Space Flown Buran Heatshield Tile

Whole Object Name

Space Flown Buran Heatshield Tile

Collection

Space Oddities

Description

The Buran programme began in response to the United States Space Shuttle programme, which intended to develop a reusable space vehicle. Started in 1974, whilst still under the Soviet regime, the Buran programme developed a spacecraft that struck a remarkable resemblance to the US Space Shuttle. There were in fact many differences between the two vehicles, and despite Buran ultimately being cancelled in 1993, in some respects it performed better than the American version.

The Buran programme was the single most expensive in the history of Soviet space flight. In total five space qualified vehicles were either complete or under construction when the project was cancelled. Only one ever flew in space – also known as ‘Buran’ (‘Snowstorm’), Orbiter K1 successfully completed a fully automated uncrewed flight in 1988. It was later destroyed when the hanger it was stored in collapsed.

This tile was rescued from that vehicle, making it a very rare example of a flown Buran heatshield tile. The tile is deliberately black in colour and made from borosilicate and a fused quartz fibre layer. The design was intended to protect the returning spacecraft from the heat caused during re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere – for this tile up to 1500°C. Black tiles came from the underside of the spacecraft, with different types used for the nose, leading edge of the wings and the upper portion of the craft. In total over 38,000 separate tiles covered the surface of the orbiter, like a giant jigsaw each had a very specific shape and location.

Object number

2015-8
  • image Space flown Buran heatshield tile, alongside a painted one by the artist Andora
  • image Mock up of Buran - Credit: Anna Zvereva
  • image Space flown Buran heatshield tile, alongside a painted one by the artist Andora
  • image Mock up of Buran - Credit: Anna Zvereva

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