Exploring Science Frontiers

Moscow Developing New Space Shuttle

A Moscow company is developing a new space shuttle that can deliver cargo into orbit at a fraction of the price of existing U.S. and Russian shuttle systems.

   Moscow's city government plans to help fund the project by purchasing 34 percent of the Molniya company's shares, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said during a visit to the company, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

   Molniya has designed a smaller copy of the Soviet Buran space shuttle. The original Russian Shuttle Buran ("Snowstorm" in Russian) was authorized in 1976 in response to the United States' Space Shuttle program. Building of the shuttles began in 1980, with the first full-scale Aero-Buran rolling out in 1984.

   The first suborbital test flight of a scale model of Buran took place in July 1983. There were five additional flights of the scale model in following years. Aerodynamic tests of the full-scale Buran analogue began in 1984. This aero-Buran was worn out after 24 test flights and would not fly again. The last of these aerodynamic test flights was in April 1988.

   The original Buran, modeled after the U.S. space shuttles, was scrapped for lack of funds in 1988. There were two other Buran shuttles under construction. The new model can carry eight to nine tons of cargo to a satellite, and at about one-tenth the price, Interfax said.

   Unlike its prototype, which needed the powerful Energiya booster to be carried into space, the new shuttle would be launched horizontally from a space station, Interfax said. It will be able to fly with and without pilots.


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