Sunday, July 3, 2011
Soviet Space Shuttle
With much of the media focusing on the final voyage of the Atlantis, I'd like to take a moment to remember that the Soviet Union had their own space shuttle program. It was called Buran, and for all that it looked like a replica of the US space shuttles, it was actually a very different animal.
The Buran had no main engines; what looks like the shuttle fuel tank is actually a liquid chemical rocket, with more external liquid chemical rockets. The absence of main engines on the shuttle itself opened up much more cargo space, and the much larger engines could take Buran all the way to the moon, rather than just low Earth orbit. And, its flights could either be manned or fully automated.
The only orbiter ever actually built was destroyed when its hangar collapsed in 2002, due to lack of maintenance.