Status: Operational 1988. First Launch: 1988-11-15. Last Launch: 1988-11-15. Number: 1 . Gross mass: 7,150 kg (15,760 lb). Height: 5.10 m (16.70 ft). Span: 4.10 m (13.40 ft).
The 37KB modules would serve a function similar to the Spacehab modules on the shuttle, providing pressurized storage and equipment racks for payloads taken aloft on solo Buran flights. 37KB s/n 37070 was the only one of four built to actually fly. It was delivered to Baikonur in February 1986, and primarily contained instrumentation to measure the performance of the orbiter and its structure on its first flight - over 6000 data points were monitored. In addition, it was equipped with batteries to provide electrical power to Buran in the absence of the usual fuel cells.
Three 37KB modules were built - two flight articles and a spare. Following the initial flight tests using the 37KB, it was planned that s/n 37271 and the flight spare would be converted to the 37KBI configuration, which could be docked to the Mir and Mir-2 stations. In 1989 the planned utilization of the 37KB modules for Buran was as follows:
Flight 2 (2K1) - fourth quarter 1991 - first flight of second orbiter, one to two days unmanned, with 37KB s/n 37071.
Flight 3 (2K2) - first or second quarter 1992 - second orbiter, seven to eight day unmanned flight with payload 37KB s/n 37271. The orbiter would open the payload bay doors, operate the manipulator arm, dock with Mir, and return to earth.
Flight 4 (1K2) - 1993 - unmanned, second flight of first orbiter, 15-20 days with 37KB s/n 37270
Flight 5 (3K1) - 1994 or 1995 - first flight of third orbiter. First manned flight; the third orbiter was the first outfitted with life support systems and ejection seats. Two cosmonauts would deliver the 37KBI module to Mir, using the Buran manipulator arm to dock it to the station's Kristal module.
External events were catching up with these projects - the economy and political system in the Soviet Union had begun its rapid disintegration. The ambitious plans for a Mir-2 space station were being downgraded constantly. By the autumn 1991 it was proposed that a 'Mir 1.5' station would be equipped with 37KB modules, delivered by Buran, in place of the huge modules previously envisioned. Under this plan, the DOS-8 Mir base block would be orbited in 1994, towed to Mir by Buran, and attached to the DOS-7 base block already in orbit since 1986. During the two year period of joint operation of both base blocks, Mir would deliver an experimental 37KBT module equipped with biotechnology experiments. DOS-7 would then be deorbited, beginning the start of a four year assembly process of the Mir-2 station. DOS-8 would be equipped by Buran with 37KBE power modules and two operational 37KBT biotechnology modules. Buran could swap the 37KBT modules and return them to earth for removal of the products produced and outfitting for reuse.
Work on the 37KB modules was finally stopped completely when further Buran funding was ended in 1993.
Habitable Volume: 37.00 m3.
The basic 37K design consisted of a 4.2 m diameter pressurised cylinder with a docking port at the forward end. It was not equipped with its own propulsion system. The original authorisation was for a total of eight 37K's of various configurations. Of these, only the 37K-E (Kvant module of Mir) and the 37KS (instrumentation module in Buran) would fly.