New Russian “me-too” spacecraft

July 24, 2008

Remember Buran? The Russian version of the Space Shuttle Orbiter? One prototype made one unmanned flight and landed successfully (no small feat, that, by the way) and then it was deemed too expensive to fly. (Maybe they had something there – the Russians went back to disposable, one-use spacecraft after that. And what are we going to be doing now? Hmm.)

Buran looked remarkably like the US Orbiter. No doubt different design approaches to the same issues would have some similarities due to the physics involved, but earlier US versions didn’t look so much like the final US vehicle as the Russian version did.

Now we have an announcement that the Russian company RKK Energia has been designing a Soyuz follow-on:

Looks a lot like Lockheed-Martin’s Orion:

So once again, we do the work…sheesh. Come on, guys. Do some original work. When you do, you come up with some cool stuff.


  1. Hello,

    the Buran shuttle was similar in design because it was a viable design and because the laws of physics are the same for both of them. But deep inside it was really different. The major difference was the fully automatic flight option which is a wonderfull achievment, no one until 1988 made the same, don’t forget.

    More informations there.

  2. Yep. I got that. For a bunch of possible, and very viable, alternate shuttle designs developed in the US in the 1960s and 70s, go to Scott Lowther’s Up-ship site (http://www.up-ship.com).

    I mentioned the automatic flight, which I think is a huge achievement. I just don’t think that the design of the Buran was achieved independently of the US design.

    And as I said, the Russians didn’t use it as a way to keep thousands of technicians employed when it turned out it cost too much to operate, as the USA did…

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