The Soviet space shuttle Buran launched and landed (unmanned, because it could) once very successfully. I would think it would be a very valuable industrial asset for the bankrupt Russian Republic that came just after Buran's success. But it never flew again.

Were there decisive technical issues with refurbishing it for a second flight? Aside from the political and economic obstacles. Since it didn't carry its main engines, I'd think it would be by design easier to reuse than the STS shuttle orbiter.

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    $\begingroup$ Reusability of BURAN was not so much of a problem, as reusability of its launcher (which was, in short, none). Buran was a technical miracle which was entirely pointless, it was made to show that "we can do it too", not for any practical purpose. The only reasons for re-launch would be for propaganda purposes, and the political and economical climate really didn't encourage that. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 16, 2017 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ @SF. What are you talking about? Energia/Buran was much more capable and economic than STS. It could, and did, launch with or without the shuttle and with or without a crew. Its boosters have launched dozens of times as stand alone launchers. It was like the shuttle and SLS and Ares I all in one for less than a tenth of the cost. STS' reusability failed hard. So I wonder if there were technical problems hindering Buran's reflight. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Jul 16, 2017 at 6:55
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    $\begingroup$ Energia was much more economic and capable than STS. Strapping Buran on top of it was reducing its benefits by a significant margin providing very little benefit in return. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ Neither the Buran nor the Shuttle were economic -- or even close. But at least the Shuttle had a life support system, a thermal control system, and a way of staying on orbit for more than 90 minutes. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jul 16, 2017 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Erik: My point. Buran's reusability was non-issue. Attaching a dead weight, no matter how reusable, is not an economically viable decision. If Energia was cheaply reusable, that might not be an issue, but since it was a very capable non-reusable launch stack... reusability of Buran was really something "out there..." $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 16, 2017 at 21:06

1 Answer 1


The external Thermal Protection System (TPS), at least, seems to have survived in good shape. This article states that only five tiles were lost during the mission, this article says seven.

enter image description here

(picture is from 2nd link above)

I have not found any reports on the condition of other Buran systems postflight, at least in English. It is reported that the vehicle was not fully kitted out with the systems that would have been required for an operational mission; for example, the planned fuel cells were not installed, instead batteries powered the test flight.


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