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Preparation of Buran and Energia for the flight

Preparation of the shuttle to the orbital flight:

  • Control of the on-board systems and coordinated operation of the equipment.
  • Diagnosis of the detected breakdowns and replacement of the defective apparatuses, correction of the driving software and checks of the various procedures.
  • Final tests of the systems in the technical hangar for stowing with Energia.
  • Mechanical and electrical stowing of Buran and Energia.
  • Filling up the tanks of the various components, fuels for the power supply, and propellant for the engine and the orbital maneuvering system.
  • Final tests for the positioning on the launching pad.

Summary tables of the stages before the first launch:

Operation of preparation Date
End of assembly work 15.10.1987
Tests on the simulators 15.10.1987-15.02.1988
Tests of the engine installation 15.02.1988-25.04.1988
Final operations in the Buran's experiments complex 25.04.1988-09.05.1988
Common stowing and tests with Energia before experimental transport, at the Energia's experiments complex 09.05.1988-15.05.1988
Experimental displacement of Buran on the launching pad 19.05.1988-10.06.1988
Development of the turbines and final tests 19.06.1988-29.08.1988
Final stowing and commun run tests between Buran and Energia, at the Energia's experiments complex 29.08.1988-09.09.1988
Filling up the propellant tank 09.09.1988-09.10.1988
Preparation of Buran for launching 10.10.1988-15.11.1988
Launching of Bourane, organized/real 29.10.1988/15.11.1988

Detailed preparation in the technical hangars

1st stage:

The preparation of Buran before stowing with Energia is done in several stages. The transport of the components of Buran (the cabin module, the fuselage of the shuttle, engines) by carrier aircraft An-225 "Mriya". Then the transport of the equipment by the road to the hangar of technical tests.

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Where the preparation proceeds in 4 stages:

  • The installation of the heat shield on certain parts of the shuttle; the installation and the electric connection of the shipborne equipments and the groups of equipment, the telemetric detectors, the cablesnetworks, the conduits tire; the control of the sealing; filling up the fuel for the fuel cell and the system of thermoregulation for the tests, the autonomous tests of the on-board system.
  • The realization of complex electrical tests of all the on-board systems of Buran and their correct operation compared to the flight plan and simulations. Then horizontal tests of mechanical constraints for testing the rigidity of the shuttle's structure.
  • The tests control of the electrical systems, the engine, the orbital maneuvering system and the control device compared to a reference shuttle.
  • The realization on the ground of the final operations on Buran. The installation of magnetic tapes to record informations of flight, catch of photographs of the technical elements of the structure, pyrotechnical controls of the installations, locking all the trap doors and initialization of the on-board systems. Lastly, the shuttle is weighed and aligned for the conformity control of mass and inertial.

2nd stage:

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The stowing of Buran on Energia and common controls constitute the second stage. The following actions are carried out: the electrical and mechanical stowing of the shuttle with the launcher in horizontal position, common tests between Buran and Energia to validate the communication of the electric connections with the autonomous control trajectory device, the checking of the radio connections, the installation of the explosives.


3rd stage

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Filling up the tanks of Buran and the realization of final tests constitute the third stage. The fuel tanks (for the engine, the orbital maneuvering system and the fuel cell) are filled, the payloads are fixed in the payload bay and some final tests are operated. The Buran-Energia couple is ready to be moved on its platform.


4th stage:

The preparation of Bourane on the platform for its displacement constitutes the fourth stage. The teams on the ground are evacuated. The preparation of Buran is done in 3 parts:

  • Control of the on-board system initial state and checking the telemetric parameters.
  • Control of all the starting parameters of Buran with Energia, the starting of the engines and the power supply of the systems is freezed.
  • Filling up the tanks of the power supply, the downloading of the data-processing and setting all the systems on standby.

5th stage:

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Move of the Buran-Energia couple on the transport platform towards the launching pad.


6th stage:

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Final stage, preparation of Buran-Energia on the launching pad. October 10, 1988, the 4 Diesel locomotives delivered the shuttle on its platform, the unit weighed 3500 t, then the jacks raised the whole in launching position.


Preparation on the launching pad

The set on the launching pad is a seizing spectacle, particularly the evening and the night, when the 67 projectors light the launcher. This last (60 m height) seems very small compared to the 225 height m lightning conductors. Under the launching pad is the outfall of exhaust fumes of a diameter of 20 m, a depth of 23m which is divided into 3 sections with 120° from one to the other. The command center, deeply buried under the surface, contains the data-processing equipment, the power sources as well as the operators's terminals.

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During 16 days, from the 10 to October 26, 1988, all the systems were controlled 24h/24. October 26, 1988 after the favorable report of the Buran's and Energia's systems, the launching center, the management center, the flight and weather forecasting, the State commission taken the decision to launch Buran, October 26, 1988 to 6 a.m. 23 min, Moscow time.

At 80 s of the departure, the power supply was put from the terrestrial sources to the on-board power supply, at 70 s the stabilization platform was withdrawn, but to 51 s before the departure, the autonomous management of Buran and the automated test set announced "Preparation damage of Energia", from there the systems of Buran were re-initialized and the on-board supply was cut off. Launching was cancelled.

The external analysis of Energia, documentation and the videos recordings made it quickly possible to reveal the reason of the problem: dysfunction of the azimuth guidance system of Energia. After the repair of the problem, the State commission decided a new date for the launching, November 15, 1988.

And then all functioned perfectly.

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