Came across this article today.
by Staff WritersMoscow, Russia (XNA) Jun 28, 2010
Russia will return to its program of building the space shuttles and super-heavy carrier rockets after 2018, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday. New carrier rockets will have a workload over 24 tons, director of Moscow’s Central Machine-building Institute, Gennady Raikunov, said during the Strong Russia business conference.
According to Raikunov, the tests of the rocket will start in 2015 and its commercial exploitation will commence in 2018. Russian space engineers also are working on building the rocket capable of delivering to the orbit a workload over 100 ton per launch, he said. In more distant future, Raikunov’s institute plans to work out a new manned spaceship and non-disposable boosters.
Soviet space shuttle program Buran managed to make only one unmanned flight in 1988 and has been closed soon afterwards.
I am quite skeptical of the Russian space shuttle project being resurrected given that Russia is so short of cash. The Buran, which only flew once, was scrapped. Two were built, the one that flew was destroyed in an accident in which the facility crashed in on itself, killing 12 people. It shows the level of mismanagement and shortage of funds. The other one is now stored outside a hangar in Ukraine, with no protection from the elements. Take a look at those pictures of the Buran rotting away. So sad to see such beautiful rocketry go to waste.
If the Russians succeed, and I wish them well, they will be the only heavy-lift space-freighter service provider in the world. The Buran had a payload capacity of 30 metric tons earth-to-orbit and 20 metric from orbit-to-earth. (The Soviets initially thought that the Shuttle was meant to ferry anti-ballistic missile lasers to and from orbit, which led them to try and beat the Shuttle’s payload of 27.8/15 metric tons up/down respectively.)