Did The Soviets Build A Better Space Shuttle? The Buran Story

Publisert 6. jan.. 2018
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On November 15, 1988, the world learned that the Soviet Union also had their own space shuttle. It had been secretly under development for well over a decade and it had cost the Soviets billions to build it. Several of the spacecraft were in various stages of construction. But the Soviet shuttle, named the Buran, would only ever launch once. Its development had largely been driven by the need to respond to the perceived military potential of the NASA Space Shuttle.

When the Buran was first launched, the world speculated that it would be used to build Soviet space stations or even assemble spacecraft for a manned mars mission. But as the Soviet Union began to collapse, funding for the Buran program was limited and eventually eliminated.

There’s no denying that the Buran looks very similar to the Space Shuttle. But in many ways, the Buran was quite different from the NASA Space Shuttle. The Buran orbiter didn’t have integrated main engines. Almost all of its lifting power was provided by a separate super-heavy rocket called Energia, which consisted of a core stage and 4 liquid-fueled boosters. Unlike the Space shuttle, which was a single system, the Buran orbiter, and its lifting rockets were actually two separate systems.

While the Shuttle, with its integrated engines, was more reusable, in practice, it required intensive maintenance between launches, which offset a lot of this advantage. But once in space, the Space Shuttle’s integrated engines no longer served a purpose. So, for most of the Shuttle’s mission, it was forced to haul around thousands of pounds of dead weight. Without integrated engines, the Buran could carry slightly more payload than the American Space Shuttle. But the Energia rocket could launch by itself, without the Buran attached. That meant it could carry external payloads into space, and could launch an astounding 100 tons. From the outset, the Buran was also capable of fully automated flight, meaning it could be launched, put into orbit and returned back to earth without any crew on board.

In the final days of the Soviet Union, when it was clear that the American shuttle had no meaningful military potential, the Soviet military no longer wanted anything to do with the Buran. The Soviet space community was left with a spacecraft that was expensive, complex, and largely without a real purpose.

Further Research:

We highly recommend the book ‘Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle’ by Bart Hendrickx and Bert Vis. The book was an extremely useful resource in researching this video. You will not find a more detailed or comprehensive look on the Buran program, covering everything from the program’s conception to its legacy:


Music (reproduced under license):

Intro: "This Is Epicness": audiojungle.net/item/this-is-...

Main "Come to My Word": audiojungle.net/item/come-to-...

Extro: "80s Retrowave Uplifting & Commercial": audiojungle.net/item/80s-retr...

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  • Thanks for watching! Just wanted to note a correction at 5:32 in the video. I refer to the Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters as 'expendable' when I should have said 'reusable'.

    • Soviets were wise to give up on Buran as a military counterpart to the Space Shuttle-the Shuttle killed more Americans than the Buran ever could.

    • “Reusable”

    • Hey Mustard, can you make a video about the Sea Dragon Rocket? Or the cylindrical orbiter manned community thing? Thanks!

    • 03:35 That was pointed at Kaliningrad, not St.Petersburg.

    • They were only sort of reusable. Reusible if recovered intact. Trouble is, they tended to hit the water pretty hard. Which meant yeah, they COULD reuse them... if they replaced almost every part of them.

  • these renders are simply amazing

  • I saw a Buran in a Museum in Speyer it was the coolest thing ever

  • So no info of how many Burana were made ? Well one of them is in Speyer Tehnical museum in Germany.

  • 50,000 individual mustard packets to space genius.

  • Сапфир 412 was monochromatic TV :D

  • 0:34 What's this song?

    • i wish i knew to bro, that shit JAMS

  • then I believed that last was Challenger with their accident even I knew Columbia name. I can't understand how they could say at that at this period in french TV without never watching new space shuttles, it was an stop of lauches of shuttles fo rme and an stop of space ships launches for only rockets. I am sure we can find the TV newq period with this reportage. I didn't watch often TV and when you are young, you are believe journalists. I feel as naÏve with space programs and I was found of them at this period with astronomy, robotic and electronic. I don't believe. In 1983 I had a lot of evaluation up 17 on 20 and was an champion in athletism with some trainings with Louveteaux. Why someone with less relexe as me in vide games, bigger than me (I was muscular and thin) made air army; How my father put me prssure about glasses to pilot an aircraft of army? How they could imagine I have a problem of vision at 11 years old when the control at school by scolarity infirmery was at maybe 10 or 15 meters. I would verify at this period the thinness of glass, maybe an joke this story. My father said too yo are reformed if you have bad teethes, but what did they made tome in this country? I had already two comas? I didn't dream of what happened these last 33 years. Regards.

  • Nice

  • Buran program caused the colliaps of Soviet Union

  • Soviets really are advance even their AN-225 still flying today

  • Happy to see

  • The NASA Space Shuttle program was a failure. Most Americans are surprised to hear that, but it’s true. What’s even more surprising, made clear in your video, is that the Soviets could see early on that NASA’s promises about efficiency, reusability and reliability would be absurdly difficult to realize given the design limitations of the shuttle system. They were right. The Space Shuttle program, in the end, was nothing like what the American public were promised. Other worthy programs languished for decades. It was the deadliest space program in history and its two major spacecraft losses revealed tragic organizational, financial and political failures that even now are difficult to grasp. Like many of you, I grew up loving NASA and the Space Shuttle and I still do. That’s one reason its failures are so poignant.

  • Thank you for dis vedio making

  • Hi

  • god dam energia energia it means Energy on Russia so call it Energy

  • This is a way better video on the buran than the one i saw from infographics show who just framed it as a lazy 1:1 replica of the shuttle which got destroyed in 2002

  • 😂

  • Good

  • Good

  • 👍

  • 👏👏👏👌👌👌👍👍

  • ⭐🙂🙂🙂

  • Ok

  • 👍

  • 🎉

  • 0:29 There is one imposter among us.

  • 👍❤️

  • hola

  • To some people from the last Century, St Petersburg still is in Florida! :-)

  • The old style CRT computer screens are a nice addition, especially the launch of the mustard gas rockets !! EVIL!! ;)


  • Space shuttle are shall I say Better in many ways total launches,135,is a reuseable rocket,and built almost the entire iss

  • Oddly enough, the entire Buran-Energia program had turned out to be a significant burden on the Soviet economy. According to the CIA data from 1995, almost 25% of the Soviet economy was involved into this enormous project. Many economists and politologs point to the fact that along with the Afghan war and the drastic fall of oil prices, the Buran-Energia program had played quite an important role in the collapse of the USSR...

  • The Space Shuttle program was a failure because it had never reached its initial goal -- $400 per kilo per launch. Had Buran-Energia project continued, it would've been a failure, too, simply because back in the 70s, 80s and 90s nobody had technologies that would allowed us to achieve such a goal. Even now, in 2021, with all our gadgets and nanotechnology, we are just getting close to merely $10.000 per kilo (thank you, Elon!), so the payload price that was eventually set up for the Shuttle ($400-500 per kilo) still looks like some sci-fi...

  • thats way too far fetched. the soviet shuttle disappeared because the soviet union disappeared. thats it. Yours, Okham

  • My grandmother was at Baikonur in 1988 and she saw the Buran before its launch. She even touched its front landing gear.

  • Wait...the soviets actually did something right?

  • the most surprise it launch date is mine birthday.

  • If money and politic weren't a problem imagine all those crazy and unfinish project from history which would have seen the light.

  • "Paranoid Soviet leadership" - oh yeah, that's a funny one too. Those NATO bases surrounding the USSR/Russia were/are nothing to worry about obviously.

  • Oh yeah, and it had a fully automated flight mode...In 1989. No big deal.

  • The Soviets were NEVER in the race to land a human on the Moon! They didn't have to! They sent a drone there, a lunokhod, literally a moon-walker, and saw nothing there.

  • Burat haha

  • i mean. if it whoud be better it whoud have flown more then once

  • This video is beautifully made, love the retro computer graphics.

  • Just imagine what the world would be if the Soviets arguably better understanding of future tech could be used to better the world than to level a nation.

  • USA : *Builds Space Shuttles* Soviet Union : Americans again trying to be tricksters and sending space shuttles to militarise space Soviet Union : *Builds Buran* USA : *GASP* Soviets militarising space?! Do anyone else just find it funny how a superpower can have like the most fragile ego?

  • of course the USSR managed to make a better shuttle than the shuttle ... just if the union had not collapsed then the storm would have been better than your shuttle. in general, the storm at one time was so better than the shuttle


  • No ones wasted more money at the expense of their economy than the Russians

  • Doesn't matter, in the end we still beat them

  • China and Russia are great at copying US military equipment 🤭🤫🤔

  • Buran and concordski 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

    • Yep. Technically impressive and handsome but a bit controversial machines. In addition, the Concordski helped the Buran program very well

  • The Buran was a complete copy of the Space Shuttle, the Russians so ripped it off

    • @조지아오리지날 I don't need to be convinced of what I see with my own eyes, good day to you

    • @Seether99 i feel like trying to convince a brick wall have a wonderfull day

    • @조지아오리지날 Of course you can

    • @Seether99 you can't call something a copy because it looks similar the design of the buran was similar to the american space shuttles because it was heavily influenced by the american one which is the best design for these kind of aircraft not because it's a dead copy

    • @조지아오리지날 Ever thought about researching launch, development or first flight dates???

  • Twenty years after we were done with our Shuttle. It flew once. So, no the Russians didn’t build a better anything.

    • Of course they did. The collapse of the Soviet Union is hardly a stain on the Buran space shuttle.

  • I remember seeing the Buran in person when it was on a world tour in Sydney AUS back in I think 2000 or 2001. It was certainly very 'functional' and didn't look like it was space worthy, but what do I know. :-)

    • The video doesn't mention that there were several units of Buran built. Only one was spaceworthy, none was finished (Soviets made it fly itself because for them it was easier than paying for life support systems) . One Buran was even destroyed when a hangar collapsed.

  • There was a good reason for the engines on the Shuttle orbiter. It allows the engines - one of the most expensive parts of a rocket - to be recovered and reused, and a single ton of extra payload simply isn't worth the additional expense. If a orbiter carrying cargo is just piggybacking on a regular rocket, why not cut the middleman and put the payload directly on top of the rocket? And for those of you suggesting putting an orbiter on top of the rocket: Yes, it is an option, but only for smaller shuttles. You will run into aerodynamic unstabilities with bigger ones - it is as if you put the fletching on the tip of an arrow. A trio of fun facts: Originally, the Space Shuttle had a two-stage fully-reusable flyback design, but that was too expensive to develop on NASA's shoestring budget. There were plans for and ejectable crew deck and liquid fuel boosters on the final design, but those would've needed a whole new orbiter fleet or a near-complete rebuild - so they didn't happen. The Shuttle was, in theory, capable of fully autonomous flight. It would've just required few extra cables to connect some systems to autopilot. In practice, that capability was never used, though - NASA wanted every astronaut it could get.

  • Quality production🙏🇬🇧

  • Буран взлетел, вышел на орбиту и сел полностью автоматически. США повезло что СССР расшатали😊

  • Ebenso wie Amerika hätten auch die Russen erkannt das dieses Shuttle Programm noch zu teuer für die kommerzielle Raumfahrt ist. Der Zusammenbruch der UDSSR hat das Ende des Buran nur beschleunigt. Das interessante Detail ist jedoch das der Buran Flug damals schon vollautomatisch und ohne Besatzung ablief. Ein echter Pluspunkt, mit Lunachod waren sie ja auch nur mit nem Roboter auf dem Mond und haben quasi das selbe Ergebnis wie die Amis erreicht, nur zu einem wesentlich geringeren Preis.

  • Eveything the Soviets do. Fails. Always following. .. only leading for their first attempt and eveyone smart takes over, leaving russia in the dust. Russia / china .... hardly worthy adversaries.

  • It is easy to make something better when you copy other people's work.

  • В конечном итоге всё направление в шаттлы оказалось тупиковым путём. Ракеты справляются с задачей лучше

  • Duh

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union was the worst tragedy of the 20th century.

    • @Antti Linno The US propped up the Khmer Rouge regime and the communist Vietnamese overthrew it. Your narrative is nonsense

    • I guess you mourn the end of Khmer Rouge also.

  • Soviets were intrested in achiving the technical know how, but they fast realised it is a bad concept, even in begining. Nice 80s graphics

  • Преимущество Бурана было в более развитой автоматике, позволявшей делать беспилотные полёты с очень продвинутым автопилотом даже по сегодняшним временам. (неплохо бы если авиалайнеры умели так же в 2021 году). Но с многоразовыми аспектами было плохо, ракета "Энергия" была очень дорогая. Концепция была не жизнеспособной. К ней пришли в следствии импульсивных решений, отказавшись от более удачных схем. Буран это суррогат. Возможно если бы они смогли сделать "Энергию" многоразовой, что скорее всего было не запланировано, тогда Буран можно было бы назвать хорошим решением. А кроме него были другие проекты, которые не пошли дальше по причине не оптимального решения высшего руководства.

  • Есть классные журналы ссср: "Наука и Жизнь" и особенно "Техника молодёжи" с богатыми футуристическими иллюстрациями. Жаль если эти идеи пропадут, но если их увидит широкая публика у этих концептов будет новая жизнь

  • Every time I see something about Buran it makes me little sad ... yes ... who knows what it could have been. Also, sad end and fate for Buran. 😕 Buran was the last great things that came out of Soviet genuis.

    • Next steps for the program are not classified, for example rocket boosters are to be made reusable. They would extend collapsed wings and fly and land on airstrip like a plane

  • I love all soviet machines... From missiles to shuttles... Long live Red flag

  • 0:34 "Wait a minute. This is NOT a space shuttle."

  • Communist PROPAGANDA continues.....

    • @Mark R. Taylor NOwine strongly refuses to notify me of your answers and I highly doubt that this is a coincidence. This means that at least half of your words are true.

    • @Исаенко Сергей CONTROL!!! They are incompetent dumbasses seeking power, anyway they can get it!

    • @Mark R. Taylor Didn't expect that. What kind of communist they are? What kind of equality are they seeking? Financial or gender equality?

    • @Исаенко Сергей Stalin ISN'T MY Concern, COMMUNIST DEMOCRATS in The White House IS!!!!

    • Stalin's ghost behind your back: BOO!

  • Ничего непонял; так: ДА, или Нет?

    • Да, удалось.

  • The commie buran did how many missions? Oh right ZERO so no it by that definition is terrible.

  • But they have made a rocket booster better than u guys can ever imagine.... superb

  • interesting fact: the first launch of the rocket energy (timing in the video 6:30) ended unsuccessfully. it was planned to launch into orbit a mass-dimensional model of a combat laser complex (Polyus satellite): ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9F%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8E%D1%81_%28%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9_%D0%B0%D0%BF%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%82%29?wprov=sfla1

  • I would like to advise the channel's author to cover more widely the innovations and shortcomings of the technology about which he is making a video. for example, the second stage of the rocket used liquid hydrogen and oxygen as fuel, which is a rarity even today. also, the energy could maintain a controlled flight even if one of the engines failed

  • After all these years I had only heard of a Chinese clone of the Space Shuttle.

  • I just saw the last existing buran at the Technik Museum in Speyer. These guys managed to get one for display - very impressive

  • bruh imagine space battles in the 80's that would be some crazy shit

  • Shame that Russia never continued their space shuttle program. Just think we could have had Apollo-Soyuz style mission with our space shuttle and theirs.

  • 06:57 Any documentation proofs for the ejection seats for the entire crew? How do you think that would even look like?

  • Да.

  • буран это космических масштабов идиотизм

  • 3:37 thats not st petersburg

  • Music so loud I woke up😩

  • What you marked as St. Petersburg (btw. back then it was called Leningrad) is actually Kaliningrad; Leningrad/Petersburg is further north. Also, your Moscow is actually Kharkov. Only Novosibirsk looks about right.

  • If it was better it would have been used more.

  • Simple, they stole it from the USA !

  • Just by taking a look at the silly title, NO they didn't! If they did, they would have used it.

  • The flight and landing of Buran took place in automatic mode using an on-board computer and on-board software, this is a masterpiece.

    • Such an amazing piece of tech during a time we were fed starry eyed imaginings about space but had all but lost access to space.

    • It was brilliant. The Energia system was Saturn 5 level.

  • love the high quality content

  • The Buran was a total rip-off. Even the designers admitted that there were structural components on the Buran that had no use because they were taken from the Shuttle where it was either integrated with a system that the Russian didn't have or the intelligence was incomplete. It died, buried under the collapsed roof of an antiquated hangar where it should be.

    • Grow up. Why are you so personally offended by a spacecraft that you want it hidden and forgotten. Sounds like you’re just upset

    • It was made to look like the space shuttle to say “Hey we can do that too!!”

  • Should have mentioned Energia-2 Buran. Already in the design stage of Energia-Buran, Soviets engineers planned on making the entire system fully reusable, Energia being just a stepping stone to Energia-2 which was to be the main heavy lifter in the coming decades (1990's onward). Energia itself was as powerful as Saturn V, meaning it could launch a Lunar manned mission. It's reusability did not include the requirement for a powered landing like SpaceX boosters do, but glide landing, meaning the entirety of fuel could be used to lift things into orbit. All 4 boosters plus the central heavy booster were to glide down in a similar way that Buran itself did and could land anywhere with a landing strip. And due to the low maintenance requirement of the system, it's turnaround time would be very short. So even if initial cost of construction might have been a bit high compared to single use rockets, the end system that was planned was to be the workhorse that would ensure Soviet domination in space for decades to come. Energia-2 would, like Energia, be an independent super-heavy lifter that could facilitate orbital construction and, being fully reusable, be even cheaper to operate than SpaceX rockets 30+ years later (simply because they did not require fuel to be saved for landing, meaning more fuel is used to lift in the first place). And the system being fully automated already in the 1980's, flying without a problem, it all pointed out to a program that would be superior to anything that the world has to this day even. Sadly, USSR collapsed. Russians revived some of the concepts of those smaller side boosters that would have gone on Energia-2, but the program as a whole was largely forgotten as Russia today has no use for a rocket of those capabilities. They don't have the market for it - no large scale orbital infrastructure projects for them to use it on, nor large scale interplanetary missions.

  • To kolejny przykład kradzieży technologii przez Rosję.

  • Mostly BS and not worth passing 3 minutes.

  • Buran means “Snowstorm”. If that isn’t a cool name, I don’t know what is….!!!! 😎

  • 4:29 телевизор "Сапфир 412" был черно-белым

    • ok and?

  • NOwine showed me this channel I'm damn glad it did.