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Thread: Russian Space Shuttle

  1. #1

    Russian Space Shuttle

    The Russian Space Program

    English Russia Buran. The Soviet Space Shuttle

    Buran development

    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
    Last edited by Aragorn; April 21st, 2009 at 06:08 AM.

  2. #2

    Re: Russian Space Shuttle

    PICTURE: The U.S Shuttle and Buran-Energia... But which one has the cup holders?

    So just how do the world's two shuttle systems go head to head, here’s a look at some of the improvemnets added to the Buran system in light of being built after the US STS...

    At first glance, it would appear as if the U.S Shuttle and Buran-Energia are quite similar, and in many ways, they are. The Buran was, after all, based on the American space shuttle design. On a purely visual level the two shuttles look almost identical, their sizes are little more than centimetres apart.

    Numerous important differences do, however, exist underneath the surface. Key aspects of the American design were rejected by Russian engineers, and here we will highlight some of the features that we feel illustrate the superior capability of the Buran-Energia system.

    A critical difference between the two shuttle designs is in their rocket systems. The Energia is a monster of a rocket, with significantly more thrust that the American shuttle central fuel tank and solid rocket boosters (SRB's). The Energia is a dedicated heavy lift rocket that is capable of sending up to a staggering 175 tonnes into orbit! (with eight strap on boosters and Energia-M upper stage), or 90-100 tonnes in standard mode. To put that into perspective the U.S shuttle and Protons are assembling the International Space Station Alpha in 20-30 tonne pieces (the limit that it can take up). Energia could take up easily over 100 tonnes in one go, because it doesn’t have to take up the Buran shuttle, the shuttle is simply one of its cargoes!

    There are also significant differences in how the two rocket systems get their respective cargoes into orbit. The U.S shuttle's central tank is not a rocket, but simply, as the name implies, a tank. The U.S shuttle system must rely on the side booster rockets as well as the shuttle's own rockets to take it to a sufficiently high orbit, without the shuttle, the system won't get very far off the ground.

    The Energia, on the other hand, serves as a launch platform for the Buran but is a fully fledged heavy lift rocket system in its own right, capable of taking up varied cargos as far as the Moon or even potentially Mars! As many as eight Zenit boosters can be strapped on it to give it a lifting power that far exceeds its nearest equivalent.

    Another important difference is that the Buran-Energia is designed as a fully reusable shuttle system, that includes the four side 'Zenit' boosters and the main huge 'Energia' core super booster (Energia-T). The U.S shuttle system, on the other hand, is only semi reusable. Every time a U.S shuttle is launched a new central fuel tank has to be constructed, an extremely expensive process. In addition the SRB's, often described as fully reusable are in fact far from it, they need to be heavily refurbished after each launch. The Buran does not suffer from such problems. The Zenit boosters that strap on to the Energia core rocket are equipped with large parachute/retro rocket soft landing systems. The Energia core booster itself is designed to use such a system. This allows Energia and Zenit rockets to be recovered, refuelled, and re used at least ten times. It it worth noting, however, that the first flight of Buran-Energia in space did not take place with recoverable side or core booster rockets, but this was still in the development phase of the shuttle's life. Future launches would feature the fully recoverable Energia system, which of course, never got to occur as the program was suspended.

    One important difference that the Cosmonauts would no doubt have appreciated was that the Energia rocket system is powered solely by liquid propellant, both in the core booster and in the side booster rockets. Liquid propellant is a safe and effective form of rocket propulsion. It is also quite expensive. The Amercian shuttle does not have liquid propellant in its solid rockets boosters (SRB's) as a result of budget cuts in the 1970's. As any American Astronaut will tell you, SRB's are dangerous, little more then controlled explosions. The famous U.S astronaut Story Musgrave, does not welcome being in close proxmity to an SRB, he once commented "The very concept of SRB's that large.... (his voice trailed off) ...A launch is incredibly frightening, probably the most dangerous part of the mission... ...On subsequent ones (launches) I have become more and more scared". The simple facts are that a fault in a SRB means instant destruction of the shuttle. It was a faulty SRB O-ring seal on the shuttle Challenger that led to its unfortunate destruction. Buran-Energia does not share this problem. As an added safety feature, Buran was fitted with ejection seats for her crew. Remarkably, these high-tech seats can withstand Mach 4+ blow outs. Thermal protection was also considerably better on the Buran, allowing for safer reentries to Earth’s atmosphere. Jet engines for the Buran shuttle were also to be installed, so as to give a little added safety to the shuttle on landing, as most people know shuttle tend to glide into landing like bricks, a few engines up back certainly will be appreciated if you’re landing in adverse weather conditions.

    Another notable difference between the Buran Shuttle and the U.S design is that Buran, when separated from Energia, does not have any real engines in the sense that the American shuttle does. It simply does not need them. The Energia rocket which carries the Buran into orbit is so powerful that the Buran does not need its own propulsion. The Energia can take the Buran as high as it likes. This is in stark contrast to the American shuttle design where after the core booster separates the U.S shuttle must still propel itself forward if it is to reach significant altitude.

    The lack of a need for engines also allows the Buran to have a significantly longer cargo bay, therefore allowing of the deployment of larger and heavier cargo.

    The Buran shuttle itself, otherwise, is quite similar to the U.S shuttle, it is, however, more advanced in the sense that unlike the U.S shuttle it can be piloted unmanned solely by computer, completing even complex two week missions with no-one on board.

    To summarise... Buran-Energia was in many ways an improvement on the US Shuttle system, with a much more flexible design, even if sadly, it is not the system that is currently in operation.

    Google Image Result for http://www.k26.com/buran/assets/images/comparison.jpg

    Unfortunately, the prospects for reviving the shuttle project now appear more unlikely than ever. On 12 May 2002, most of the roof of the enormous Site 112 where the Buran orbiter and all remaining Energia boosters were being stored collapsed. Funding had been cut so low that routine maintenance had not been performed on the building in over a decade. The roof was known to leak and sag excessively under the weight of snow. This lack of maintenance coupled with strong winds finally led to a structural collapse that killed eight workers and destroyed the Buran.

    could the roof collapse of the assembly building really shut the whole project down ? or was it just a cover story because they were selling the program to China ? hmmm...

    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.

    Dead Project ? No Investors ?

    "No Russian Shuttle eh? What I want to know is... WHO took this photo?"......... There were many unconfirmed rumors that the craft was sold to the Chinese- Jack Arneson
    Buran - Russia's Space Shuttle

    Last edited by Aragorn; April 21st, 2009 at 03:39 AM.

  3. #3

    Re: Russian Space Shuttle

    The Heavy Lifter Rocket (Energia) was designed to Launch the Buran Shuttle and the Polyus Space Weapons Platform. the first Launch with... "Polyus" , supposedly malfunctioned and it crashed in to the Sea

    1) The Polyus spacecraft, also known as Polus, Skif-DM, or 17F19DM, was a prototype orbital weapons platform designed to defend against anti-satellite weapons with recoilless cannon.

    2) It was also equipped with a sensor blinding laser to confuse approaching weapons and could launch test targets to validate the fire control system.

    3) It had the capability of deploying Nuclear mines through a special cannon.

    4) Black matte painting for camouflage, probable stealth radar observing properties.

    5) The laser device was not found on board, however. It had been replaced by a dummy of identical weight.

    6) TASS originally reported that a 'mock-up' had been sent up by Energia (This would explain why the 60 ton Laser module was never recovered)

    7) No member of the Reagan or Bush administrations ever admitted or revealed publicly any knowledge of Polyus.

    8) The US Navy made no statements about any attempts to investigate the wreckage of Polyus, which lies on the floor of the South Pacific.


    Last edited by Aragorn; April 21st, 2009 at 05:56 AM.

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