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20 years since the first flight of Buran

Today it’s the 20th anniversary of the historic flight of Buran.

It is the 15 November 1988 at 6 o’clock of the morning, Moscow’s time, that the Energia rocket lifted bellow a dense cloud layer, with the 80t Buran space shuttle. It was the second launch of Energia, in more than a year, and it was a success. Buran was put in orbit at an altitude of 250-260 km (slope 51.6°, like MIR).
After 2 orbits the de-orbit command was send and Buran began her descent to the Kazakhstan. The shuttle glide itself to the Baikonur’s airport when she suddenly turn 90° compared with the landing strip. In the control center they hold their breath, she can’t fail so near ! Hopefully the steerage was normal, the computer choose to turn to decrease the speed. Some instant later the shuttle face the 5 km long landing strip, specially built for it.
Buran land at 360 km/h and stop after 1820m, at 5m from the center and 1s in advance on the schedule!

It is 12 years of unremitting work that concretise, in the control center and on the landing strip workers, technicians and engineers burst into joy. It’s also a huge thumbing to USA’s nose. After the fail of the Soviet lunar program, the USSR came back into the spotlight by surpassing the jewel of the American space program, the Space Shuttle.

For 20 years no other spacecraft had achieved the Buran’s exploit, that is to say flying in automatic mode from the launch pad until the landing on the runaway, because this is the true exploit on Buran, flying in totaly automatic mode.

Unfortunatly, if no-one ever done it again nor Buran. In fact, it was her unique flight ever. As if the only fate of Buran was to show the world that the Soviet Union was still in the space race. Because Energia-Buran is an expensive project, 16 billion rubles, and had a lot of delay from the original schedule, the already starving economy of the USSR can’t bear it and its collapse at the end of 1991 freezes the project.

In 1993, Boris Eltsine stop definitively the financial of the project, which nearly hadn’t evolved since the flight of 1988. Energia-Buran is dead. The burrying will take place in may 2002 when the roof of the hangar collapse on Buran, killing 7 workers, and stopping rumors about re-starting the project.

Since 20 years thoughts had evolved about spacecrafts (manned or unmanned). If the Russia wants to reuse its knowledge for Klipper (mini space shuttle) the Soyuz has still favours of Roskosmos, the USA reject now this type of spacecraft by stopping the shuttle flights in 2010.

lift off landing shutting down

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