Wednesday, October 10, 2012



It has long been a dream of mine to see one of the few remaining Buran spacecraft up close, and I finally got that chance in the Technik Museum in Speyer, Germany!

The Soviet Snowstorm, or Buran ("Blizzard"), was the counterpart to the US Space Shuttle project in the 1980s, and explored the "reusable system" method of getting satellites into orbit -- and at the time, also possible nuclear weapons. 

The Energia-Buran reusable system project spanned from planning stages in 1976 to test flights in 1989, before the program could no longer be funded, and included 14 models, prototypes, flight testers, and finally, full-sized Burans.

Only two of the six full-sized Burans were flight-worthy. Sadly, the one Buran orbiter that launched into space on November 15th, 1988 was destroyed when the roof of its Baikonur Site 112 hangar collapsed in 2002. And there the debris still lies.

Happily, one full-sized prototype was saved from the hangar to be put on display at the Baikonur Cosmodrome; the other flight-worthy Buran has been beautifully restored and can be seen in Deustchland! This beautiful lady is the OK-GLI 1.01 model, built in 1984.

With a wingspan of 23.92m and a Fuselage length of 30.85, she is an imposing specimen! Designed to hold a crew of 2 to 10, Buran is only slightly smaller than the American shuttles, and you can see a comparison at

The OK-GLI was used for testing up until 1989. It flew 25 times in Earth's atmosphere, was a experimental flyer for various landing sequences, and was also once put upright on a launchpad for various countdown checklist tests. You'd never guess it flew so many times, it looks so pristine now!  Amazing what some new tiles and a good paintjob can accomplish.

Unlike the American crafts on display, the public can board this Buran in two places, lower hull and flight deck!  You can even peek into the cockpit, and get a great view of the full payload bay!  Totally awesome experience in every way.  For the entire gallery, see the Pillownaut Picasa Buran picture album!