Soviet-era space shuttle carrier plane destroyed in Russian attack on Ukraine
— Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has destroyed “much” of its own space history, with reports now confirming the fate of a huge plane that was originally built to carry Soviet space shuttles.
Once the largest flying machine in the world by wingspan and weight, the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” (“Dream”) was parked in an open-air hangar being repaired at Hostomel (or Gostomel) airport. ), located northwest of the Ukrainian capital. Kiev, when Russia launched its attack on the country on Thursday 24 February.
Four days later, news arrived that the one-of-a-kind aircraft was no more.
“The world’s largest plane, ‘Mriya’ (The Dream), was destroyed by Russian occupiers at an airfield near Kiev,” reads Ukraine’s official Twitter account. announced sunday.
The Antonov company, which since 2001 has been operating the AN-225 as a heavy cargo freighter, also caught on Twitter say he could not confirm the status of the aircraft.
“Currently, until the AN-225 has been inspected by experts, we cannot report on the technical condition of the aircraft,” the company wrote.
The news follows a series of unconfirmed reports that the Mriya came under fire from Russian helicopters during an attack on the airport on Friday. The chief pilot of Antonov Airlines, the airline division of the Antonov Corporation, confirmed the attack but said the plane was still intact in a message he posted on Facebook the same day.
“Hostomel airport now under Russian airborn [sic] forces”, wrote Dmitry Antonov. “On the positive, Mriya is whole.”
Radio Liberty later posted a photo on social media, possibly taken by a drone, showing a fire rising from a hangar that appeared to match the known location of the AN-225. Aircraft enthusiasts shared tagged versions of the image, tagging what could be the Mriya’s engines protruding from the hangar.
Ukroboronprom, the public defense company under which Antonov operates, said the AN-225 was lost in a statement posted on its website Sunday afternoon.
“Russia targeted Mriya as a symbol of Ukrainian aviation capabilities,” the statement said. “The occupants destroyed the plane, but they will not be able to destroy our common dream. It will certainly be reborn.”
“It is estimated that it will take more than 3 billion dollars and more than five years. Our task is to ensure that these costs are covered by the Russian Federation, which caused intentional damage to Ukrainian aviation and the sector air cargo,” company officials said. noted.
The history of the AN-225, with its 290-foot (88.4 m) wingspan, dates back to 1985, when it was built to replace and augment smaller aircraft for the purpose of delivering rocket boosters Energia and a Buran-class space shuttle. orbiters to their launch site. Similar in use to but much larger than the modified Boeing 747 jetliners that served as two NASA shuttle planes, the AN-225 carried the winged spacecraft on its back.
Of the two AN-225 aircraft whose construction began, only one was completed before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Buran program was canceled two years later, having launched only one flight of unmanned trial in 1988.
After remaining in storage for several years, the AN-225 was returned to flight as a heavy-lift cargo aircraft. In addition to flying payloads once considered too massive to be transported by air, the AN-225 has also been used to deliver emergency supplies to disaster relief areas. The aircraft was most recently used to transport medical supplies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The downing of the AN-225 comes nearly a decade after the only Buran to fly in space was destroyed following a hangar collapse in May 2002.
The invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on it as a result have also affected Russia’s current activities in space, with Roscosmos deciding to withdraw its support for Soyuz launches from the European spaceport in French Guiana and abandoning the long-delayed American participation in the Venera. -D mission to study Venus.
Russia’s continued participation in the International Space Station has also been questioned, although Roscosmos and NASA officials have said the partnership aboard the complex in orbit and at ground support stations is unchanged.