The Russian Space Program
English Russia Buran. The Soviet Space Shuttle
At the beginning of the 1970s, the US made the Space Shuttle a primary project of its manned space program. According to NASA predictions, the Space Shuttle would replace the entire fleet of existing rockets and lower the cost of launching satellites. However, in the USSR, the Space Shuttle was viewed first of all as a carrier of nuclear weapons.
In 1976, despite apparent skepticism in the space industry, the Soviet government decided to respond to the "Shuttle threat" with a similar spacecraft. (108)
NPO Energia in Kaliningrad, Moscow Region, subordinated to the Ministry of General Machine Building, MOM, took overall responsibility for the development of the system named Energia-Buran.
Unlike NASA, Valentin Glushko, the head of NPO Energia, proposed a configuration where a heavy-lift launcher could be used with or without a winged orbiter.
Also in 1976, the Ministry of Aviation Industry, MAP, transferred a group of veterans of the Spiral project from the Mikoyan design bureau and OKB Raduga into the newly formed NPO Molniya. The new organization also absorbed the KB Burevestnik and KB Molniya design bureaus, as well as the Myasishev Experimental Mashine Building Plant. NPO Molniya would be responsible for the development of the aerodynamic body of the orbiter. (106)
From the beginning, uncertainty surrounded the issue of possible roles for the Buran orbiter. The potential tasks concentrated around hypothetic military roles and support for the manned space station program. One goal was the delivery and assembly of the Mir-2 space station.
After a single flight in 1988, the program quickly ran out of funds, as the Soviet Ministry of Defense fully realized the lack of purpose for the system, compared to its tremendous cost. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the program was essentially shut down and, in 1993, the head of NPO Energia, Yuri Semenov publicly admitted that the project was dead.
NPO Molniya, the developer of the Buran's body, tried to move forward with a small version of the reusable orbiter, launched by an Antonov-225 Mriya transport plane. However, the company has never found investors for the project.
Buran reusable shuttle