Aging Soviet Space Vehicles Still Impress

Eric Berger, writing at Wired:

The Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle program stands as one of the saddest episodes in aerospace history. After NASA began working on its space shuttle program in the early 1970s, the Soviet Union conceived of its own orbiter program, the eerily similar looking Buran shuttle. Ultimately, the vehicle made just one flight, an uncrewed mission in 1988. The Soviet Union’s collapsing economy doomed the program.

The Buran orbiter that made the initial three-hour flight was destroyed in 2002, when the roof of the hangar where it was stored in Kazakhstan collapsed. Like the United States, the Soviet Union didn’t make just one Buran, they made several with the intention of eventually having a fleet of orbital vehicles. When the program was canceled, those vehicles, from mock-ups to nearly flight ready articles, were mothballed.

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