Buran versus the Shuttle

We should start by pointing out  that the Energia-Buran program ended with the fall of the USSR with only one unmanned flight taking place in 1988. The Space Shuttle on the other hand was a full fledged program spanning three decades.

The Soviet Union already had a very successful spacecraft, the Soyuz (which is still used by Russia) and a number of launch systems tailored for the military and for any possible civilian needs like exploration and manned spaceflight. Buran and her sister ships would have been, without a doubt, a source of pride for the soviets, however if this was the only reason of sustaining such a costly project ,it was doomed to failure. A number of new technologies were developed and applied for this space system, a part coming from their defunct Moon program. Unlike its American counterpart, the boosters were reusable having large parachutes that opened during descent and the shuttle would have been fitted with turbojets in order to fly to secured military airstrips once its space mission was completed.

The United States decided to go with a reusable space shuttle because of several reasons: it offered a  potentially more economical way of getting payloads into low-Earth orbit; it was part of a larger plan of creating a permanent American presence in space along with the proposed Space Station Freedom; and it was also meant to be a symbol of America's high technology.

Buran1 Space Shuttle2
Developer Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy at EKK Energia NASA
Beginning of the programe 12 February 1976 26 July 1972
First flight 15 November 1988 12 April 1981
Dimensions and weight Length = 36.37 m
Wingspan = 23.92
Maximum weight = 105 tons
Maximum payload weight = 30 tons
Length = 37.18 m
Wingspan = 23.77
Maximum weight = 110 tons
Maximum payload weight = 25 tons
Number of boosters 5 (4 side boosters and the main tank-booster rocket) 2 (plus the actual shuttle)
Crew 2-10 2-11 (mostly used 7)
Volume of crew compartment 73 m3 66 m3
Orbital maneuvering engine thrust 17600 kgf 5440 kgf

1. Buran - www.buran.su
2. Space Shuttle - www.nasa.org

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