The BURAN orbiter is a reusable manned space
vehicle designed in Russia. A relic of the Soviet era it first
went to the drawing board in the late 70s with only a few built
during the 80s.
Bearing a striking resemblance to the
Shuttle the BURAN orbiter is claimed to be technologically superior
but unfortunately due to funding cuts by the Russian government
the project was cancelled after only one successful unmanned test
mission. in November 1988 the Buran was launched to circle the
earth twice when it then automatically landed without fault and
unmanned, the US Space Shuttle
cannot operate unmanned like the
The BURAN orbiter is able to put up to 30 tons into Space and to
return up to 20 tons of payload to the Earth.
The availability of a cargo compartment of impressive sizes on the
vehicle permits to transport orbital station modules or large
structures up to 17 m long and 4,5 m in diameter and not only 2-4
crew members but up to 6 passengers can be accommodated in a crew
Expendable space vehicles perform a ballistic or sliding descent
in the atmosphere and parachute landing. The necessity to provide
a space vehicle return from the Space and to bring it to the
airdrome forced the designers to decide many complex problems.
The gliding descent from the orbit through dense layers of
atmosphere has stipulated the necessity to use a principally new
reusable thermal protection system designed to sustain 100
flights. For the BURAN orbiter three kinds of thermal protection
were developed including forty thousand tiles of ceramic thermal
protection tiles that surpass the strength of the materials used
in the USA Space Shuttle construction.
Today not much is left of the BURAN program, the
one completed shuttle that did achieve a test flight once sat
mothballed in a Russian hanger, but has since been accidentally
destroyed. Several other test mockups were completed as well as a near
completed shuttle and 2 hardly started construction shuttles. These
shuttles have since been scrapped or been used as museum items, one is
on display in Gorky Park and one did leave Russia during 2000 and sat on display at
Sydney's Darling Harbour. There are also several over bits and
pieces on display across Russia and even in museums in Germany. The state run company that designed the
BURAN once stated that they wanted to relaunch the project but this
is highly unlikely considering the time that has passed since the
funding was cut from the original project.
Concorde was not the only
supersonic commercial jet, the Russian
Tupolev TU-144 was a copy of
Concorde and its first flight was 3 months prior to the
Concorde. After many problems and several crashes it
stopped service in 1985.