Buran Soviet Space Shuttle


Buran Soviet Space Shuttle only flew once to orbit. It was launched by Energia Launch Vehicle.

Buran Soviet Space Shuttle

About Buran

Buran was the first reusable manned space vehicle in the Soviet Union / Russia. It had a multi-functional role meaning it could carry crew and cargo to orbit. Previous Soviet spacecraft such as Soyuz, Voskhod and Vostok were intended only for crews only. Progress spacecraft were only for sending cargo to Salyut 6, Salyut 7, Mir Space Station. It is currently used for cargo to the International Space Station.

Buran Orbiter Specs:

Payload into Space: Up to 30 tons.
Return Payload to Earth: 20 tons
Buran Cargo Bay: 4.5m in diameter and 17m long.
Crew: Could accommodate up to 6. (Unfortunately there were no crewed flights).

Buran payload bay could carry space station modules or large structures.

Buran was launched to orbit on the side of an Energia Launch Vehicle. Once Buran completed its mission it would glide / fly back to Earth similar to the way USA Space Shuttle flew.

Buran used over 40,000 ceramic tiles for thermal protection.


The Russian Shuttle Buran (“Snowstorm” in Russian) was authorized in 1976 in response to the United States Space Shuttle program. Building of the shuttles began in 1980, with the first full-scale Aero-Buran rolling out in 1984.

Test Flights

The first suborbital test flight of a scale model of Buran took place in July 1983. There were five additional flights of the scale model in following years. Aerodynamic tests of the full-scale Buran analogue began in 1984. This aero-Buran was worn out after 24 test flights and would not fly again. The last of these aerodynamic test flights was in April 1988.

Orbital Launch

The first and only orbital launch of the shuttle Buran was on 15 November, 1988 at 3:00 GMT. The flight was unmanned, as the life support system had not been checked out and the CRT displays had no software installed. The vehicle was launched on the powerful Energiya booster into an 247 by 256 km orbit at 51.6 degrees inclination. The Buran orbited the Earth twice before firing its thrusters for re-entry. The flight ended at 6:25 GMT when the vehicle touched down at Tyuratum. The Buran 1 mission was limited to 2 orbits due to computer memory limitations.

russian space shuttle


Although the first orbital flight of Buran was unmanned, it demonstrated much promise. The autopilot that landed the shuttle was able to overcome a 34 mph crosswind to land within 5 feet of the runway center line. Also, of the 38,000 heat shield tiles that covered Buran, only 5 were missing.


After the first flight of Buran, funding for the project was cut. Although the project wasn’t officially canceled until 1993, much of the work was halted long before that date. There were two other Buran shuttles under construction. The second orbiter, “Ptichka” (“Little Bird” in Russian) was originally scheduled for completion in 1990. The third Buran was due in 1992. Neither was finished. In November 1995, the partially completed shuttles were dismantled at their production site. The manufacturing plant is scheduled to be converted for production of buses, syringes, and diapers.

Buran Soviet Space Shuttle Vs USA Space Shuttle

The Buran did not have its main rocket engines in the orbiter, whereas NASA’s Shuttle Main Engines were at the back of the Shuttle. The advantage was Energia could carry into 120 tons whereas USA Space Shuttle could only carry 30 tons.

Buran Soviet Space Shuttle vs Nasa Space Shuttle

Buran could return 20 tons from orbit and NASA’s shuttle could only return 15 tons from orbit to Earth airport.

Buran performed automatic landing from Orbit to Earth airport.


Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle by Bart Hendrickx
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Buran Soviet Space Shuttle Links:

Molniya-the Maker of Buran:
The VSM: Energia and Buran

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