Uragan Space Interceptor
Uragan / BOR-4
Credit - © Mark Wade
Class: Manned. Type: Combat. Nation: Russia. Agency: MO RF. Manufacturer: Molniya.

Russian sources continue to maintain that the Uragan manned spaceplane project never existed. However Western intelligence was very convinced in the climactic phase of the Cold War. The tale told at that time was that completion of test of the 4,220 kg MiG 105-11 manned subsonic test bed did not mark the end of the Spiral spaceplane project but rather a rebirth. It was reported that development of a larger manned 'space interceptor' was authorised in September 1978. This spaceplane, supposedly called 'Uragan', was to be launched atop the new Zenit launch vehicle.

The BOR-4 unmanned subscale orbital test craft verified the configuration in four hypersonic re-entry tests between 1982 and 1984 (however expert Russian space historians maintain that these were merely tests of heat shield materials for the Buran shuttle using available Spiral project subscale models). A first group of six Air Force pilot cosmonauts were selected to work on the program from the outset. A second group of at least three cosmonauts was selected in 1985, seeming to indicate that flights would begin in the next few years. The U. S. Department of Defense issued drawings of the spaceplane atop the Zenit launcher and artist concepts of it operating in orbit in 1986. The DoD claimed that the interceptor was to be armed with space-to-space missiles, evidently in response to US military shuttle missions. Uragan was said to have been cancelled in September 1987 for unknown reasons before the first flight of the Buran shuttle. Possibly the cancellation of US Shuttle polar orbit military missions from Vandenberg after the Challenger explosion eliminated the space interceptor's mission. Or perhaps it never existed and was merely the subject of a very successful disinformation campaign. Adding even more confusion is that it is now known that at least two spaceplanes - Chelomei's LKS, for launch on Proton, and Molniya's OK-M, for launch on Zenit, were being designed concurrently with Buran. And the official history of the MiG OKB, states cryptically that after completion of the 105-11 flight tests development of the spaceplane continued....

Typical orbit: 193 km circular orbit, 80.9 deg inclination. Length: 12.50 m (41.00 ft). Maximum Diameter: 9.50 m (31.10 ft). Mass: 13,000 kg (28,000 lb). Associated Launch Vehicle: Zenit-2.


Uragan Space Interceptor Chronology
  • 1978 September 1 - Uragan space interceptor allegedly authorised -

    Russian sources continue to maintain that the Uragan manned spaceplane project never existed. However Western intelligence reported that development of a larger manned 'space interceptor' was authorised in September 1978. This spaceplane, supposedly called 'Uragan', was to be launched atop the new Zenit launch vehicle.

  • 1978 September 30 - Uragan space interceptor project begun -

    In order to counter US space shuttle flights made in polar orbits from Vandenberg, deep black Uragan project begun. Scaled-up Spiral to be launched by new Zenit launch vehicle, carrying Nudelmann recoilless gun (same as developed for TKS) for destruction of shuttle after interception and inspection. First flight planned 1983.

  • 1987 August 1 - Cosmos 1871 - Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Vehicle: Zenit-2. Mass: 15,000 kg (33,000 lb). Perigee: 168 km (104 mi). Apogee: 188 km (116 mi). Inclination: 97.00 deg. Period: 88.10 min. Duration: 9.00 days.

    Considered by some observors as possible spite test of Uragan space interceptor boilerplate mass model, just prior to project cancellation.
    Officially: Investigation of the upper atmosphere and outer space.

  • 1987 August 28 - Cosmos 1873 - Launch Site: Baikonur. Launch Vehicle: Zenit-2. Mass: 15,000 kg (33,000 lb). Perigee: 175 km (108 mi). Apogee: 241 km (149 mi). Inclination: 64.80 deg. Period: 88.70 min. Duration: 16.00 days.

    Considered by some observors as possible spite test of Uragan space interceptor boilerplate mass model, just prior to project cancellation.
    Officially: Investigation of the upper atmosphere and outer space.

  • 1987 September 1 - Uragan spaceplane allegedly cancelled - Launch Vehicle: Zenit-2.

    Uragan was said to have been cancelled before the first flight of the Buran shuttle. Possibly the cancellation of US Shuttle polar orbit military missions from Vandenberg after the Challenger explosion eliminated the space interceptor's mission. Or perhaps it never existed and was merely the subject of a very successful disinformation campaign. Adding even more confusion is that it is now known that at least two spaceplanes - Chelomei's LKS, for launch on Proton, and Molniya's OK-M, for launch on Zenit, were being designed concurrently with Buran. And the official history of the MiG OKB, states cryptically that after completion of the 105-11 flight tests development of the spaceplane continued....


Bibliography and Further Reading
  • Borrowman, G L, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, "Kosmoljot - Soviet Wings into Space", 1982, Volume 35, page 75.
  • Gatland, Kenneth W, Spaceflight, "A Soviet Space Shuttle?", 1978, Volume 20, page 322.
  • Pesavento, Peter, Spaceflight, "Russian Space Shuttle Projects 1957-1994", 1995, Volume 37, page 226.
  • Matthews, Henry, The Secret Story of the Soviet Space Shuttle, X-Planes Book 1, Beirut, Lebanon, 1994. Unusual English-language book, published in Beirut, on Soviet spaceplanes. Some information since found to be in error, but a valuable work.
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page, Harvard University, 1997-present. Jonathan McDowell's complete on-line listing of all objects orbited and over 20,000 rocket launches Accessed at: http://www.planet4589.org/jsr.html.
 
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© Mark Wade, 1997 - 2007 except where otherwise noted.

   

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