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Last preparations

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The preparation of this flight lasted more than 12 years. And 17 more days, because of a technical hitch on October 29, 1988, when from 51 s of the start, a damage in the guidance system occurred. After the repair of the problem, the president of the State commission which envisaged safety above all ("not to hurry! - the president of the State commission S. H.Doguzhiev. - Before all, safety!"), ordered the new launch of the shuttle on November 15 1988.

For the first flight of the Buran-Energia, the control of the structure and all the on-board systems of Buran, especially for the descent in automatic mode, were critical. The first flight of the shuttle without pilot was short: 2 revolutions either 206 minutes of flight. In the payload bay were installed all the telemetric apparatuses of measurements and additional batteries. In accordance to the program, the on-board and terrestrial systems functioned together. The management terrestrial set was composed of the main command center, of 6 ground tracking stations, 4 floating stations (the Cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov ship in the Atlantic and the Cosmonaut Georgiy Dobrovolskiy ship in the Pacific) and the data network transmission including the communications network satellites and the telephone networks.

The cosmodrome of Baïkonour on November 15, 1988. On the launching pad stand the Buran-Energia couple. The preparations proceed without problems, but the weather conditions worsen. The president of the State commission receives the "signal warning of storm" from the weather service. This service anxious by the gravity of the situation require an acknowledgement of delivery. This situation weather could have a harmful influence on the most critical part of the flight, the automatic landing of the shuttle, more especially because this shuttle model does not have turbines yet and is obligated to plane (what limits its maneuverability). But the engineers who took part in the project ensure the Commission's Members that the operation will be a success because the shuttle is not yet under the limit conditions for the landing. The decision of launching is taken.


The launch

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At 6h00 a.m. of Moscow time, the Buran-Energia lift off from the launching pad. At 6h08 Buran and Energia separates, Buran begins its first autonomous flight. Altitude is almost of 150 km and as planned by the flight program, piloting is made automatically.


The orbital flight

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During the 40 following minutes 2 revolutions around the Earth are accomplished on the working orbit, of a slope of 51.6° and an altitude of 250-260 km. The parameters of the operations (direction and the hour of the re-entry) are decided automatically with the datas at the time of separation from Energia. The first operation occurs in the tracking zone of the ground stations. The second occurs above the Pacific Ocean. The transmission of telemetric informations of the second operation is routed by the floating station on the Pacific Ocean, then by the station of Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka, then by the station in the suburbs of Moscow, on more than 120 000 km.

Excluding that the shuttle bents on the left, transmitted telemetric informations are correct according to the expectations.

After 1 h 30 min of flight the on-board computer sends the orders and transmits the operation parameters for slowing down to prepare the re-entry in the atmosphere.


The descent

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The data about the speed and the direction of the wind are downloaded on board in the data base of Buran. The shuttle is stabilized, the tail ahead. The impulse of braking is given at 8h20 a.m. and 30 minutes later, it is in contact with the dense layers of the atmosphere. During its descent of 100 km the control system turns over once again the shuttle to present the nose ahead. At 8h53 and 90 km of altitude, the radio connection is cut because of the plasma which surrounds the shuttle.

At 9h11 and an altitude of 50 km, the shuttle retransmits, "Presence of telemetric parameter", "Detection of the shuttle by the ground radars", "the systems of the shuttle works normally". At this time it was still at 550 km of the aerodrome, in spite of its speed decreasing, it was 10 times higher than that the sound. Now it remains only 10 minutes before the landing.


The final approach

Buran arrives in the adjustment zone (altitude 20 km) with a limited trajectory anomaly compared to the bad weather conditions. At 90 km, the management system of the engines and its executive parts are disconnected and only the aerodynamic actuators keep operating and drive Buran to the following reference mark.

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Caption:
Buran's trajectory in red, projected on the ground inside the probable trajectory corridor in blue. The points show the position of the shuttle at reference's altitudes mark described in landing procedure.


The speed of Buran, during the approach of the aerodrome, is still high but its trajectory is good. It approaches the aerodrome a little on the right of the landing axe, but the experimentative specialists and pilots estimate, that it will dissipate its additional energy in the second loop. At 10 km of the runway, Buran flies on the familiar traces of the analog-shuttle and all works fine.

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Then suddenly Buran changes its trajectory and flight almost perpendicularly to the axis of the runway. After analysis of the situation, the service of management says: "Everything is ok! The system was not mistaken ". Buran will come not by the left loop as it was planned, but by the right. At the exit of the key point, the trajectory is optimal compared to the limit wind conditions.
The emotion in the command center goes down, the shuttle made its operation to lose the surplus of energy.

At 7 km of altitude, the accompaniment plane, a MIG-25 controlled by the test pilot M.Tolboiev (М.Толбоев), shoot the shuttle. No external damage is to be deplored. At 4 km of altitude it is the descent in straight line towards the runway. The landing gears spread out, it remains 1 minute of flight.


The landing

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At 9 h 24 min 42 s a.m., after the execution of an orbital flight, went through the atmosphere on approximately 8000 km and with an advance of 1 s on the initial planning, the shuttle smoothly touches the landing strip and after a small race, it is immobilized at 9 h 25 min 24 s a.m. . The accompaniment plane passes overhead to also land on its landing strip. It is an extraordinary, precise and elegant landing of a 80 t shuttle ! It's unbelievable. It seems that the most talented pilot could not make a better landing, it is simply mind-blowing. It is an explosion of joy which invades the personnel having taken part in this project by looking at the shuttle achieving its landing.



During the 10 following minutes, the on-board systems are re-initialized then shutting down. The payload is dismounted, the recordings are removed. Then the tanks for the fuel cell, the principal engine, the orbital maneuvering system are emptied, the additional batteries (for the measuring apparatus) are removed. The shuttle is cleaned. Thorough tests as well electric as mechanics are accomplished to detect possible problems.

The program of the 1st trial flight is completely accomplished.

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The huge effort which came with the preparation by the 1st flight, reinforced by the deferment of October 29 ended by an happy end. One could read the joy and the immense pride on the faces of the staff at this moment. This landing allowed people working around Buran or those close to the control screens to feel again this extraordinary feeling of national pride.