Photos: Soviet Shuttle Dreams To Dust


The three surviving space shuttle orbiters – Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour – and the atmospheric test article Enterprise are proudly ensconced in museums around the U.S., but the Soviet-era Buran is a forgotten relic.

A Buran flew one unpiloted mission in 1988, returning intact to the long runway near its launch pad on the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Although superficially a twin of the U.S. orbiters, Buran was the only one to land on autopilot.

There are a few surviving mockups -– notably in Moscow’s Gorky Park -– but the flightworthy Buran was destroyed on May 12, 2002, when a roof at Baikonur’s Site 112 collapsed, apparently from a combination of poor maintenance and a heavy burden of snow.

The collapse is believed to have killed eight maintenance workers. It crushed the flight Buran, which was mounted horizontally on a version of the massive Energia launch vehicle that carried it to orbit. The mishap also destroyed Energia components that had been mothballed in the same gigantic structure.

These photos of Site 112 today, with the remains of the flight hardware and the Energia elements, were posted on social media by a recent Russian visitor to Baikonur.

Discuss this Blog Entry 7

on Jun 16, 2014

If Obama had a 3rd term in office, John Holdren would subject the US Shuttles to the same "accident."

on Jun 17, 2014

Ah yes. So desperate to find faults with Obama you now have to resort to a fictional third term for all the imaginary atrocities to take place. Guess what, if he had a third term in Office, he would replace all the air in the world with molasses and everyone would suffocate! The outrage!

on Jun 17, 2014

I looked at the photos and it is shame to what happened to their shuttle.

on Jun 17, 2014

I have subscribed to Aviation Week since 1955 and still have some of those early magazines which were so much more interesting and devoid of any political comments that everyone seems to have to make today.

Col. Gene Cirillo, USAF (Ret)

on Jun 17, 2014

Hey Frank,
You forgot to mention that there is a beautifully restored Buran sitting in the Speyer Museum in Germany! This one is even partly accessible and is an analog to the NASA shuttle Enterprise atmospheric test vehicle. WELL worth a visit, for space afficionados. And, while you're there, have a look at the BOR unmanned shuttle shape right next to it. This one did go to space and is shown unrefurbished, exactly like it's been since the day it reentered into the atmosphere. Then, there is also a Buran at Zhukovski, near Moscow. This article was not completed and therefore allows a partial view of the inside structure. Have a look at it when visiting MAKS 2015......

on Jun 17, 2014

This is such a shame to see it destroyed, however I'm glad there are still the test articles on display like the one at Speyer. I know that test article well, I used to work at the Sydney Buran exhibit around the 2000 olympics. I was just an undergrad aero student and I worked there for part-time cash, but as a young engineer I was able to crawl all over that aircraft and I got to know it pretty well. Such impressive engineering achievements MUST be preserved!

on Jun 18, 2014

Why not mention the other Buran vehicles still around, one refurbished into displays and a few available for refurbishment. I created and posted a full list including photo montages of each one of them on my twitter account the best up to date depictions of where they are now.

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