Refusing to fall behind the U.S. space program, the former Soviet Union developed its own reusable space shuttle. The Soviet space shuttle, named the Buran, was possibly the superior shuttle, but it only flew once. SciShow Space reviews the history of this interesting spacecraft.
On November 15th 1988, the Buran took its one and only test flight, orbiting the earth twice and safely landing. It was designed in the 70’s and 80’s by Soviet engineers after hearing of NASA’s space shuttle program. Fearing the shuttle’s military applications (the U.S. claimed its interests were purely scientific), the Soviets quickly designed the Buran. Almost identical to NASA’s shuttle, it has been rumored that KGB spies provided Soviet engineers with stolen blueprints. The Buran did have a few advantages over NASA’s design. The Energia rocket system used safer liquid fuel boosters as opposed to the cheaper solid fuel boosters of the U.S. shuttle. The rocket system allowed the Buran to operate without its own propulsion system, giving it a larger payload capacity. Unlike the NASA shuttle, the Buran was able to operate unmanned. Political unrest in 1988 put the project on hold, eventually being scrapped because there was no need for a military spacecraft.