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8.6.3 The Energiya-Buran Program

Problems were also found in the most recent and most powerful Soviet rocket, the Energiya. The Energiya has a thrust of about 3,000 tons (6.6 million pounds) and can place 30 tons (66,000 pounds) of payload in orbit. Its final stage can carry 100 tons (220,000 pounds) to a height of 180 km. The Buran space shuttle has approximately the same characteristics as its US counterpart.

The total launch weight of the Buran is 105 tons. The rocket is 36.4 m long, it has a wingspan of 24 M, and its height on the runway (when landed as a plane) is 16.5 M. See Figure 25.

1 - Command compartment
2 - Equipment compartment
3 - Living quarters
4 - Additional instrument unit
5 - Main landing gear
6 - Flap
7 - Eleven
8 - Orbital maneuvering engine

9 - Control engines
10 - Rudder and air brake
11 - Braking parachute
12 - Keel
13 - Cargo bay doors
14 - Cargo compartment
15 - Television camera
16 - Cabin module
17 - Nose engines

Figure 25
The Buran Space Shuttle

The first launch was scheduled to occur in May 1987, at Baikonur. The program called for a satellite mockup to be put into a circular orbit by its own engine. But due to the malfunctioning of its on-board systems, the mockup failed to reach the planned orbit and fell into the Pacific Ocean.
On 23 May 1988, the huge Buran-Energiya rocket weighing 4,500 tons; was delivered to the space launch facility. On 10 June, however, due to malfunctions, the Buran had to be returned to the hangar (MIK).2 The Energiya rocket was transported by four powerful synchronous diesel locomotives. The Buran space vehicle was delivered to the Baikonur space launch facility by a specially equipped An-225 aircraft (designed by Antonov's 0KB)3, while the rockets were delivered on a Myasishchev M-3 aircraft.

On 10 October, the rocket was again transported to the launch site. The launch was scheduled for 28 October at 9 PM Moscow time, but 51 seconds before the launch, the countdown was stopped due to a malfunction. On 29 October 1988, the launch was canceled. If the rocket had exploded, it would produce destruction within an 8.5-kilometeir radius. Additionally, a 15-kilometer zone was declared dangerous. When preparing for the launch of the Energiya, thousands of people had to be evacuated from the danger zone.

The launch finally took place on 15 November 1988, in the presence of Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers I. Belousov, Department Head of the CPSU Central Committee 0. Belyakov, Minister of the Aviation Industry A. Systsov, and Colonel-General A. Maksimov. The flight was unmanned, making use of its automatic landing system. The development of the Buran-Energiya system took 12 years, and was launched 7 years after its American counterpart.

Many malfunctions, especially those involving the Energiya, are to be expected during the development of such complex rocket and space vehicle systems. Overall, there are many reliable Soviet rocket systems, even some of the older carriers such as the Proton (SL-4) that have been flying for over ten years.

8.6.4 Other Failures and Accidents

Continuous improvements in rockets and space vehicles as well as experience in design eventually helped to decrease the number of failures.
During the launch of V. Lazarev and 0. Makarov, on the Soyuz-18A, in 1975, the rocket malfunctioned. Fortunately, the emergency rescue system worked faultlessly. With a huge overload of 22 g's, it separated the space vehicle from the rocket and ejected it on a ballistic trajectory landing in some remote mountains, on the edge of a cliff.

In another incident in 1976, cosmonauts V. Rozhdestvensky and V. Zudov were forced to make air emergency landing in the Soyuz-23 vehicle after a 2-day flight. They landed in a lake in Kazakhstan. Furthermore, the reserve parachute cover blew off into the water and the parachute ejected from the compartment. The parachute became wet, capsized the spacecraft, and started pulling it down to the bottom. The cosmonauts were found and rescued 11 hours later, gasping for air.

During a flight on the Soyuz T-lOA in April 1983 by cosmonauts V. Titov, G. Strekalov and A. Serebrov, the ships antenna mast did not fully extend, causing ships link up with the Salyut-7 to be unsuccessful. Because of the failure, the cosmonauts were forced to return after only two days in space.
Two months later, in October 1983, V. Lyakhov and A. Aleksandrov were successfully sent into space on the Soyuz T-9. Titov and Strekalov were scheduled for another flight in 1983, but a few seconds before launch, the rocket caught fire. Initially, they had no idea what was happening, assuming that the engines had ignited prematurely. Literally an instant before the explosion, the emergency system ejected the space vehicle from the flames and landed it about 4 km away. On the third attempt, cosmonaut V. Titov (not to be confused with G. Titov) successfully entered space.

In October 1990, during preparations to put a Kosmos series satellite in orbit, a three-stage Zenit rocket exploded on the launch pad. The rocket and satellite were destroyed, and one of the two launch pads at Baikonur was seriously damaged.


This monograph is a first-hand account of developments in the Soviet rocket industry. We have seen that the Soviets pioneered the field of rocketry and aeronautics with such giants as Konstantin Tsiolkovksy, Frederikh Tsander, Valentin Glushko, and Sergei Korolev.

The author traces the organization and leadership of the rocket and missile industry from its beginning in the twenties. The majority of rocket engines were developed at the Glushko Design Bureau. We have seen the evolution of the Glushko 0KB from its creation as the Gas Dynamics Laboratory in 1928/29 to its absorption into RNII in 1933, and finally to its present form.

By the early thirties concrete results were achieved at GDL with the creation of the first liquid propellant rocket engine, the ORM-1. Early rocket engines were used in the development of primitive but effective launch systems. From this evolved the Katyusha which was effective against the Nazis in World War II.

After the war, Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko worked on replicating the German V-2, whose development sparked the Soviet rocket industry. In addition to missiles which delivered explosive payloads, the Soviet Union also developed rocket powered aircraft and winged missiles, and space vehicles. Most early Soviet missiles were developed by Korolev, while most Soviet rocket engines were developed by Glushko.

Soviet rockets developed after WWII include the R-l, R-2, R-5, and R-7. The R-2 represented the first major step away from the V-2 in development. The R-5 utilized Glushko's RD-103 engine, and saw action until the late seventies. The R-5 later was called the Vertikal. The R-7, which employed the RD-107 engine, launched the first Sputnik and the first animal into orbit in 1957. The R-7 later was modified, and became known as the Vostok, which launched Yury Gagarin into space in 1961. The Vostok was modified into a 3-seater and took the name Voskhod, which launched the first group flight in 1964.

The author has traced the development of Soviet rocket engines not only in regard to their technical improvements, but also in regard to their use and application in missiles and space vehicles. The RD engine series was most prolific of the time, and included the RD-101,102,103,107,119,216, and the powerful 253. The RD-253 is still used on Soviet ICBMs as well as space booster and carrier rockets. The RD-170 and its modification are used on the first and second stages of the Energiya space vehicle. Glushko's engines utilized primarily UDMH or liquid oxygen and kerosene as a fuel.

Other more specialized rocket engines were designed at the Kosberg and Isayev OKBs, although Kosberg's influence was secondary to Isayev's. The former developed primarily third stage liquid propellant rocket engines. Isayev worked on engines which assisted space vehicles in their descent to the earth and moon. Isayev led the development of adjustable (vectoring) engines that allowed more directional control of the rocket vehicle.

As the power requirements of Soviet rocket engines grew, so did their complexity. Gas generators, pumps, turbines, and cooling systems were added to the basically simple engine design. The author explains how the engine nozzle was redesigned to allow for greater efficiency. We have also seen the evolution of such innovations as the use the oxidizer as an engine coolant, the redirection of the exhaust product back into the combustion chamber to increase the specific impulse, and the reconfiguration of the nozzle to increase efficiency.

The author has shown in several instances how the Soviet missile and space program was fraught with difficulties. The Nedelin disaster of 1960 cost the lives of more than 200 scientists, engineers, as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Marshal Nedelin. The oscillation problem of 1965/66 exposed a weakness in Soviet ICBM missiles. The author also described the failed Soviet attempt to put a man on moon, in addition to other problems encountered by the space program.

Despite their problems, the Soviet Union alleges that they maintained a lead over the United States until 1969. But even now, the Soviet hold records for space endurance and for the most launches of unmanned satellites. The USSR maintains a significant presence in space with their orbital space stations. In all Soviet cosmonauts have logged more than 5,500 cumulative days in space, the majority of which were spent aboard the Salyut and Mir space stations.
- - - - - - - - -
Noties: 1. Soviet books note their flight, but generally fail to report that they died.
2. MIK: assembly and measurement facility [montazhno-izmeritelny kompleks]
3. The Chief Designer of this 0KB at this time was M.V. Balabuyev.

Dr. Alexander Bolonkin
1310 Avenue R, #6-F
Brooklyn, NY 11229, USA
Tel/Fax 718-339-4563


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