Russia has started manufacture of its unmanned space airplane which will correspond to the size of Boeing X-37B spacecraft for the US, general director Olga Sokolova of Moscow’s Molniya NPO that developed Buran aircraft told RIA Novosti. In an interview with Russia's Zvezda TV network, Buran's leading designer Vladimir Bugrov revealed that the production of the fundamentally new reusable vehicle has begun on the lines of the model presented by Russia in the closed pavilion at the Army-2020 forum. The space plane is being developed by the Molniya base that will be assigned for the delivery and return of cargo from space, the agency's interlocutor explained.
“Now the task has been set, and the development of a civilian reusable complex with an orbital aircraft is in full swing," Olga Sokolova said in Molniya research and production base’s release.
The civilian aerospace shuttle will be launched on a Soyuz-type rocket “within the next five years” in the likeness to the 1988 Buran that conducted a range of tasks and transportation on Earth Space route. The United States’ X-37B spacecraft is currently deployed for a similar mission for the US Air force and has had 6 launches so far. The details, however, remain discreet. China also tested a spacecraft with reusable technologies of similar design from Jiuquan Cosmodrome in September 2020 on Changzheng-2F launch vehicle.
As per the release issued by Molniya facility, Russia’s Sukhoi design bureau was brought into the project to provide expertise on the aeronautical design of the spacecraft thus far known by the acronym MLD, which the base hasn’t made clear whether it stands for Myasishchev M-55 Geophysica research plane [NATO reporting name Mystic-B]. In the infographics released, although, the prototype developed by The International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) for Russia's space agency Roscosmos reflected similarities with delta wing configuration, hypersonic speeds, rocket-like central fuselage, and deployment of parachutes at a certain altitude. The spacecraft will be entirely manufactured from discarded old Russian-made components, including the 14D30 rocket booster, the upper stage of a Briz-M space launch vehicle.