Buran was not completely lost

Aleksander Markin found and photographed a 1: 3 scale wooden model of the Buran

We already spoken (read here) about how the space shuttle Buran, developed in the Eighties by the then Soviet Union as an answer to the American Space Shuttle, could eventually have an heir, low cost (12,5 billion of rubles, about 185 million US dollars, regarding development costs) able to be at least partially reusable.

OK-1K1 destroyed during the collapse of its hangar

Buran OK-1K1 destroyed

What everyone believed so far was that the only existing model of Buran esistente (the OK-1K1) had been destroyed in 2002 due to the collapse of the hangar where it was kept, in the Baikonur cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan. This is actually not entirely accurate and while it is certain that the former space shuttle will never return to space (that touched only once during an unmanned suborbital flight, in 1988), deepening our research we have discovered that some specimens of the Buran still exist.

Abandoned OK-1K2

Two Buran at Baikonur and Ramenskoye

A second model (the OK-1K2) was surprised by the cancellation of the program in 1993, due to lack of funds, when it was 97% complete. It is still kept at Baikonur and you candistinguish it from the first model, now lost, for a red structure fixed on the upper part of the cargo compartment doors.

A third Buran (the OK-2K1) remained instead stuck at 30%-50% of manufactoring and after being exposed in various locations should still be hosted at the airport Ramenskoye - Zhukovsky, already home to the flight tests of the Buran program (and, every two years, of the Maks Airshow).

Prototype OK-TVA, exposed as an attraction at the Gorky Park

Prototypes exhibited in Moscow and Germany

A Buran prototype, the OK-TVA, used solely for mechanical, thermal and acoustic tests, after being repainted to resemble the OK-1K1 has been exhibited from 1997 to 2014 at the Gorky Park in Moscow as an attraction, before being disassembled to be transferred (between June and July 2014) at the All-Russian Exhibition Center (or VDNKh), always in Moscow, where it has been transformed into an interactive aerospace museum.

While the OK-TVA never made any flights, another prototype, the OK-GLI was used for subsonic test flights and for the development of flight systems and automatic landing. After spending four years in Bahrain (from 2004 to 2008) was sold to the German museum Sinsheim/Speyer Technik Museum.

Buran OK-MT, reduced as rusty scrap metal, transported on a barge

Different destinies for two "twin" Buran

Model OK-M (then OK-ML1) built for thermal and mechanical tests instead remained parked for years in Baikonur in the area 254, becoming an attraction for children in local schools, and then transferred to area 2, that is, the museum area of the Baikonur complex. Many projects are being studied for its complete restoration.

Its “twin”, OK-MT (then OK-ML2), after being used for testing on gas tanks, safety of sealing systems, procedures for entry and exit of the crew and the development of military operations, has been transferred always at Baikonur, where, however, it is still abandoned at the MKZ hangar, together with the OK-1K2, how photographer Ralph Mirebs was able to discover and photograph.

Buran OK-KS3

The prototype turned into a monument

The OK-KS, prototype used for a series of air transport tests, as well as for static tests and on-board electronic tests, computerized systems and radio telecommunications equipment, made a different end: has been transformed into a monument at the facility of the Energia group at Korolev.

Nothing remains of the other models: the manufactoring of the OK-2K2 was halted at 10%-20% manufactoring and it remained unfinished for years within the Energia plants, before being dismantled, with many of its thermal tiles removed and sold on the internet, the OK-2K3 was immediately dismantled and no trace remains, prototype OK-TVI, was partially built only for thermal and pressure tests and should still be at the NIIKhimMash experimental center.

Aleksander Markin found and photographed a wooden model 1:3 scale of Buran intended for tests in the wind tunnel

Buran mock up discovered

On the other hand some time ago a Russian photographer, Aleksander Markin found and photographed a 1: 3 scale wooden model of the Buran (i.e. a “mock up”), abandoned in a corner of the Ramenskoye - Zhukovsky airport, which, as we said, houses the third Buran, the OK-2K1.

Why it was (and by whom) built this wooden model is not certain, perhaps as a prototype of the model once exhibited at the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics, or perhaps as a model used for wind tunnel testing. Also how it ended up in Ramenskoye – Zhukovsky is not clear, what is clear is that Buran's history is much larger and more complex of how it is usually narrated. Who knows if it will have a following?

Tags: Space exploration