Atpaw visits Buran!

Friday 13th, July 2001

Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Sorry if the pics here aren't very exciting. It's just a space-shuttle, and a lot of 'em were taken from more of an engineering standpoint than, say, 'make everyone drool in impressedness'. :)

Buran, Russian for 'Snowstorm' (apparently because the first Buran shuttle flight was in a snowstorm), is the Russian reusable space vehicle. It is very slightly smaller than the US shuttle (by less than a metre in each dimension), lighter (by 4600kg), and can carry 30 tons into orbit as opposed to the 25 tons the US shuttle can manage.

Buran was, well.. Impressive. Odd, also. So many parts were so 'mundane' and ordinary - well, as ordinary as aircraft undercarriage bogeys and square beams are. Buran 002 was used to help with autopilot and avionics design, and therefore was fitted with 4 Sukhoi turbojet engines to allow the shuttle to be flown like a conventional aircraft in the atmosphere. The actual orbiter lacks these engines, giving it a much more 'conventional' look, more similar to the US shuttle.

The tiles of the shuttle felt rather fibreglassy to the touch, which really only added to the sense of disbelief and slight confusion of being in proximity with the shuttle. Probably because the tiles are made from a glass-fibre based material, and not, for example, the shuttle being an oversized cinema lobby promo-prop for Armageddon.

I can't really express just how incredibly humungously enormously big the shuttle was. It was big.. Somewhat bigger than I expected, in fact. I guess that's what spending too much time on a sci-fi MUCK will do to you, when the average ship on FSM is about 100 metres in length, and the Buran is a 'tiny' 37 metres long. On a similar note, I couldn't help feeling the shuttle compounded the whole 'space opera' thing. Buran seemed so simple, so mundane and not-really-very-sci-fi-at-all that it almost felt as though taking it for a flight would be as (relatively) simple as, say, taking a DH-8 for a quick cruise around the skies. Which isn't really the case at all. Gotta buy LOX and hydrocarbon fuels first. And trick someone into giving you the keys. ;)

Eh, enough of my romanticising and rambling.. Here are the photos.


Step right up, step right up!

I wasn't aware the Russians had capsule-drive technology.. Maybe the Battlezone plotline wasn't too far off?

Just a boring picture showing the slight differences in size and shape of the Buran/Energia and the US model. I prefer the look of the Energia, to be honest. Looks sleeker and more angular and more Corvidae-like for one reason or another.
Size comparison.. That's me looking like a geek, standing about two metres in front of the right wing's leading edge. Very very big, beautiful bird, that thing is. (And just think - your ship on FSM is likely twice the size, or more!)
I tried my hardest to get as much of the shuttle in one shot as possible, and this was the result.. Oh well. :)

Closeup of the nose. The aft two thrusters are the lateral left/right thrusters, the forward two are the vertical thrusters (which blast reaction mass downwards).

Many apologies for the big black blobs and harsh contrasts. It's tricky photographing something black in a white room.

Closeup of the tiles, left side of the shuttle, just below the cockpit window.. The tiles are about 5cm thick, and the gaps between the tiles were ~3-4 millimetres, presumably to allow for thermal expansion while 1500*C plasma flows over them.

The tiles keep the hull temperature of the shuttle below 150 degrees centigrade, during re-entry.

Shot from above the cockpit.. You can see some of the instruments through the perspex sheets which have replaced the ejection-seat hatches. The two large bolt-holes on the sides of the 'windows' are for explosive bolts, since when you've gotta go, you've gotta go. As far as I could tell, all six ports are for vertical thrust. (Stop press, Ael confirmed my suspicions. The forward three are retro thrusters, the back three are the laterals)

I tried to get a shot through the hatches, but the glare off of the perspex ruined them, not surprisingly.

'Close up' of the nose gear.. Looks like one of the main gear of the DH-8, IMHO. :) In fact, if it weren't for the black gear doors and underbelly, I'd hesitate to say that it's the same one. So much for super-dooper sci-fi space technology. ;)
Right main gear of the shuttle.. Poor image quality I know, the flash didn't seem to want to be terribly bright. The main gear are much, much bulkier and heavier looking than the nosegear.

View of the right hand rear, from above the cockpit.. It's a pity about the dirty tiles. :/ (I can hear the 'dodgy russian technology' comments coming from the US viewers already...)

You can see three of the four turbojet engines here, along with part of the two airbrakes. Buran uses three brake 'chutes to help slow itself after touching down, much like the US shuttle (though it only uses one 'chute - thankyou to Ael for correcting me on that)

Almost straight down the middle.. Visible are the big airbrakes, part of the cavernous cargo bay, the four engines. The four cargo bay doors were removed from the left hand side.
Left hand rear.. The cargo doors are visible hanging in the top right.
And here's the cargo bay. This is the very very front of the bay, the crew crawlspace into the cabin module is just behind that harness-like thingy thing.
Perhaps the most boring image yet. I took this to show how the cargo bay door is actually made up of several doors (four on each side, to be exact). The ribs visible at the back were, as far as I can tell, square beams of metal. Presumably of a better material than just plain ol' steel, but nevertheless.. See, Star Trek wouldn't be caught dead with square beams of metal. Gotta have interpolated quantum tachyon reflex wave cermets. ;)
This must be the Capsule Drive. The cargo bay was enormous.. A bit bigger than the average boot (trunk) of your car (automobile).
And the rest of the cargo bay (after the dummy satellite/capsule-drive). Again, it's collosal. :)
Two of the Sukhoi turbojets. You can see the intake covers sitting almost flush with the hull.
Closeup of the internals of a Sukhoi turbojet. I don't know why I took this one. Probably just to make 'em think I was Amerikan spy, da?

The most important part of the shuttle. Or at least the most fiery. From top to bottom...

Airbrakes/rudder. First pair of turbojets. Afterburning turbojets, and the rear lateral thrusters. Dummy rocket motor.