Ruskie Business: Soviet Wooden Space Shuttle


It’s hard to imagine what Markin must have thought after stumbling upon the 1:3 scale, wooden mockup of the Buran space shuttle in an isolated corner of Zhukovsky Airfield (also known as Ramenskoye Airport) about 40 km southeast of Moscow.



According to Urban Ghosts, eighty-five wind tunnel models ranging in size from 1:3 to 1:550 scale were built to test the shuttle’s aerodynamic properties. Since Buran’s one and only orbital flight took place in November of 1988, the rotting wooden mock-up abandoned at Zhukovsky Airfield is probably about 30 years old… and comrade, does it ever look it!


Several decades of Russian weather have taken their toll on the model, leaving only hints of its original paint job visible. By 2013 the wood had faded to a dull tone similar to dirt and tree bark; living trees had grown up in the shadow of the mock-up’s fuselage with some branches easily penetrating the decaying wood body panels.