Baikal: Abandoned Buran-Class Spacecraft OK-2K1 on the Banks of the Moscow Canal

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); abandoned Buran-class orbiter Baikal in Moscow)

Our recent article “10 Abandoned Space Shuttles, Orbiter Test Vehicles & Engineering Mockups” highlighted the often turbulent post-retirement careers of Soviet Russia’s reusable Buran orbiters and other space shuttle test articles. Among several pertinent examples is the unfinished Buran-class spacecraft known as Baikal, which spent a number of years disassembled amid the harsh Russian elements before being put back together again.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-2 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); Baikal (OK-2K1) was never completed)

Nicknamed after a vast Russian lake, Baikal was, like its sister ship Ptichka, never officially named. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 all but spelled the end of the Buran programme, which ground to a halt two years later amid the political chaos of post-Soviet Russia.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-3 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); abandoned at the factory, Baikal was dumped by the Moscow Canal in 2004)

Only one orbiter – carrying the programme’s official name Buran – had ever achieved space flight. A range of full scale engineering articles and several unfinished space-worthy shuttles, meanwhile, were simply abandoned where they stood, either on the factory floor or within the vast expanses of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-4 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); the corroding hulk lay there for seven years)

Like its older first series sister Ptichka, Baikal was something of an empty shell when Buran was finally cancelled. Having been scheduled for a flight test in 1994, Baikal – the first of the second series orbiters – was understood to be only around 30 to 50 percent complete when the programme was terminated.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-5 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); Baikal’s empty, unfinished skeleton of a cockpit)

Redundant, unneeded and taking up valuable space, the unfortunate craft was dumped in the open outside the Tushino factory in Moscow where it was constructed. It’s thought to have remained there for around a decade, until its dismantled hulk was moved to a car park alongside the Khimki Reservoir, off the wide Moscow Canal.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-6 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); the cargo bay, which never held a space payload)

It was there that photographer Ilya Varlamov documented the abandoned spacecraft in this impressive series of pictures. The sorry looking Baikal, which also bore the number OK-2K1 (or 2.01), was destined to lie corroding by the water’s edge for some seven years, until the massive wreck was finally moved to Moscow Oblast’s Ramenskoye–Zhukovsky Airport in time for the MAKS 2011 airshow.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-7 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); the abandoned spacecraft was surrounded by other junk)

Cosmetically restored and reassembled for the first time since the Buran production line was abandoned almost 20 years earlier, it’s understood that Baikal is now poised to become an outdoor aviation museum.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-8 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); a pair of giant wings separated from the unfinished fuselage)

Google Earth, however, shows the once abandoned space shuttle orbiter parked in a neglected corner of the airfield some distance from the technical site.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-9 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); space shuttle Baikal’s empty crew compartment)

Like its decaying Buran-class sister orbiter Ptichka – which is stored inside a derelict assembly building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome with full scale engineering mockup OK-MT – Baikal’s future remains uncertain, its preservation yet to be seen.

buran-class-baikal-OK-2K1-10 (Image: Ilya Varlamov/28-300 (Livejournal); after years lying abandoned, neglected orbiter OK-2K1 was finally reassembled)

Related – 8 Abandoned Launch Pads, Missile Silos and Decommissioned Space Centres


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