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First Soviet shuttle flight.

First Soviet shuttle flight

Americans have watched U.S. space shuttle astronauts float weightlessly during days-long flights covering dozens of Earth orbits. The first Soviet shuttle, launched Nov. 15, carried no cosmonauts and flew for only 3 hours, 25 minutes, orbiting Earth twice. But the Soviets see its maiden voyage as a major success.

The flight of Buran (Russian for "snowstorm") came two weeks after its first launch attempt was halted 51 seconds before liftoff when a platform failed to pivot out of the craft's path. Redesigned since the Oct. 29 aborted launch, the platform swung away smoothly during the second attempt. Soviet officials say all intended onboard tests were completed, adding they will not schedule a manned shuttle mission until every one of the craft's systems has passed tests during unmanned flight.

Buran's apparently flawless launch also demonstrates the versatility of the Energia booster, a multirocket system around which the Soviets plan a variety of missions. This liquid-fuel booster could launch nonshuttle payloads, including space-station segments for Earth-orbit assembly and parts of spacecraft for lunar or Martian exploration. Providing more than three times the carrying power of the U.S. shuttles used to transport satellites, Energia also could orbit satellites much larger than any yet built.

Minutes after liftoff from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Soviet Central Asia, Buran separated from Energia. About 45 minutes later and 100 miles above Earth, the shuttle maneuvered toward its 155-mile orbit using small onboard engines. Buran made a remote-controlled landing 8 miles from its launch pad, as planned.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 19, 1988
Words:255
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