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  Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle (Bart Hendrickx, Bert Vis)

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Author Topic:   Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle (Bart Hendrickx, Bert Vis)
cspg
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posted 04-17-2007 12:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A long overdue book...

Energiya-Buran: The Soviet Space Shuttle
by Bart Hendrickx and Bert Vis

In Energiya-Buran: the Soviet Space Shuttle System, the authors describe the long development of the Soviet space shuttle system, its infrastructure and what was planned to follow the first historic unmanned mission. Comparisons are made with the American shuttle system and details of the talented Soviet test pilots chosen to train to fly the system are included, as well as the operational, political and engineering problems that finally sealed the fate of Buran and ultimately of NASA's Shuttle fleet.

The coverage starts with a Foreword provided by a former Buran cosmonaut, and goes on to provide a detailed description of the first orbital test flight of the Buran shuttle in 1988, giving details of the development of the various Soviet space plane projects of the 1950s and 1960s. A review is included of the decisions to proceed with the US space shuttle in 1972 and the Soviet decision to construct Buran in 1976 and a physical description of the Energiya system and a comparison with the American system is provided in tabular form.

The authors then detail ground support, and the facilities and infrastructure created to prepare, launch, control and recover the Buran vehicle. They go on to detail the selection and training of teams of civilian and military test pilots for crew assessment to Buran missions, and despite the fact that no cosmonaut flew on a space shuttle, the authors describe how several Russian cosmonauts have experienced shuttle missions, courtesy of the American shuttle as part of the ISS co-operative program. In addition to detailing the work on preparing the first flights of the Soviet shuttle which commenced in the l980s and the problems they encountered, the authors conclude with a comprehensive view on what might have been had the Buran program been fully developed.

The Energiya-Buran programme was primarily a story of unfulfilled promises and shattered dreams and is a story that deserves to be told.

  • Paperback: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Springer-Praxis; 2007 edition (August 14, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0387698485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387698489

Spoon
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posted 04-18-2007 03:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spoon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that this book is very long overdue.

ColinBurgess
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posted 04-18-2007 04:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Praxis opted to make this a "specialised" book and do only a limited release.

Spoon
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posted 04-18-2007 06:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spoon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The book will be invaluable to people interested in Soviet and Russian space activity, past and present, as quality is assured if the authors past work is used as a yardstick, such as their articles in "Spaceflight."

Philip
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posted 04-21-2007 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The company Energia itself released a huge volume hardcover book on Energia rocket and Buran shuttle. I believe it's available via Alex Panchenko and it has exact the same photo on the cover!

buran.fr
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posted 05-03-2007 07:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for buran.fr   Click Here to Email buran.fr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think this could be a very interesting book. At least for the non-Russian speaking.

garymilgrom
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posted 05-03-2007 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Energiya-Buran programme was primarily a story of unfulfilled promises and shattered dreams and is a story that deserves to be told.
I disagree with the above statement. I am no expert but I think the Buran program was primarily a story of theft and espionage. The Buran design is an exact copy of the US Space Shuttle.

Why has this story not received wider recognition? We need a book on this aspect of Buran - it would be fascinating reading.

cspg
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posted 05-03-2007 09:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Espionage for sure. Shattered dreams and unfulfilled promises? Much like the US space shuttle...

An exact copy? Not at all: I don't see any SRBs, no SSMEs, Buran accomplished an-all automatic flight from launch to landing (something the US space shuttle can't do?), and Energyia is a heavy-lift vehicle that do not have any equivalent elsewhere (and it could have been used for larger Earth-orbit stations, Moon/Mars missions)...The tools were (almost) available, but the political and financial will were not.

Sounds familiar (hint: current NASA's budget crisis)?

buran.fr
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posted 05-03-2007 10:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for buran.fr   Click Here to Email buran.fr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The only similarity between those two orbiters are the design of the shuttle (same physics law), but you have to remember that the documentation of NASA about the shuttle was open, so everybody could have access to it. So why they should use another design just to say: "look we haven't spied on you!"

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-03-2007 04:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
I am no expert but I think the Buran program was primarily a story of theft and espionage. The Buran design is an exact copy of the US Space Shuttle.
It's not an exact copy. No big engines at the rear, for starters. And once you remove those, you remove a lot of weight from the rear, meaning that the center of gravity changes entirely, and the center of pressure, etc. So the Soviet engineers had to take all of that into account and design this vehicle essentially from scratch.

That said, Buran was clearly INFLUENCED by the US shuttle, and here the issue becomes complex.

First of all, they benefited technically from the American data on the tiles and thermal stresses. I've read claims that all of that information was published openly in the United States. However, such claims have lacked detail. 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? 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 been smaller. 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.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-20-2014 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reviving an old thread after reading this book. The key work that was copied was not the design, but the concept.

The Russians didn't understand why NASA built the shuttle. 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. 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.

Gonzo
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posted 02-20-2014 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Admittedly, I haven't read the book. 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". 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.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-20-2014 04:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
However, the logic that we built the shuttles to drop nuclear weapons over Russia is, quite frankly, silly.
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.

Gonzo
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posted 02-21-2014 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with you Robert in that it could have been used as a military platform. 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.

We all know that the shuttles were used on occasion for military/national security interest uses (62A comes to mind). And that is perfectly logical for those purposes. However, as a platform for dropping nuclear weapons? Really?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2014 11:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I haven't read the book, so I don't know what case it lays it out for the Soviets' nuclear fears. I know Gary ran into some difficulty posting a reply yesterday, so perhaps he'll be able to share more soon.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-21-2014 03:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gonzo: With the advantage of hindsight, the idea that NASA could launch a shuttle each week or lower the orbital payload cost to $100/lb is pretty silly. 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.
THE SPACE SHUTTLE'S MILITARY THREAT
Location 934 in the Kindle version.

TsNIIMash specialists came to the conclusion that the Space Shuttle would never become economically viable if it was only used for the goals that NASA announced ... This was not simply a program to develop some space system ... to lower costs (Russian studies show no cost savings at all). It clearly had a focused military goal.
Moving to location 947:
The IPM studies focused on the Shuttle's possible use as a bomber, more particularly its capability to launch a nuclear first strike...
Location 952:
When we analyzed the trajectories from Vandenberg we saw that it was possible for any military payload to re-enter from orbit in three and a half minutes to the main centers of the USSR. You might feel this is ridiculous but you must understand how our leadership, provided with that information, would react. The military, very sensitive to the variety of possible means of delivering the first strike, suspecting that a first-strike capability might be the Vandenberg Shuttle's objective, and knowing that a first strike would be decisive in a war, responded predictably" (this means they built their own).
Finally location 960:
Studies ... showed the Space Shuttle could carry out a return maneuver from a half or single orbit ... approach Moscow or Leningrad from the south, and then, drop in this region a nuclear charge, and in combination with other means paralyze the military command system of the Soviet Union.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-21-2014 04:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
Why would we develop a new weapons system that costs more to launch than our existing methods?

This is also discussed in this well researched book. A comparison of a Shuttle-dropped versus a submarine-launched weapon is made. The sub-launched bomb is much cheaper but takes 6.5 minutes longer to reach its target. That's an eternity when attempting to shoot down or retaliate to an enemy strike.

sev8n
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posted 02-21-2014 04:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for sev8n     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by garymilgrom:
That's an eternity when attempting to shoot down or retaliate to an enemy strike.
True, but having a fueled and crewed shuttle on 24/7 "hot alert" would have been impractical.

The reaction time (from the decision to launch a strike/retaliation to actual launch) for a sub-launched nuke is MUCH shorter than what would have been required for a shuttle-based weapon system. The shuttle countdown alone is longer than the difference in delivery times.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-21-2014 05:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
sev8n raises an interesting point. I wonder why the Russian military leaders did not consider that. Some conjecture on my part - maybe they were calculating the risk only from the time they acquired knowledge of the incoming spacecraft or missile? This would negate the prep time needed for a shuttle launch, or a sub deployment for that matter.

Gonzo
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posted 02-21-2014 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And the truth is, if either of us, the US or Russia were to launch a nuclear strike against the other, no one would win and everybody everywhere would lose. So the 6.5 minutes pretty much becomes moot at that point. Granted that 6.5 minutes would give the Russians less time to launch, but they would launch nonetheless. And we would still lose. It goes back to the old adage - we may win the battle, but we'd still lose the war.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-21-2014 06:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Once the missiles are flying 6.5 minutes is moot. But in the course of deciding on one tactic or another nothing could be more important. One might say the 6.5 minute advantage of the orbital based solution was one of the reasons Buran was produced.

dom
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posted 02-22-2014 04:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Cold War had its own weird logic. Surely this was just another case of one side having to match the capabilities of the other?

The Soviets thought the shuttle (however improbable it might seem now) had a theoretical "first strike" role, so they had to have one too - which explains why they copied it exactly and didn't go with one of their own designs which they had been toying with in the 1970s.

Let's call it the 'Shuttle Gap' mentality!

Gonzo
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posted 02-22-2014 07:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As I alluded to earlier, while I think the idea of a nuclear delivery system is silly, what I think is more likely is the fear on the Russian's part of the US using the shuttles to militarize space. In the Cold War logic/fears/anxieties, that would be something they could not allow. Think of the advantage we would have if we controlled space militarily. I'm very glad we didn't do that. It would have made for some very tense times. Even more so than we already had at the time.

garymilgrom
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posted 02-22-2014 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apology accepted.

All times are CT (US)

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