Encyclopedia Astronautica
Russian Rocketplanes


The story of rocketplanes and spaceplanes in the Soviet Union was one of constant setbacks due to internal politics, constant struggle with little result.

Tsiolkovskiy pointed out in 1929 that the altitude of an aircraft does not have to be limited to the atmosphere if rocket propulsion was used. This article inspired rocket enthusiasts Korolev and Glushko, and led to development of experimental and military rocketplanes during the 1930's. Both men were sent into prison camps in the purges of the late 1930's and work came nearly to a halt. Stalin released the engineers after the war and set them to absorbing the great technical advances made by the Germans. Immediate post-war work indicated that rocketplanes were inferior to turbojet-powered fighters for military purposes. But work continued on winged spacecraft for launch by ballistic missiles. The first such program, the VKA of 1958-1960, resulted in Myasishchev and Tsybin developing competing designs for launch by Korolev R-7 rockets. In 1960, this work was cancelled, and Korolev's nemesis Chelomei was charged with development of Kosmoplan and Raketoplan spaceplanes of radically different concept. Premier Khrushchev, Chelomei's patron, was overthrown in 1964 and these programs were in turn cancelled. They were replaced by the ambitious Spiral lifting body project of 1966-1976. This in turn was abandoned as too primitive when America embarked on its Space Shuttle program. In response the Soviet leadership decided to build an equivalent and embarked on its largest space project ever. The indigenous MTKVA and LKS designs were rejected in favour of an aerodynamic copy of the shuttle, the Buran. This flew but once before the Soviet Union collapsed. This also ended development work on smaller MAKS and single-stage-to-orbit MKVS spaceplanes.

Follow the links below to learn the awesome, hitherto unrevealed stories and technologies of these fabulous flying machines.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Spacecraft
  • Korolev Rocket Plane Russian manned rocketplane. Study 1938. Korolev was already sketching rocketplanes similar to the Me-163 before World War II. This was one concept from his sketchbook. More...
  • RP-318 Russian manned rocketplane. Korolev adapted his SK-9 glider in 1936 as the first rocked-powered aircraft in the Soviet Union. More...
  • BI-1 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1941. The Bereznyak-Isayev BI-1 was the first high speed rocket plane developed by the Soviet Union. Drawings were completed by spring 1941 but Stalin did not give the go-ahead for production until July 9, 1941. More...
  • Malyutka Russian manned rocketplane. Cancelled 1944. The Malyutka rocket point interceptor was designed by Polikarpov beginning in 1943. More...
  • LL Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1945. The LL was a transonic aerodynamic testbed authorized by LII in September 1945. Three were built: the LL-1 with a straight wing; LL-2 with a conventional swept wing; and LL-3 with a forward swept wing. More...
  • 346 Russian manned rocketplane. 4 flights from 1946. Post-war Soviet version of the German supersonic DFS 8-346 rocket reconnaissance aircraft. Abandoned in 1951 after the prototype crashed. More...
  • I-270 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1947. The MiG I-270 rocketplane began as a post-war copy of the German Ju-248 (Me-263) design. The resulting rocketplane had a more refined aerodynamic form than the Me-263 and lower gross weight. More...
  • Samolyot 5 Russian manned rocketplane. Cancelled 1949. Bisnovat was assigned the project to develop an all-Soviet equivalent to the 346 supersonic rocketplane being developed by the German Roessing team in OKB-2. More...
  • U400-10 Russian manned rocketplane. Study 1949. Unmanned rocketplane that proved Isayev rocket engine technology in the late 1940's. More...
  • VKA Myasishchev 1957 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1957. The VKA (aero-space vehicle) was a 1957 Myasishchev design - a diminutive single-crew star-shaped spaceplane that could be launched by Korolev's R-7 ICBM. More...
  • M-42 Russian manned rocketplane. Cancelled 1957. Several variants of the Myasishchev Buran trisonic intercontinental cruise missile M-42 cruise stage were studied. More...
  • Kosmoplan Russian Mars orbiter. Cancelled 1965. Beginning in the late 1950's, Chelomei began studying use of his encapsulated cruise missile technology for spacecraft. A whole family of unmanned spacecraft, dubbed Kosmoplans, would be built using modular elements. More...
  • M-44 Russian manned ramjet-powered research aircraft. Study 1958. Air-launched derivative of the Buran Mach 3 high altitude cruise missile system, proposed for use as an unmanned high speed research vehicle. More...
  • Raketoplan Russian manned spaceplane. Developed from 1959, including suborbital hardware tests, before cancellation in 1964. More...
  • M-48 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1958. In 1958 the VVS (Soviet Air Force) requested development as quickly as possible of high-speed aerospace vehicles. More...
  • PKA Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1959. In 1957, in response to the USAF Dynasoar project, Soviet aviation bureaus were tasked with producing draft project designs for a manned spaceplane. More...
  • VKA-23 Design 1 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1960. Myasishchev single-pilot winged spacecraft of 1960, sized for launch to orbit by Korolev's Vostok booster. More...
  • VKA-23 Design 2 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1957. Following the very critical review of the first M-48 spaceplane design by the expert commission, Myasishchev went back to the drawing board. More...
  • Spiral OS Russian manned spaceplane, developed 1965-1980s, including subscale flight article tests. Evolved into the MAKS spaceplane. The Spiral was an ambitious air-launched manned space system designed in the 1960's. More...
  • Albatros Raketoplan Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1974. Unique Russian space shuttle design of 1974. Hydrofoil-launched, winged recoverable first and second stages. More...
  • MTKVA Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1974. Manned lifting body spaceplane, designed by Soviet engineers as a recoverable spacecraft in the early 1970's. More...
  • MiG 105-11 Russian manned spaceplane. 8 launches, 1976.10.11 to 1978.09.15 . Atmospheric flight test version of the Spiral OS manned spaceplane. The 105-11 incorporated the airframe and some of the systems of the planned orbital version. More...
  • System 49 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1981. System 49 was the design that followed Spiral and preceded MAKS in the Soviet quest for a flexible air-launched manned space launcher. More...
  • System 49-M Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1981. The 49M was an application of the system 49 air-launched design concept, but with a larger carrier aircraft. The orbiter mass was 28 metric tons in orbit, including a 9 metric ton payload in a 8. More...
  • BOR-4 Russian manned spaceplane. 4 launches, 1982.06.04 (Cosmos 1374) to 1984.12.19 (Cosmos 1614). BOR-4 were subscale test versions of the Spiral manned spaceplanes. More...
  • Bizan Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1982. Bizan was the 1982 Soviet air-launched spaceplane design iteration between the '49' and 'MAKS' concepts. Like the '49', it was air-launched from atop an An-124 transport. More...
  • BOR-5 Russian spaceplane. 2 launches, 1983.07.04 (BOR-5 Flight 1) and 1984.06.06 (BOR-5 Flight 6). The aerodynamic characteristics of Buran at hypersonic speeds were validated by the BOR-5 1:8 sub-scale model of Buran. More...
  • LKS Russian manned spaceplane. Mock-up stage when cancelled in 1983. The LKS was a Chelomei design for a reusable manned winged spacecraft, similar to the later European Hermes spaceplane. More...
  • Buran Analogue Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. This Buran OK-GLI 'Analogue' was a version of the Buran spaceplane equipped with jet engines to allow it to be flown in handling and landing system tests at subsonic speed in the earth's atmosphere. More...
  • OK-M1 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. The OK-M1 manned spaceplane was designed by NPO Molniya as a follow-on to the OK-M of NPO Energia. The OK-M1 was an integrated part of a unique launch vehicle, the MMKS reusable multi-module space system. More...
  • OK-M2 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. The OK-M2 was a manned spaceplane, a straight delta wing joined to a broad fuselage with an upturned nose. More...
  • OK-M Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1984. 1980's design for a spaceplane, smaller than Buran, to replace Soyuz and Progress spacecraft for space station crew rotation/replenishment tasks. More...
  • Yakovlev MVKS Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1986. In reaction to US X-30 project, government decrees of 27 January and 19 July 1986 ordered development of a Soviet equivalent. More...
  • VKS Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1986. The Energia VKS was designed as a hypersonic rocketplane with multi-regime engines, in response to the Soviet Ministry of Defenses' MVKS single-stage reusable aerospaceplane system requirement. More...
  • Tu-2000 Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1986. In reaction to US X-30 project, government decrees of 27 January and 19 July 1986 ordered development of a Soviet equivalent. More...
  • Uragan Space Interceptor Russian manned combat spacecraft. 2 launches, 1987.08.01 (Cosmos 1871) to 1987.08.28 (Cosmos 1873). Russian sources continue to maintain that the Uragan manned spaceplane project never existed. More...
  • Buran Russian manned spaceplane. One launch, 1988.11.15. Soviet copy of the US Space Shuttle. Unlike the Shuttle, the main engines were not mounted on Buran and were not reused. More...
  • MAKS Orbiter Russian manned spaceplane. Reached advanced stage of development testing and prototype construction when project was cancelled in 1988. The MAKS spaceplane was the ultimate development of the OK-M studies NPO Molniya conducted with NPO Energia. More...
  • LII Spaceplane Russian manned spaceplane. Study 1993. LII (the Gromov Experimental Flight Institute at Zhukovskiy) designed several alternate spaceplane concepts for air-launch from the An-225 transport. These were similar to the various MAKS concepts. More...
  • Cosmopolis 21 Russian manned spaceplane. Mock-up unveiled in 2002. On 15 March 2002 Space Adventures unveiled the mock-up of their C-21 (Cosmopolis 21) spaceplane at Zhukovskiy Air Base, Moscow. More...

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