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How much of that info was published openly? Plus, telling everybody what the tiles and other thermal protection was made of is not the same as telling people how to make it. Second, and I think equally important, is the question of why the Soviet engineers picked the dimensions that they did for Buran. Why is the payload bay the same size as the US shuttle?

Energiya Buran The Soviet Space Shuttle Springer Praxis Books

It could have been smaller. And why did they seek wings that were roughly the same dimensions? We know that the US shuttle wings were dictated by crossrange requirements. Why did the Buran designers pick the same crossrange requirements?

In summary, I think that the Buran espionage story is overly simplistic on both sides. The people who say that the Buran designers "stole" the US shuttle design are wrong. But the people who counter by saying that Buran had to look the same as the shuttle are also wrong. It could have had less crossrange.

It could have looked significantly different than it did. I'm hoping that this upcoming book answers those questions. The key work that was copied was not the design, but the concept.

Series: Springer-Praxis Books in Space Exploration

Or to be more honest, they understood all too well that NASA's studies were flawed. They didn't believe it would be capable of rapid turnarounds on the ground, and they didn't believe it would lower the cost to orbit. They believed NASA was lying about both these benefits in order to hide the real purpose. But they couldn't figure out the purpose either. The only thing they could surmise is the design allowed for a launch, dropping of a nuclear bomb over the Soviet Union, and landing in one orbit.

So they decided this must be it's real purpose.


  1. Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle (Springer Praxis Books).
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Given that threat they needed a counterpart, so they made a vehicle that could do the same thing. That, plus the details of the American shuttle available in literature as Mr. Day describes, is the reason the two are so similar. However, the logic that we built the shuttles to drop nuclear weapons over Russia is, quite frankly, silly.

On one hand "they didn't believe it would lower the cost to orbit" and on the other the only real purpose for it would be to allow for launch, drop and landing in a single day. When you put this in light of the fact that we had and still have other methods of delivering nuclear weapons, even on Russian soil, that logic doesn't hold water. Why would we develop a new weapons system that costs more to launch than our existing methods and also includes humans at the same time?

The risks are higher, the costs are higher and there's no compelling reason to do it in the first place. Not for that reason. Sorry, I was active military US at the time the shuttles were built. Yes, we heard a lot of propaganda about the "Russian threat".


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  • And a lot of it wasn't true. But this doesn't make sense. The Russian's aren't that dumb. Even in view of what we were taught at the time. Maybe not dropping a bomb, but the basic idea of the space shuttle serving as a platform from which to rapidly deploy a military asset fits within the known history of the vehicle's development. To quote Jim Oberg: A key scenario among the planned missions that drove the shuttle's design was the Pentagon's need for a superfast, single-orbit mission that would deploy or retrieve a military satellite. Strictly speaking, the retrieved satellite need not have been the property of the United States.

    The shuttle was built to enable this, but the idea was soon abandoned. However, what Gary referred to was that launching, dropping a bomb on Russia and then landing in a single day must have specifically been the "real purpose" of the shuttles, as assumed by the Russians. And that is what I was saying was silly. It just doesn't make sense and I doubt they would have assumed as much. And that is perfectly logical for those purposes.

    Russian Space History

    However, as a platform for dropping nuclear weapons? I know Gary ran into some difficulty posting a reply yesterday, so perhaps he'll be able to share more soon. I say that as a confirmed shuttle hugger and big booster of the program. Getting back to the book: Quoting from Chapter 2, Section 6.

    This was not simply a program to develop some space system It clearly had a focused military goal. Moving to location The IPM studies focused on the Shuttle's possible use as a bomber, more particularly its capability to launch a nuclear first strike Home FAQ Contact.

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    Buran spacecraft Wikipedia open wikipedia design. Soviet winged orbital vehicle. This article is about the orbiter launched in Soviet Union. Main article: Buran programme. Spaceflight portal. Archived from the original on 4 August Retrieved 15 August Spaceflight Now.

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