The Rise and Demise of the Russian Re-usable Space Vehicle Buran
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The Rise and Demise of the Russian Re-usable Space Vehicle Buran

The study by the Russian defence ministry concluded that the American Space Shuttle program had military capabilities. This terrified the Soviet military which had no similar vehicle with them. A decision was taken to manufacture a Soviet counterpart of the shuttle and it was named Buran. The Soviet Defence minister was enthusiastic about this program and the project was cleared in record time and work commenced on the Buran at the Soviet cosmodrome in Central Russia. The Buran was to be a re-usable space entry vehicle.

In the early eighties of the last century the Soviet State matched the United States of America on the world chessboard. The Russians were keeping a watch on the American space Shuttle which was a reusable space vehicle. Till date this is the only reusable space vehicle in the world. The American space shuttle program was studied by the Soviets.

The study by the Russian defence ministry on the instructions of the Defence Minister concluded at that time that the American Space Shuttle program had military capabilities. This terrified the Soviet military which had no similar vehicle with them. A decision was taken to manufacture a Soviet counterpart of the shuttle and it was named Buran. The Soviet Defence minister was enthusiastic about this program and the project was cleared in record time and work commenced on the Buran at the Soviet cosmodrome in Central Russia. The Buran was to be a re-usable space entry vehicle.

In addition the Soviets developed the Antonov 325 heavy transport to air lift the Buran like the United States.  The Buran incorporated the latest technology and was ready for its first flight in 1988.  The Buran was launched into orbit with the new Energia booster rockets and did 2 orbits of the earth before landing back at a pre-designated spot in Central Russia (Kazakhstan). This was a feather in the cap of the Soviet engineers and scientists as the Buran landed exactly where it was planned to lad. In addition it lost only 5 heat tile shield during its descent. The Buran had a significant difference compared to its American counterpart as it could also be flown unmanned. The 1988 flight was an unmanned one.

Russia was passing through a turbulent phase. The economy was in dire straits and the policy of Gorbochov resulted in the break-up of the Soviet Union into 18 states. The entire Buran program went into hibernation and no further research was carried out. In 1993 the Buran space shuttle program was scrapped as its cost was prohibitive. Only 2 Buran’s were built and one was stored in a hanger in central Russia.

Poor maintenance of the hanger resulted in the hanger collapsing on the Buran, which was destroyed. One Buran is preserved in Moscow. The Soviet dream of a matching vehicle to the US space shuttle thus collapsed.  The Antonov 325 was also not manufactured further and only 2 of these mammoth transport planes were built.

However there is arethink in Russia about the Buran program and its possible the project will be revived.

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