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USSR space shuttles once NASA’s competition sit abandoned

These eerie photographs show how USSR-era space craft have been left to rust in an abandoned desert hangar in Kazakhstan.

Two test shuttles were found inside a derelict Soviet warehouse near the Cosmodrome Baikonur, 125 miles east of the Aral Sea.

They were both developed as part of Moscow’s Buran programme which was shut down in 1993 – but neither of the craft were sent to space.

In the same building, photographers pictured a vast Energia rocket, designed to propel the Buran, an unmanned space plane, into orbit.

A man stands in front of the enormous Energia rocket, designed to propel the Buran, an unmanned space plane, into orbit. These eerie photographs show how USSR-era space craft have been left to rust in an abandoned desert hangar in Kazakhstan

The Energia weighs in at a massive 2,400,000kg (5,300,000 lb) depsite being made of super-light metals. Here it is pictured upright in the hangar

The Energia weighs in at a massive 2,400,000kg (5,300,000 lb) depsite being made of super-light metals. Here it is pictured upright in the hangar

Two test shuttles were found inside a derelict Soviet warehouse near the Cosmodrome Baikonur, 125 miles east of the Aral Sea.

Two test shuttles were found inside a derelict Soviet warehouse near the Cosmodrome Baikonur, 125 miles east of the Aral Sea.

This shuttle was developed as part of Moscow's Buran programme which was shut down in 1993 - but neither of the craft were sent to space

This shuttle was developed as part of Moscow’s Buran programme which was shut down in 1993 – but neither of the craft were sent to space

David de Rueda, who runs his own website, stands in front of a ray of light coming through the decaying hangar with the shuttle to his side

David de Rueda, who runs his own website, stands in front of a ray of light coming through the decaying hangar with the shuttle to his side

The USSR designed the rocket to compete with Nasa’s Saturn V, the super-lift launch vehicle that supported the Apollo mission to the moon. 

Like Nasa’s Space Shuttles, the Buran vehicles had engines located at the back, and two wings for a controlled landing back on Earth.

The Russian model had striking external similarities to the US Space Shuttle Columbia sparking suggestions Cold War espionage may have played a part in its development.

Both US Space Shuttles and Buran had the same shape and size, the same vertical tail structures and even similar colours – white with a black trim.

Documents that emerged in the late 1990s revealed how the KGB stole the designs for the US shuttle in the 1970s and 1980s enabling the Kremlin to build a carbon copy of the American system.

Like Nasa's Space Shuttles, the Buran vehicles had engines located at the back, and two wings for a controlled landing back on Earth

Like Nasa’s Space Shuttles, the Buran vehicles had engines located at the back, and two wings for a controlled landing back on Earth

The USSR designed the rocket to compete with Nasa's Saturn V, the super-lift launch vehicle that supported the Apollo mission to the moon

The USSR designed the rocket to compete with Nasa’s Saturn V, the super-lift launch vehicle that supported the Apollo mission to the moon

The Russian model had striking external similarities to the US Space Shuttle Columbia sparking suggestions Cold War espionage may have played a part in its development

The Russian model had striking external similarities to the US Space Shuttle Columbia sparking suggestions Cold War espionage may have played a part in its development

A 1985 CIA report said there was ‘espionage by hostile intelligence officers, overt collection, by East Bloc officials, acquisition by scientific exchange program participants and illegal trade-related activity.’

Files from US databases – much of them unclassified – were raided from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, according to the CIA analysis, called ‘Soviet Acquisition of Militarily Significant Western Technology’.

The report said: ‘Documents acquired dealt with airframe designs (including the computer programs on design analysis), materials, flight computer systems, and propulsion systems. 

This information allowed Soviet military industries to save years of scientific research and testing time as well as millions of rubles as they developed their own very similar space shuttle vehicle.’

Similar claims of espionage were made in the 1960s when Russia’s supersonic Tupolev TU-144 passenger jet was unveiled. It closely resembled the British-French Concorde which got off the ground two months later.

Development of the Buran programme began in 1976, with the reusable spacecraft capable of performing operations in orbit before returning to Earth.

But after one unmanned spaceflight of the Orbiter 1K1 in 1988, the scheme was scrapped following the dissolution of the USSR in 1993.

Orbiter 1K1 was crushed and destroyed in the same complex – but in a different hangar – in 2002. The collapse killed eight workers.

The rocket pictured was designed by Russia’s top space agency, to act as a heavy-lift launch system and booster for the Buran spaceplane. It has been left abandoned in the disused hanger since 1991.

The Energia weighs in at a massive 2,400,000kg (5,300,000 lb) depsite being made of super-light metals.

The super-strong rocket ship, the rocket booster of which are pictured here, could carry 100 tonnes (100,000kg) - the equivalent of 16 African elephants - into orbit

The super-strong rocket ship, the rocket booster of which are pictured here, could carry 100 tonnes (100,000kg) – the equivalent of 16 African elephants – into orbit

Both US Space Shuttles and Buran had the same shape and size, the same vertical tail structures and even similar colours - white with a black trim

Both US Space Shuttles and Buran had the same shape and size, the same vertical tail structures and even similar colours – white with a black trim

Documents that emerged in the late 1990s revealed how the KGB stole the designs for the US shuttle in the 1970s and 1980s enabling the Kremlin to build a carbon copy of the American system

Documents that emerged in the late 1990s revealed how the KGB stole the designs for the US shuttle in the 1970s and 1980s enabling the Kremlin to build a carbon copy of the American system

The super-strong rocket ship could carry 100 tonnes (100,000kg) – the equivalent of 16 African elephants – into orbit.

Unusually, the Energy carried its considerable payload on its side, rather than on the top.

The giant hangar that houses the rocket was actually an assembly complex and, measuring 433ft (132 metres) long by 203ft (62 metres) in height, it is the largest building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Huge sliding gates 138 by 118ft (42 by 36 metres) would have allowed the shuttles to have been rolled out to the launchpad nearby. 

The rocket pictured was designed by Russia's top space agency, to act as a heavy-lift launch system and booster for the Buran spaceplane. It has been left abandoned in the disused hanger since 1991

The rocket pictured was designed by Russia’s top space agency, to act as a heavy-lift launch system and booster for the Buran spaceplane. It has been left abandoned in the disused hanger since 1991

The giant hangar that houses the rocket was actually an assembly complex and, measuring 433ft (132 metres) long by 203ft (62 metres) in height, it is the largest building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The hangar is located near to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is still used to launch Soyuz rockets today

The giant hangar that houses the rocket was actually an assembly complex and, measuring 433ft (132 metres) long by 203ft (62 metres) in height, it is the largest building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The hangar is located near to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is still used to launch Soyuz rockets today

To protect the shuttles from a possible shockwave if a heavy launch vehicle exploded nearby, the structure was made of reinforced steel.

The room was also intended to be a ‘clean room’ devoid of dust when working on the orbiters, so the doors leading out of the central area could be sealed.

The hangar is located near to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is still used to launch Soyuz rockets today. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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