The MiG-105 spacecraft with a small payload would put a man into orbit, on a rocket, and return to earth like an airplane.

In the 1960s and 1970s, this small spaceship was designed in response to a US Air Force program called Dyna-Soar. The MiG-105 spacecraft with a small payload would put a man into orbit, on a rocket, and return to earth like an airplane. It could be used as a satellite, a reconnaissance vehicle or a weapon. However, in the 1970s, the MiG-105 was canceled to make room for the development of the Buran shuttle.

The spaceplane was attached to a liquid-fueled booster, was supposed to be launched in mid-air from a hypersonic jet. However, the craft made only a few atmospheric test flights. The MiG 105 was nicknamed “Lapot”, for the shape of its nose. It has a flat and upturned nose like the toe of a shoe to reduce air friction.

The prototype had a single seat, with a length of 10.6 m, a wingspan of 6.7 m, and an empty weight of 3.5 tons. The Mig-105 was powered by an RD-36-35K turbojet engine, with 19.61 kN of thrust, for a top speed of 800 km/h. The wings of this plane when entering space will close and when returning to the ground, they will spread out.

The first test flight was on Oct. 11, 1976, where the space plane took off from a dirt airstrip outside Moscow and landed at Zhukovskii Flight Center. Overall, the MiG-105 would have eight test flights sporadically until 1978, with the last test flight taking place in September when the spaceplane was forced to make a hard landing which resulted in the craft being written off. The MiG test vehicle itself still exists and is currently on display at the Monino Air Force Museum in Russia.

Ironically, the reason the MiG-105 project was ultimately cancelled forever was the decision to instead focus on the Buran program, the Soviets’ answer to the Space Shuttle. Unfortunately Buran only made one unmanned flight before the project was cancelled in 1993 due to a lack of funds and the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Buran, also known as the OK-1K1, was stored in a hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan until the roof collapsed and destroyed it in 2002.

Though the MiG-105 never reached space, both it and its rival the X-20 Dyna-Soar provide an example of what could have happened had the Cold War’s proxy conflicts extended into space. But unlike Buran which is now considered to have been superior to the American Space Shuttles, there is no way to determine what a conflict in space would have been like or how the MiG-105 would have actually performed in the first space dogfight.


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