Current Status - Static Tester  OK-TVA







PICTURE: Snowstorm in the snow - OK-TVA freezes its butt off in Gorky Park.

During renovation

PICTURE: OK-TVA as she appeared during renovation (prior to her new tiles arriving).

Cafe Buran

PICTURE: 'Boy never though I'd end up doing this for a living' OK-TVA  in Gorky Park Moscow.

Cruising along the Moscow River you pass all the magnificent sights of Russia's capital; the massive  walls of the Kremlin, the gold covered onion shaped domes of the new Christ the Saviour Cathedral, the Stalinist spire of Moscow University and incongruously, a Buran space shuttle in Gorky Park. You wonder,  how and why did a Buran land within sight of the Kremlin... Yet there she is!

The Gorky Park Buran was created as the structural and test vehicle, OK-TVA, to simulate the loads and stresses that would be encountered during a flight.  She was used for heating and static vibration tests. Second stage static tests were conducted on the OK-TVA in the unique TPVK-1 environmental chamber at TsAGI. The TPVK-1 was 13.5 m in diameter and 30 m long. It was equipped with 10 000 quartz lamps and could take the orbiter form -150 degrees C to 1500  degrees C, from sea level to vacuum, in real time.

At the same time OK-TVA was subjected to loads tests on the nose, wings, vertical stabilizer, elevons, balance. The test rig could apply 8000 kN of force horizontally and  2000 kN vertically and took the airframe to 90% of design load limits, which were 1.3X anticipated life limit load. The OK-TVA was then put in the TsAGI RK-1500 acoustic chamber. This  had a floor space of 1500 square metres, and was equipped with 16 sound generators which would subject the spaceframe to 166 dB sound levels at frequencies of  50 to 2000 Hz. These environmental tests  resulted in redesign in detail of the flight orbiters' structure and heat shield, especially hermetic seals and acoustic isolation.

The  OK-TVA then went on to the dynamic test chamber of 423 square metres. There it was placed in electrodynamic and electrohydraulic test stands.

After all this punishment, OK-TVA was, quite rightfully, retired and put out to pasture. During the rise of entrapaneaurship  in Russia in the 1990's an ambitious plan arose to move the OK-TVA to became an attraction in Gorky Park. So the static test shuttle was shipped by barge from the factory to Gorky Park. 

A  corporation called Kosmos Zemlya was formed by NPO-Energia, Kosmosflot and Gorky Park itself. The company was nominally headed by former cosmonaut Gherman Titov, the second Russian in space. Incredibly, it  originally was intended that the Buran's cargo compartment would be converted into a restaurant with a space theme. This restaurant would serve at a cost of $70 a person over 100 different types of the same  foods that cosmonauts eat in space while showing videos of the earth from orbit. The 36.37 meter OK-TVA test vehicle was transported by barge from the TsAGI factory down the Moscow River to Gorky Park where  it finally landed.

In an attractive setting aside the Moscow River, visitors to Gorky Park can see first hand an outstanding example of Russian space technology. Despite such ambitions of a  culinary future for the Buran, it became an amusement attraction instead. Once at Gorky Park its exterior was painted and the thermal insulated tiles added so that the OK-TVA test vehicle resembled the only Buran that entered space.

It is hard to grasp the size of Buran since most photos show it and its Energia launcher system alone. Buran, like the American space shuttle, is almost the same  length as a DC-9 and only when standing beneath is its immense size readily apparent.

The Buran has experienced some wear and tear after exposure to several harsh Moscow winters. Though it never became a  restaurant, either due to the lack of taste of authentic space food or the very high prices, there is an adjacent refreshment stand. Its large starboard wing, designed to withstand the thermal stresses of  re-entry, now provides visitors with shade while they enjoy their snacks. If you have you heart set on space food, the small ticket booth sells souvenir packages of space food along with accurate plastic models kits of the Buran and other souvenirs.

Visitors for only 160 rubles (approximately $5) can board the Buran for a simulated ride into space. Movies from the first Buran's flight into space are  projected on a large screen in front of the cargo compartment and television screens along the sides. The ride relies more on mechanical effects than computer generated effects. Small motors move the seats to simulate g-loads during the launch and landing and weightlessness.

After the flight, visitors can tour the flight deck and nose area. Since the first Buran was not manned for its only space  flight, the Gorky Park Buran was configured as a later flight version with two seats. Although the cockpit area is not completely realistic, the view through Buran's windows of the Moscow skyline is terrific. In the nose area visitors can view all the elements of Buran's structure.

*Thanks to Barry Davidoff for much of this text and information.

[Eat at Buran!]

PICTURE: OK-TVA as she appeared after renovation.

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