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BURAN Orbital

Spaceship Airframe


The NPO MOLNIYA Experimental Plant. Main Directions of Activity

Dr. Bashilov A.S.
Main directions of activity of the NPO MOLNIYA Experimental Plant on creation of laboratory-experimental base, organization of manufacture are reflected in the paper: aerodynamic models, auxiliary power plant, fragments of structure. Their serviceability for use on the BURAN Spaceship is discussed. New developed and introduced technological processes, as well as role of the Experimental Plant in organization of cooperation of a set of the Aerospace companies of country, involved to work on the BURAN are submitted.

The most difficult thing when BURAN orbiter creation was that it was necessary to hold all ground testing, research and develop both separate systems and the whole unit itself on special stands.

There were no necessary rooms and test beds for units, systems and orbiter working out and semi-actual simulation at NPO MOLNIYA. That’s why it was necessary to begin laboratory-stand base building with the very beginning.

The Head Designer (Dr. Lozino-Lozinsky G.E) decided to build stands and laboratories in the following order:

  • Full Scale Stand of Equipment (FSSE);
  • Piloting Dynamic Stand for Training (PDST);
  • Piloting Static Stand;
  • Landing gear complex stand;
  • Static Testing Laboratory with tensile testing machine room (the first in the aircraft industry) and antenna-feeder devices testing room;
  • Vibration and Heat Vacuum Testing Laboratories equipped with computers for parameters automatic record and control.

The Experimental Plant (EP) of NPO MOLNIYA made very big and difficult work to create and produce the unique complex consisting of seven stands for all BURAN orbiter bearing types: with ‘bearing’ and ‘shaft-bush’ type friction nodes with 10…85 mm external body diameter and 6…55 mm mating surface diameter). This complex can also be used for future aerospace transport systems and all airplanes testing.

NPO MOLNIYA tasks for laboratory-stand base creation were great ones and complicated by strict time limits.

Together with the GAP institute (responsible for the major construction in aircraft industry) NPO MOLNIYA began to create technical projects of different industrial departments, stands, laboratories etc. At the same time production of stand elements took place on the plant. The NPO MOLNIYA and GAP specialists installed the stands (Full Scale Stand of Equipment – FSSE, Piloting Dynamic Stand for Training – PDST, Piloting Static Stand – PSS, Integrated Stand of Undercarriage – ISU) in the laboratory building that was still under construction. Even the builders were greatly surprised by the personnel and workers enthusiasm.

The experimental plant had also to do the following:

  • creation of the cooperation with research institutes (NIAT, VIAM, VILS, TsAGI, GRAFIT research institute, ONPO TEACHNOLOGIYA, TsNIIMV, NITM etc), plants from Ministry of Aircraft Industry, Ministry of General Machine Building (space rocket industry) and other organizations that took part in BURAN orbiter creation;
  • models production creation;
  • BURAN orbiter units production including Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) production;
  • orbiter airframe fragments’ creation for complex testing;
  • organization of major construction;
  • financial and economic maintenance.

In order to expand experimental plant‘s technological potential it was necessary to reconstruct it and create new production departments, special groups, laboratories and computer complexes, change technical services structure. It was reconstructed more than 11000 square meters of production square including 3000 square meters for main production site, 2000 square meters for laboratories, 2500 square meters for computers, 1500 square meters for auxiliary departments and the rest square was for utility rooms and stockrooms.

According to a wide range of BURAN flight conditions and necessity in a great number of researches in order to choose aerodynamic configuration and define aerodynamic characteristics, it made necessary 1:10, 1:30, 1:40.5, 1:60, 1:80, 1:100 scale models designing and creation.

The unique models production was formed that was equipped with necessary metal-cutting and control-measuring tools including modern domestic and foreign machines with Computer Program Control (CPC) and ‘Inspector’ type control-measuring machines.

All technical problems concerning models’ arrangement with outline production accuracy were solved together with TsAGI.

A 1:10 scale BURAN orbiter model was also made for the first time in the aircraft industry. All the elements were made from 12X18H10T stainless steel and from 0.1 … 0.3 mm and .2 … 0.4 mm thickness AMG6M, AMG6BM aluminium alloy. Very small thickness and insufficient rigidity lead to unique equipment creation for elements’ assembling and spot welding. For spot welding in hard-to-get-at places special instruments and robots were made.

In 1982 our experimental plant was given the order in accordance to which it had to create Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), developed by NPO MOLNIYA for BURAN orbiter. That task was a new one and very difficult. But the specialists of the experimental plant were able to create high quality production with the use of existing production sites. They provided APU creation, working out and testing.

The purity of the sites where the arrangement was done was of the 4th class and met vacuum hygiene requirements. There was air change made 5 times at wash stages and 3 times at the rest ones. Due to this and other measures gasoline, alcohol and celadon concentration also met the standards.

10 units of specially developed stand equipment and 1500 technological units were made. 2 special departments were formed at the plant and in some other organizations (NII-HIMMACH, REMMACH, GIPCH etc).

Unique technological processes were developed and introduced:

  • sylphon production from polymer of tetra-fluorine-ethylene (Teflon) with 0.5±0.05 mm flute wall width by mechanic working;
  • APU tank (650 mm diameter) 3 mm thickness hemisphere creation from EI-654 stainless steel by explosion presswork with later calibration (instead of traditional presswork).
  • That made it possible to get hemisphere high quality and reduce labour input. This technological process can be used in aircraft industry plants.

The most important problems for the plant was to solve were: new technological processes design, introducing and exploration together with regional institutes (NIAT, VIAM, VILS, TSAGI, ONPO TECHNOLOGIYA etc) specialists.

New technological processes were developed in order to introduce new materials and some elements into BURAN orbiter construction. All the elements were made at the experimental plant. Some technological processes for honeycomb elevon panel construction, rudder and air brake housing were developed:

  • honeycomb filler creation;
  • panels vacuum soldering;
  • soldering quality nondestructive control;
  • 0.3 mm width skin panel surface sand blasting for paint work cover;
  • surface polishing for nickel-silver cover;
  • panels vacuum annealing;
  • nickel-silver cover coating (with ε = 0.1 black coefficient) by cooling method in vacuum chamber.

When mastering new construction metallic, nonmetallic composition, ceramic and fiberglass-reinforced plastic materials, the following technological processes were introduced:

  • mechanic working (milling, turning, drilling, polishing, precision machining) of the elements made of VT-23, 1201, 01420, 01460, EP-648, EI-654, EP-718, EP-742, EP-696, VG-122, VGL-16, VNS-17, ABM-1, ABM40-3 etc alloys, “GRAVIMOL”, KMU-CHE, TSM-520, STAF-1, STP-6, OSP-1, TZSPK-2, 5T – ORGANIT etc materials;
  • 36…42 mm wall thickness tubes (made of PT-7M alloy by preliminary deformation and later thermal fixation for soldered pipeline junctions) endings calibration;
  • high frequency current welding and soldering from PT-7M material pipeline;
  • honeycomb soldered panel forming by bending method with extension on LUAR type CPC presses;
  • 1 … 3 mm EI-654 steel electron-bean and automatic arc welding;
  • heat resistance cover coating on VI-2AEMP niobium alloy and VM-1 molybdenum alloy;
  • bolt-rivet junctions riveting in KMU-CHE composition material packs;
  • unrolling riveting (up to 15 degrees tapered) to provide more junctions durability.

Stringer forming works by close bending from ABM-1 material and tubes’ welding for struts were done by VIAM branch in Voskresensk. There was formed the department for beryllium working and special CPC equipment installed for different beryllium vitrification frames (they are lighter than pressed frames (VT-23) by 2.5 times) mechanic working.

Due to universal assembling devices using when assembling it became possible to save up to 240 tons of metal every year.

The following automated systems of designing for technological processes were developed and introduced: APT-ES (on the base of ES-1055 digital computer), APT-SM (SM-4 computer), graphic control system (KONSBERG computer). It made possible to develop 2500 programs a year for the CPC machines when difficult body and surface elements’ production.

It was also necessary to plan carefully the production. That’s why the following automatic systems were introduced:

  • basic and auxiliary production control system;
  • industrial route forming system;
  • raw stuff, materials and fuel control system;
  • labour and salary control system etc.

These systems introducing helped to improve production efficiency and mobility.

The following specialists made a great contribution to experimental plant developing, its technical potential improving, unique technological processes’ design and introducing:

Mr. Bogdanov B.V. (the Head Process Engineer), Sergeev K.N. (the Head Metal-maker), Polikanov V.V. (the Head metrologer), Risenberg H.M. (Production Director), Zikov E.V and Vulfovich L.V (Departments’ Heads), Kuzyaev A.D., Matveikin U.V., Smirnov U.S. (Workshops’ Heads) etc.

Mr. Reshetnikov D.A. (the Director of the plant) headed and coordinated the work.


Aerodynamic models, APU, BURAN orbiter elements creation, stand equipment production and mounting and also introduced technological processes will be for sure used in future aerospace transport systems creation and in aircraft industry or some other machine-building fields.