Monday, May 22, 2017

A Russian space shuttle, left abandoned at a Moscow car park

Back in the 1970's the Soviet Union began their own reusable spacecraft program, in response to NASA's space shuttle program. Soviet space shuttles, called Buran, had unsurprisingly a similar appearance to NASA's space shuttles. The Soviets built about 13 space shuttles, most of them only partially, and some only for testing purposes. Only one Buran was flight-worthy. The expensive Buran program was soon suspended due to lack of funding, and finally cancelled by Russia in 1993. 

The Buran spacecraft with the designation OK-2K1 (or 2.01) was the third spacecraft to be produced for the program, scheduled to take its first flight in 1994. Although it was never named, it is known by the nickname 'Baikal', after the large Russian lake. When the Buran program was cancelled, Baikal was only 30%-50% finished, practically an empty cell.

Since the collapse of Soviet Union, Russia hasn't done a good job maintaining its Buran shuttles and celebrating their history, probably considering the Buran programme a failure that isn't worth remembering. After residing for about a decade in the Tushino factory were it was constructed, the Baikal orbiter was left in 2004 under open sky on a car park in Moscow, near Khimki Reservoir. 

On June 22nd 2011 the orbiter was put on a barge to be moved via the Moskva river to the MAKS 2011 international air show, which took place from 16 to 21 August in Zhukovsky. As of November 2013, it remained at the Ramenskoye–Zhukovsky Airport.

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