?)
2.02 (11F35 K4) [2] - not completed Location: NPO Molnija, Tuschino (partially dismantled)
Buran 2.03 2.03 (11F35 K5) - not completed Location: scrapped in NPO Molnija


Name / year of construction image Use / purpose Whereabouts comment
Not an official name It no longer exists.  Wind tunnel wooden model 1 3 scale of Buran is at the far corner of Zhukovsky airfield.  (11137924623) .jpg Wind tunnel model, scale 1: 3. Destroyed For the Buran program, a 1: 3 scale wooden model equipped with various sensors was created.
OK 0.01 / (1982)
Buran baikonur.jpg static tests Baikonur Cosmodrome

( 45 ° 56 ′ 25.8 ″  N , 63 ° 19 ′ 5.8 ″  E )

OK 0.02 / (1984)
OK-GLI Technik Museum Speyer 2008 12.JPG atmospheric flight tests Technik-Museum Speyer , D, Rhineland-Palatinate 25 manned test flights within the earth's atmosphere.
Nine taxi tests
OK 0.03
Буран БТС-003 Сочи 27102018.jpg OK-3M was used to test all electronic systems of the space shuttle in a realistic mock-up. Exhibited in Sochi since 2018

( 43 ° 24 ′ 52 ″  N , 39 ° 56 ′ 56.8 ″  E )

A complete space shuttle hull was built, including the landing gear. Only the correction engines were installed later.

A special feature of OK-3M compared to all other mock-ups and orbiters is the СССР lettering on the side walls

OK 0.04 / (1983)
[3] Crew and maintenance training, documentation Baikonur Cosmodrome in Building 80 MIK Square 112A
OK 0.05
thermal, mechanical and acoustic tests OK-5M was a complete front fuselage including heat protection tiles, which was used for various tests; Used for the construction of OK-7M after the completion of the cabin-related tests
OK 0.06
[4] Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute , Moscow Only individual assemblies remain
OK 0.15
Buran OK-TVA VDNKh.JPG Outdoor exhibition at VDNKh in Moscow

( 55 ° 49 ′ 55.6 ″  N , 37 ° 37 ′ 22.4 ″  E )

OK 0.08
Buran 8M front view.JPG Radiation and temperature tests Exhibition in the park of Hospital No. 83 in Moscow

( 55 ° 37 ′ 4.6 ″  N , 37 ° 45 ′ 52.1 ″  E )

Related models and space gliders
BOR-4 BOR-4S.jpg Test model based on the spiral space glider NPO Molnija, Moscow 1: 2 model, five starts
BOR-5 Boron- (5) .jpg Suborbital 1: 8 model of the Buran BOR-5 505 Technik-Museum Speyer, D, Rhineland-Palatinate Five takeoffs, no reuse, but four salvaged after the test flight

See also


  • Bart Hendrickx, Bert Vis: Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle. 2007, ISBN 0-387-69848-5 .
  • Ju. P. Semjonow, GE Losino-Losinskij, WL Lapygin, WA Timchenko: Buran: Soviet space glider. 2006, ISBN 3-933395-80-1 .

Web links

Commons : Buran space shuttle  - album with pictures

Individual evidence

  1. БУРАН-68 Gagarin and shuttle model
  2. Giuseppe De Chiara: “LKS” - The Chelomei alternative to Buran. (PDF; 6.4 MB) In: forum.nasaspaceflight.com. August 31, 2012, accessed July 24, 2018 .
  3. Stephen J. Garber: Birds of a Feather? How Politics and Culture Affected the Designs of the US Space Shuttle and the Soviet Buran. (PDF; 770 kB)
  4. http://www.buran-energia.com/bourane-buran/bourane-but.php
  5. ^ Giles Sparrow, Bernhard Abend: Adventure space travel: [50 years of expeditions into space] . Dorling Kindersley, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-8310-1089-9 .
  6. a b Gofin M.Ya .: The Heat Protection Structure of the Reusable Orbital Spaceship. (doc / zip; 27 kB)
  7. Alternative landing sites for the Buran
  8. Buran - End of an adventure .
  9. Soviet Buran Space Shuttle (English)
  10. Buran Orbiter
  11. a b Heinz Elser: History and transport of the Russian space shuttle OK-GLI in the Technik Museum Speyer . Ed .: Technik Museum Speyer. 2008, ISBN 3-9809437-7-1 , pp. 25 .
  12. 'Thermal Designing of the BURAN Orbital Spaceship' by Voinov LP ( ZIP ; 103 kB)
  13. 'LOOKING TO THE FUTURE' by Elena DEMINA. (PDF, English) from ladamedia.ru accessed on July 4, 2015
  14. Image of the destroyed Buran
  15. End of an adventure. In: www.buran-energia.com. Retrieved August 28, 2020 .
  16. Destruction of Buran Energia. In: www.buran-energia.com. Retrieved August 28, 2020 .
  17. OK-1.01. In: www.buran-energia.com. Retrieved August 28, 2020 .
  18. Where Do Shuttles Go? July 30, 2008, accessed August 28, 2020 .
  19. Google Maps. Retrieved August 28, 2020 .
  20. Archived copy ( Memento from July 20, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  21. "Буран" остался без крыльев и хвоста. September 28, 2010, Retrieved August 28, 2020 (Russian).
  22. http://www.buran-energia.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/5859100207_bacdfeb4f3.jpg
  23. Buran-Energia Buran OK-2.01. Retrieved August 28, 2020 .
  24. https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/bilder/buran102_v-grossgalerie16x9.jpg
  25. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/81957985
  26. OK-M
  27. Buran Pictures. In: www.buran-energia.com. Retrieved August 28, 2020 .
  28. Макет космического корабля "Буран" отправили из Подмосковья в Сочи. June 27, 2017, Retrieved August 28, 2020 (Russian).
  29. ^ S. Büttner, M. Kaule: Traces of the Cold War - Bunkers, borders and barracks. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 2017, 1st edition, ISBN 978-3-95462-784-4 , p. 133.