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OKB-52 had made a full-sized mockup of the orbiter by 1981, then Chelomei pounced during the period of Soviet alarm following Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech in March 1983.

In a letter written directly to Leonid Brezhnev he suggested that the LKS could be used to quickly and cheaply deploy counter-missile lasers into orbit.

Its in-orbit engines were to burn N2O4 and UDMH, like every other motor of note proposed for use by OKB-52.

Its landing gear was peculiar too, with a steerable wheel up front and landing skids under the wings.

LKS spaceplane on Proton rocket " data-medium-file="https://falsesteps.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/post-5-1076846165.jpg?

w=120" data-large-file="https://falsesteps.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/post-5-1076846165.jpg? w=409" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-2313" src="https://falsesteps.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/post-5-1076846165.jpg? w=309&h=1024" alt="LKS spaceplane on Proton rocket" width="309" height="1024" /An LKS orbiter atop its Proton launcher at the launch gantry.

Original source and copyright status unknown, but pre-dating 2004.

Note the folded wings: most sources do not mention this feature, with the implication that LKS’s wings were fixed, but the LKS is sufficiently badly documented that even this basic question is not definitively answered.

The convulsions of 1974-75 pointed NPO Energiya, the former OKB-1, in the direction of responding to the American Space Shuttle with a quite-close copy (though not before sketching out the MTKVP), and eventually the “Buran Decision” was made in its favour in 1976.This is, not at all coincidentally, close in mass to the TKS, and the two can be thought of flip-sides to one another as OKB-52 tried to be everything to everyone while also integrating their proposals into the larger space effort envisioned by Chelomei.The LKS orbiter diverged from the larger shuttles in a number of other notable ways too, even after being redesigned to be essentially a half-scale version of the US Shuttle Orbiter (earlier incarnations had twin tail fins and wings with a straight leading edge).Governmental decision or not, the ever-contrary Vladimir Chelomei and OKB-52 carried on with their own spaceplane from 1976-79 to address what they saw as Buran’s deficiencies: it was smaller, lighter, would be quicker and cheaper to develop and, in their opinion, be almost as capable.

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They called their two-cosmonaut craft the LKS (“Legkiy Kosmicheskiy Samolet”), meaning “Light Space Plane”.Prior to about 1990 it probably would have been the other 20-tonne study mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, Mikoyan’s.

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