As I learned the primary design difference between Buran and the USA Space Shuttles was that Buran rode a rocket to the orbit passively, while the Shuttles were firing their own engines, riding on huge passive fuel tanks, I didn't pay much attention as to what engines Buran had. "Just RCS" was the easy dismissal.

Then I saw this:

enter image description here

photo credit

Could someone explain what I'm seeing here? Looks like at least four types of engines. I can guess the RCS blocks and jet engines for atmospheric test flights... and the rest?

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    $\begingroup$ I never realized Buran was built by Mercedes-Benz :) Great picture! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble First thing to come to my mind as well - they must be Daimler engines! $\endgroup$
    – Pavel
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is not really a Buran, but a test vehicle analogous to the US Enterprise shuttle test vehicle. Real Burans didn't have the jets. You can see it flying at 9:00 minutes into this video. youtube.com/watch?v=fRjKKfzdRlo $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ KSP became very realistic ... $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Antzi: That was my feeling too... especially with the jet engines slapped right on top of RCS blocks to the point of obstructing some thrusters. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 18:00

3 Answers 3


You see 3 types of engines:

Buran image annotated

  1. four jet engines for test flights, two outboard of the RCS (with afterburners) and two flanking the tailplane (without afterburners). Identical engines, different exhaust configuration. Only on the aerodynamics testbed OK-GLI. These enabled the testbed to take off under its own power, unlike the Shuttle testbed Enterprise which had to be carried to altitude on a Boeing 747 for each test flight.
  2. the RCS.
  3. the ODU as described in Pavel's answer.

The jet engines flanking the tail were initially intended to be used on the orbital Buran spaceplanes too, but were eventually deleted from the design.


Buran engines, LOX, and sintyn and small solid motors for emergency situations

See here (in russian):

The combined propulsion system (ODU) is one of the main onboard systems of the orbital ship (OK) and is intended for performing all dynamic operations in flight.

In the normal (accident-free) flight, the ODU engines stabilizes Buran in conjunction with the the rocket, executes the separation of the Buran and the rocket, and supports insertion to the orbit (two pulses), the stabilization and orientation of Buran, orbital maneuvering, approach and docking with other spacecraft, deceleration, descent from orbit and control descent.

  • $\begingroup$ Lord... I'd hate to need solid boosters for emergency situations... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2018 at 20:53

This is a video made by Curious Droid on the Buran. They explain what the engines were for, and some extra info. I haven't fact checked it, but it's still interesting.


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