US and Russian Space Shuttles - Clones?

hi… why do the Russian and the US space shuttles look so so alike…?

its gotta be more than ‘only aerodynamics’…

did one of’em ‘steal’ from the other…? or did both of’em get some common design (?german) post wwII?

   whats the word?

As far as I know, the Russian version is an areodynamic copy of the US version. NASA never really hid pictures of the shuttle from the public, so I guess you could call it open spying. The Ruskies decided to make the wing span 10 cm bigger to show off. The main difference is the Russian orbiter is unpowered. The Russian rocket engines are on the “big part” which is highly technical term. Our “big part” is only a fuel tank. The Russian “big part”, I’ve been told, and thus can’t confirm, is the most powerful rocket ever made, besting the mighty Saturn V. The Russian bird could fly unmanned, and it did, only once, its only orbital flight. It was destroyed when a delapidated hanger roof fell on it.

I’ve always thought the Buran shuttle was really cool, a misguided bit of commie kitsch. I’m visiting Moscow for the first time next month, and I understand they have a training shuttle there that they have turned into a second rate theme resturaunt. Can’t wait to see.

Here is a good comparison pic

thanx mate…

yup, looks like the similarities between the two end at the visual level…

did some more googling and…

… looks like this Buran can land by itself - unmanned.

The Energia booster is not the most powerful rocket ever built. However, the N1, the one that they had planned for their moon shots, would have been. Too bad they could never make it work.

The only one that ever made orbit was destroyed, but there were others, test beds and the like.

Similar accusations were made of the Russian SST, the Tupolev Tu-144, using stolen plans for the Concorde to aid its design and there is some history behind that but it isn’t unreasonable that planes designed for similar flight envelopes would look similar to the untrained eye. How may people could tell a Boeing 757 from an Airbus A330 at a glance? As for the shuttles the layout is determined by things like how large the cargo bay has to be and the required mach angle for wing sweep. The distinctive shape of the vertical fin where the forward corner is chopped off allows clearance for cargo bay doors.

The most blatant example of design copy is the Tu-4 clone of the B-29. In this case Stalin was said to have ordered an exact copy be built and it was down to the makeshift ashtrays for the crew.

This cannot be. Even if it stays mated to the “big part” right on into orbital insertion (which would be unjustifiably inefficient), there would still need to be engines on the orbiter to take it back out of orbit. Now, it may well be that the Buran has fewer or weaker engines than the American shuttle, but it can’t have none at all.

It has a pair of small booster engines which presumably account for its main delta-v maneuvers, plus a gaggle of attitude thrusters in front and rear that are placed in much different locations than on the Space Shuttle. (Despite its overall appearance to the US SSO it’s clear even from a brief inspection that it is not the same craft internally.)


Here’s a pre-launch picture of the Buran. The two red-covered nozzles are (presumably) used for deorbiting or changing orbit once the Energia main booster is seperated. Note the 4(!) liquid propellant booster engines which give the Energia-Buran a much higher gross lift capacity than the Shuttle.


You are right, Chronos. I meant the Buran orbiter didn’t have engines used during lift off like the American shuttle. Upon rereading my first post, “unpowered” was too strong a word.

That picture of the rocket array is nifty, Stanger. Do you think they used all 4 boosters with everything burning flat-out on the only flight? That’s some serious boost.

I’m not sure what the relative payloads are, but Soviet rockets traditionally used more and smaller engines than American designs. The Soyuz relies on 32 thrusters (20 main, 12 vernier) to get off the ground.

The claim that our space shuttle needs a crew to land seems a bit dubious to me. I know that most our computers are up to the task of landing the American shuttle, and that there is ample programming to automate the task completely.

As I understand it…

Blueprints and other plans for the U.S. Space Shuttle are NOT classified.

One can order complete scematics for the orbiter (price unknown)…NASA may have sent the plans directly to Moscow!

This is true, and this is what killed the N1 booster (which was to be their Moon delivery vehicle). A large number of engines increases both the complexity of the plumbing and chances of mechanical failure, but also introduces many more opportunities for resonances, which was a massive problem for that vehicle.

The Buran-Energia can carry a net payload of 120 metric tonnes, about four times what the American Space Shuttle can carry. The Vulkan, an Energia booster with eight strap-on Zenit boosters can carry up to 175 metric tonnes, as compared to the highest payload Saturn V configuration (119 tonnes) and the proposed Ares (121 tonnes).

In fact, all landing operations are normally carried out by automated program, save for deployment of the landing gear. Ostensibly, this is because the deployment of the landing gear is critical–too soon and it interferes with the glide performance–but in fact that could be said about virtually any stage of the descent. In reality, it is widely acknowledged that deployment of the landing gear (by pushing a single button) is done merely to let the pilot have some measure of control, and in fact the gear can be deployed remotely if necessary; it just isn’t part of the standard landing program. :rolleyes: Somehow, the Apollo boys used to get along just fine without having any control whatsoever of their landing profile, leaving it up to the programmers and a few gentlemen by the name of Newton, Navier, and Stokes to bring them down intact and in place.


Was’nt there some sort of treaty or just agreement that all american and soviet/russian space vehicles would have common attachments and what not for possible rescues.

The plans may have been passed on for this purpose and just used.