Testing the hardware

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


For most rocket, satellite, and spacecraft programs, the Soviet philosophy was to limit ground testing to the bare minimum and “fly the bird and see how it behaves”, no matter how many test flights were required before declaring it operational. For Energiya—Buran the Russians could hardly afford to do the same, if only because of the astronomical cost of the system and the serious implications of losing one or several vehicles in a small fleet of precious reusable spacecraft. Moreover, the Energiya—Buran system represented a leap in technology the likes of which had not been seen in the Soviet space program. It featured the country’s first reusable spacecraft (and a big one at that), the world’s most powerful liquid-fuel rocket engine (the RD-170), the first big domestic-built cryogenic engine (the RD-0120), the use of a vast array of new materials, and so on. Finally, the N-l debacle, at least partly attributable to a lack of ground testing (particularly of the first stage), was firmly etched in everyone’s memories and a sure sign of the need to approach things differently when the next program of comparable proportions came along.


Test Stand Automatic Mode Landing Gear Heat Shield Crew Cabin 
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© Praxies Publishing Ltd, Chichester, UK 2007

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