Monday, July 11, 2011

The Soviet Shuttle Was Meant to do What?!

Recently. In an article in New Scientist, I was finding out some very interesting fact about about the Soviet spacecraft called Buran, cosmetically a copy to the American shuttle.

Buran had only one launch on 15 November 1988 and even though it performed flawlessly, it was scrapped less than a year later, never to be made man ready. It seems Buran was a victim of normalization of relations with the west. Buran's only mission was to be a weapons delivery system (makes you think long and hard about the mini shuttle the military is flying as you read this.) and since there was no longer a military mission and never had been one for the private sector, there was no longer any need for Buran.

However it still is an interesting ship to talk about. First off, even though it bore a cosmetic resemblance to the west's shuttle, it was in fact radically different in many aspects. The biggest example was the craft had no external tank. Buran was bolted to an over-sized Energia booster which did all the lifting. Buran had no engines of its own. This aspect alone made it a much safer system to operate. Another major difference was to be ejection seats for all crew members even those on the mid deck which would have launched sideways.

The rest of the article is fascinating. Read it here


Anonymous said...

I read articles here often. There hardly is comments to anything. huhm.... keep it up anyway,thanks

Beam Me Up said...

Oh we get the boyz going every now and then. But like I have said to others, this blog is more of a sounding board for material for the weekend radio program on WRFR. A script if you will. When comments come in, and they do, much more regularly than a lot of the blogs I read, it tells me that I have struck a nerve and I am on the right path.

Finally, its really better to look at the readership stats, for every person that posts a comment there is like 50 who don't.

But it is nice to see you guys weigh in. Keeps me honest! lol

Homer said...

The first time I saw a picture of the Buran my first thought was Holy Crap, they stole the shuttle from us. But the more I researched into the program the more I started thinking (even though some blueprints obviously made it over to the USSR - wonder how that happened) that this was a better design than what the boys at NASA came up with - IMHO.

1.) The Energia was designed to be a flexible multi-purpose launch platform.

2.) Since Energia was a stand-alone vehicle instead of a big-ass gas tank, there was none of the foam insulation that NASA always had to worry about.

3.) Since the boosters were liquid fueled and non-segmented they were no need for those o-rings. (Dare I say, that with proper de-icing, this thing could have probably taken off during a Siberian winter).

4.) The Russians seem to have always leaned toward less exotic and/or toxic fuels than NASA.

5.) The Buran had a higher payload and crew capacity.

6.) The Buran was designed with features like the automated landing system from the design stage.

It is a shame that the Buran project fell apart after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Seems that they had a great program in the works.

Lastly, if the USSR and the US had not wasted all of those Cold War years trying to out-WMD each other and had worked together on a joint Buran/Space Shuttle design program, I'm sure that a more flexible system would have come to fruition and it would still be flying today. And maybe we wouldn't be where we are now, relying on a 50 year old system to get us back and forth to the ISS for Lord knows how many years.

Beam Me Up said...

Your lastly comment is the telling point right there! I would go so far as to say that we could still have a functioning system in place. I never bought the age of the system as one of the deciding factors since as you so well stated "relying on a 50 year old system to get us back and forth to the ISS" tells the tale right there. If we are so hot to have them ferry us up then what about building on their Buran idea with what maybe something in the Titan class or even try to work the bugs out of Ares...oh wait that was canceled as well....@#$%!!

henryii said...

it is shame that the entire world cannot be included in the space programs.
China is left out and if included the space programs would be so much better off.
the USA and Russia seem to exclude what they to include.
till they figure that out the space programs will suffer.

Beam Me Up said...

Exactly Henry, but you can't have some of the best players taking their ball and going home. I wouldn't write China off to quickly either. They are showing a will to succeed that the states haven't seen in decades.

henryii said...

i was just saying it would be in the interest of this planet if we all worked together in the space programs.
The USA is still playing cold war games excluding China from participating in anything related to the space programs.
If we do send humans to Mars it would be more economical and by far more logical to include China and any other counrty that could benefit the missions.
thanks Beam Me Up love your articles and pictures.

Beam Me Up said...

No argument from me Henry. My comments were in the same direction. NASA needs to be more of a team player if there is any hope for a viable program in the future. Unfortunately it is becoming painfully clear that both the US and Russia have used their space initiative as thinly disguised military operations. Buran and Shuttle have shown how well that methodology works. But as Xnewsman said on our last week's program, until the military discovers another use for a manned presence in space, there likely isn't going to be one. Even though the Russian program was equally vested in military money, they have managed to transition to a more commercial business model. Just a short while ago they were being derided for currying favor with the space tourist faction. I think we are beginning to see a glimmer of just how successful that move really was. hummmmmmm