HW AN-225 Mriya & Buran Space Orbiter

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  • Description

With the beginning of the 1970s, development work on the Soviet Buran space program took concrete shape, construction work on the first spacecraft ultimately started in 1980. On November 15, 1988, the Buran 1.01 launched to the stars for its first, and only, unmanned spaceflight. Besides the external appearance, there were other similarities compared to the NASA Space Shuttle, such as the concept of utilizing a massive rocket as carrier vehicle or the manner in which the shuttle was transported within Earth atmosphere between orbital flights. While the U.S. converted two venerable Boeing 747s, the Soviets decided to develop a massive transporter based on the Antonov AN-124, which was equipped with six turbofans to ensure appropriate performance and payload. They succeeded, and on December 21, 1988, the largest aircraft ever built took off on its maiden flight. Its capacity for a payload of a staggering 345 metric tons, 110 of which were outboard, were enough to carry the Buran piggyback to the Kazakh spaceport of Baikonur or to the Paris Air Show in 1989.