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Russian Rocketplanes
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The story of rocketplanes and spaceplanes in the Soviet Union was one of constant setbacks due to internal politics, constant struggle with little result.

Tsiolkovskiy pointed out in 1929 that the altitude of an aircraft does not have to be limited to the atmosphere if rocket propulsion was used. This article inspired rocket enthusiasts Korolev and Glushko, and led to development of experimental and military rocketplanes during the 1930's. Both men were sent into prison camps in the purges of the late 1930's and work came nearly to a halt. Stalin released the engineers after the war and set them to absorbing the great technical advances made by the Germans. Immediate post-war work indicated that rocketplanes were inferior to turbojet-powered fighters for military purposes. But work continued on winged spacecraft for launch by ballistic missiles. The first such program, the VKA of 1958-1960, resulted in Myasishchev and Tsybin developing competing designs for launch by Korolev R-7 rockets. In 1960, this work was cancelled, and Korolev's nemesis Chelomei was charged with development of Kosmoplan and Raketoplan spaceplanes of radically different concept. Premier Khrushchev, Chelomei's patron, was overthrown in 1964 and these programs were in turn cancelled. They were replaced by the ambitious Spiral lifting body project of 1966-1976. This in turn was abandoned as too primitive when America embarked on its Space Shuttle program. In response the Soviet leadership decided to build an equivalent and embarked on its largest space project ever. The indigenous MTKVA and LKS designs were rejected in favor of an aerodynamic copy of the shuttle, the Buran. This flew but once before the Soviet Union collapsed. This also ended development work on smaller MAKS and single-stage-to-orbit MKVS spaceplanes.


RP-318 Russian manned rocketplane. Korolev adapted his SK-9 glider in 1936 as the first rocked-powered aircraft in the Soviet Union.

Korolev Rocket Plane Russian manned rocketplane. Study 1938. Korolev was already sketching rocketplanes similar to the Me-163 before World War II. This was one concept from his sketchbook.

BI-1 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1941. The Bereznyak-Isayev BI-1 was the first high speed rocket plane developed by the Soviet Union. Drawings were completed by spring 1941 but Stalin did not give the go-ahead for production until July 9, 1941.

Malyutka Russian manned rocketplane. Cancelled 1944. The Malyutka rocket point interceptor was designed by Polikarpov beginning in 1943.

LL Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1945. The LL was a transonic aerodynamic test bed authorized by LII in September 1945. Three were built: the LL-1 with a straight wing; LL-2 with a conventional swept wing; and LL-3 with a forward swept wing.

346 rocketplane Russian manned rocketplane. 4 flights from 1946. Post-war Soviet version of the German supersonic DFS 8-346 rocket reconnaissance aircraft. Abandoned in 1951 after the prototype crashed.

I-270 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1947. The MiG I-270 rocketplane began as a post-war copy of the German Ju-248 (Me-263) design. The resulting rocketplane had a more refined aerodynamic form than the Me-263 and lower gross weight.

Samolyot 5 Russian manned rocketplane. Cancelled 1949. Bisnovat was assigned the project to develop an all-Soviet equivalent to the 346 supersonic rocketplane being developed by the German Roessing team in OKB-2.

U400-10 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1949. Unmanned rocketplane that proved Isayev rocket engine technology in the late 1940's.

VKA Myasishchev M-48 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1957. Myasishchev's first VKA design was a diminutive single-crew star-shaped spaceplane that could be launched by Korolev's R-7 ICBM.

Buran M-42 Russian intercontinental cruise missile. Cancelled 1957. Several variants of the Myasishchev Buran trisonic intercontinental cruise missile M-42 cruise stage were studied, including a piloted version.

Buran M-44 Russian manned ramjet-powered research aircraft. Study 1958. Air-launched derivative of the Buran Mach 3 high altitude cruise missile system, proposed for use as an unmanned high speed research vehicle.

Raketoplan Russian manned spaceplane family. Succeeding the VKA project, this was developed by Chelomei from 1959, including suborbital hardware tests, before cancellation in 1964. Succeeded by the Spiral program.

Buran M-48 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1958. In 1958 the VVS (Soviet Air Force) requested development as quickly as possible of high-speed aerospace vehicles.

PKA Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1959. Tsybin's VKA design was called the gliding spacecraft (PKA), and would be inserted into orbit by a Vostok launch vehicle.

VKA-23 Design 1 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1960. Myasishchev single-pilot winged spacecraft of 1960, sized for launch to orbit by Korolev's Vostok booster.

VKA-23 Design 2 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1957. Following the very critical review of the first M-48 spaceplane design by the expert commission, Myasishchev went back to the drawing board.

Kosmoplan Russian Mars orbiter. Cancelled 1965. Beginning in the late 1950's, Chelomei began studying use of his encapsulated cruise missile technology for spacecraft. A whole family of unmanned spacecraft, dubbed Kosmoplans, would be built using modular elements.

Spiral OS Russian manned spaceplane, developed 1965-1980s, including subscale flight article tests. Evolved into the MAKS spaceplane. The Spiral was an ambitious air-launched manned space system designed in the 1960's.

Albatros Russian manned spaceplane. Competitor with Buran. Unique Russian space shuttle design of 1974. Hydrofoil-launched, winged recoverable first and second stages.

MTKVA Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1974, competitor with Buran. Manned lifting body spaceplane, designed by Soviet engineers as a recoverable spacecraft in the early 1970's.

Buran Analogue Russian manned spaceplane. This Buran OK-GLI 'Analogue' was a version of the Buran spaceplane equipped with jet engines to allow it to be flown in handling and landing system tests at subsonic speed in the earth's atmosphere.

MiG 105-11 Russian manned spaceplane. 8 launches, 1976.10.11 to 1978.09.15 . Atmospheric flight test version of the Spiral OS manned spaceplane. The 105-11 incorporated the airframe and some of the systems of the planned orbital version.

System 49 Orbiter Orbiter for the System 49 launch system, with a single crew member.

BOR-4 Russian manned spaceplane. BOR-4 were subscale test versions of the Spiral manned spaceplanes.

LKS Russian manned spaceplane. Mock-up stage when cancelled in 1983. The LKS was a Chelomei design for a reusable manned winged spacecraft, similar to the later European Hermes spaceplane.

BOR-5 Russian spaceplane. The aerodynamic characteristics of Buran at hypersonic speeds were validated by the BOR-5 1:8 sub-scale model of Buran.

OK-M Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. 1980's design for a spaceplane, smaller than Buran, to replace Soyuz and Progress spacecraft for space station crew rotation/replenishment tasks.

OK-M1 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. The OK-M1 manned spaceplane was designed by NPO Molniya as a follow-on to the OK-M of NPO Energia. The OK-M1 was an integrated part of a unique launch vehicle, the MMKS reusable multi-module space system.

OK-M2 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. The OK-M2 was a manned spaceplane, a straight delta wing joined to a broad fuselage with an upturned nose.

MVKS RKK Energia's proposed solution to the Soviet government's MVKS requirement for a single-stage-to-orbit reusable aerospaceplane system was this 700-metric-ton, turboramjet/rocket propulsion design. Work began in 1986 but abandoned when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Yakovlev MVKS Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1986. In reaction to US X-30 project, government decrees of 27 January and 19 July 1986 ordered development of a Soviet equivalent.

Uragan Space Interceptor Russian manned combat spacecraft. Russian sources continue to maintain that the Uragan manned spaceplane project never existed.

Buran Russian manned spaceplane which represented a huge leap in Soviet space technology and project management. Buran flew only once, in 1988. The cost of Buran - 14.5 billion rubles - was a significant part of the effort to maintain strategic and technical parity with the United States. In the end it contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus the demise of Buran itself.

MAKS series Russian manned spaceplane. Reached advanced stage of development testing and prototype construction when project was cancelled in 1988. The MAKS spaceplane was the ultimate development of the OK-M studies NPO Molniya conducted with NPO Energia.

Cosmopolis 21 Russian manned spaceplane. Mock-up unveiled in 2002. On 15 March 2002 Space Adventures unveiled the mock-up of their C-21 (Cosmopolis 21) spaceplane at Zhukovskiy Air Base, Moscow.

System 49-M Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. The 49M was an application of the system 49 design concept, but with a larger carrier aircraft. The system would have a 770 metric ton gross takeoff mass.

Bizan Russian air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Bizan was the 1982 Soviet air-launched spaceplane design iteration between the '49' and 'MAKS' concepts. Like the '49', it was air-launched from atop an An-124 transport. Unlike the '49', it was a single-stage-to-orbit tripropellant concept.

Tu-2000 Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. This Soviet equivalent to the US X-30 single-stage-to-orbit scramjet aerospaceplane began development in1986. Three versions were planned: a Mach 6 test vehicle, under construction at cancellation of the program in 1992; a Mach 6 intercontinental bomber; and a single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle.

LII Spaceplane Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. In 1973 LII (the Gromov Experimental Flight Institute at Zhukovsky) designed several alternate spaceplane concepts for air-launch from the An-225 transport. These were similar to the various MAKS concepts.

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