Abandoned Soviet space shuttle left to gather dust in rusting hangar
Russia’s forgotten chapter in the space race: Eerie photos show abandoned Soviet space shuttle left to gather dust in enormous rusting hangar
- Photographers captured the Soviet Buran space shuttle at an abandoned hangar near the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
- The hangar houses two prototype shuttles that were part of the ill-fated Buran shuttle programme
- The shuttles were designed to mimic Nasa’s successful Space Shuttles which flew for 30 years
- But after one test flight in 1988 the main Buran shuttle – and its other sister vehicles – were scrapped
In the 1980s, a little-known chapter in the space race took place when the Soviet Union attempted to build their own version of Nasa’s Space Shuttle.
But despite a successful unmanned orbital test flight the Buran vehicles were soon scrapped amid rising budget cuts and left to rot in hangars.
One of the Soviet shuttles was destroyed when its hangar collapsed in 2002, but two other models remain intact and have been pictured in a stunning series of photographs by Sergei Savostyanov as part of a visit to the complex by the Sergei Krikalev, director of manned space programmes for Russian space agency Roscosmos.
The photographs reveal a large hangar – once a hub of activity but now left derelict – located near to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is still used to launch Soyuz rockets today.
At the base of the hangar are two unused Buran shuttles, named Burya and OK-MT.
Their similarity in appearance to Nasa’s Space Shuttles is not accidental – at the time, this was deemed to be the best way to create a vehicle that could travel to and from orbit, although some have also suggested espionage was at play.
The Buran shuttle was intended to be launched on the huge Energia booster, similar to the giant booster rockets used by the Space Shuttle orbiters.
Like the Space Shuttles, the Buran vehicles had engines located at the back, and two wings for a controlled landing back on Earth.
Their similarity in appearance to Nasa’s Space Shuttles is not accidental – at the time, this was deemed to be the best way to create a vehicle that could travel to and from orbit
The Buran shuttle was intended to be launched on the huge Energia booster, similar to the giant booster rockets used by the Space Shuttle orbiters
Development of the programme began in 1976, with the reusable spacecraft (although the booster was not) capable of performing operations in orbit before returning to Earth
These two shuttles in particular were simply left in the MKZ building at Baikonur Cosmodrome, with their basic structure still intact
Development of the programme began in 1976, with the reusable spacecraft (although the booster was not) capable of performing operations in orbit before returning to Earth.
But after the one unmanned spaceflight in 1988, the programme was scrapped following the dissolution of the USSR in 1993.
This was despite several other models and test vehicles being built, some of which reside in museums today.
But these two shuttles in particular were simply left in the MKZ building at Baikonur Cosmodrome, with their basic structure still intact.
Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Space Programmes Sergei Krikalev visited the Energia-Buran launch site
The Energia-Buran system launch facility for the Buran Soviet/Russian reusable space shuttle at Baikonur Cosmodrome
Similarly to the Nasa space shuttles, the Soviet Buran shuttle was reliant on massive boosters in order to leave Earth’s atmosphere
The operations and checkout facility where the Buran Soviet/Russian reusable space shuttle was destroyed
Engines at the front of the shuttle would have been used to help it maneuvre in orbit.
Looking inside the shuttles, Mr Mirebs found that the interiors were missing some equipment, but otherwise still have their pilot seats, computer screens and more.
The shuttles also have a cargo area similar to Nasa’s Space Shuttles, where two large doors would have opened to release satellites into space or repair objects in orbit.
However, the shuttles appear to be full of junk and rubbish, while their exteriors do not look much better.
Despite the derelict nature of the hangar, though, the photographer says that he thinks that the programme had a ‘beneficial effect on the scientific and technical progress.’
He added: ‘Yes, most of them did not go beyond the drawings and models, but the ones that leaked through the sieve test and commissions received unlimited support.’
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