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Buran (USSR/Russian Federation)


Alternate Designations: Blizzard, Snowstorm, VKK-1, The Russian Space Shuttle
Major Contractors: None; the Buran was a Soviet government project Nation of Origin: USSR
Used By: USSR
Number in Use: 0
Launch Sites: Tyuratam
Project Status: Cancelled in 1993


Length: 36.37 meters
Height: 16.35 meters
Wingspan: 23.92 meters
Gross lift-off weight: 105,000 kilograms


Crew: Never Specified
Mission Duration: Never Specified
Orbital Range: Unknown
Maximum Acceleration: Unknown
Cargo Bay Length: 18.55 meters
Cargo Bay Width: 4.65 meters


The Buran shuttle project was ordered by Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev in response to the American Space Transportation System. Brezhnev feared that the United States would use the STS as a vehicle for a suprise nuclear attack under the guise of a peaceful research mission. The Buran was, unlike the American STS, intended from the start to be a military weapon.

The Buran was in most respects an outright theft of the design of the American STS orbiter, though somewhat smaller, and launched by piggybacking on the powerful Energia expendable launch vehicle. The Buran's construction was ordered in 1976, and construction began in 1978, completed in 1987.

The Buran has flown only once (November 15, 1988) and that was an unmanned proving mission. Shortly thereafter, work on the project halted due to lack of funds and lack of interest on the part of Premier Gorbachev's government. The project was officially cancelled in 1993 by President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation, after the fall of the Soviet Union, as it was seen as having no known non-military mission. Additionally, the project manager was one of the instigators of the 1991 coup attempt on Yeltsin's government. Since then, the various Buran testbeds have been broken down for scrap or sold to civillian interests. One lies in Gorky Park and is used as a space-themed restaurant. The Russian Federation has no plans to resurrect the Buran program.

Credits and Further Reading

For more information, read:
  • The Buran entry in the Encyclopedia Astronautica (

  • NASA's Buran page (

  • Buran Fan Website (

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