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Antonov An-225 Mriya (Cossack)

The Antonov An-225 Mriya, or "Dream," was designed mainly to transport the Russian space shuttle and its components from a service area to a launch site. It is a legendary and absolutely unique aircraft. The An-225s payload capability and estimated ferry range is immensely superior to the largest transport aircraft in the West, the Lockheed C-SB Galaxy. The An-225, has a 290 foot wingspan exceeded only by the 320 foot wing of Howard Hughes giant flying boat, popularly known as the Spruce Goose. The Mriyas maximum take-off weight reaches fantastic value of 640 tons that surpasses considerably modern achievements of other airplanes among them take-off mass of the A-380 which is 80 tons less. The AN-225 has 240 world records including transportation of the heaviest cargo weighing 253.8 t, the heaviest monocargo 187 t as well as a cargo with length 42.1m.

The AN-124 Ruslan heavy transport designed at ANTONOV DB was chosen as a basis for the AN-225. Full-scale development of a new aircraft took three years and a half. This heavy transport plane was designed and built within the period of four years, between 1984 and 1988. The project of the plane appeared because of the necessity to transport heavy cargo by air and to cover long distances. The plane was designed so as to carry the cargo inside the special compartment as well as on an externally fixed mount. Besides, "Mriya" was designed to launch the space shuttles to the orbit. Technical characteristics of AN-225 "Mriya" engine unit, airplane equipment, other sets, systems and details are similar to those of An-124-100 "Ruslan".

The Mriya was developed within the perspective space program in which the AN-225 should become the first stage of the system of a spaceship aerial launch, a flying space launching site from the back of which a space shuttle should start to orbit. Primarily the main task of the AN-225 was transportation of various parts of Energiya carrier-rocket and Bouran space shuttle which had been manufactured at the enterprises of central regions of the USSR, and final assembly should have been performed at Baikonour. Projected length of some aggregates reached 60 meters and diameter 8 meters. Range of transportation was 1500-2500 km. Besides, depending on mission, performed on the orbit, Bouran could land at different airdromes. So, it was necessary to deliver it again to Baikonour, to the place of previous launch.

This unique super heavy lifter was designed and constructed mainly to perform the following missions:

  • transportation of cargoes inside the cabin;
  • transportation of oversized cargoes mounted outside the fuselage;
  • carrier functions (first stage) for various aerospace systems.

The aircraft has a capacious cargo cabin that allows it to transport a variety of cargoes weighing up to 250 tons. For instance, it is possible to arrange in the cargo compartment either sixteen standard aeronautical containers of UAK type each holding 10 tons, or eighty cars, or any asingle-piece cargoes weighing to 200 tons (turbines, generators, dumpers - Belaz, Kamatsu, Euclid, etc.). The cargo cabin is 43 m long, 6.4 m wide and 4.4 m high. Pressurised, it allows to carry any sort of freight inside.

The airborne cargo handling equipment, design of the forward cargo door with a ramp ensure quick and easy loading/unloading operations. External store attachment points of the fuselage can accommodate cargoes with dimensions exceeding any other air or ground transport capabilities. Thus, conveyance of units and assemblies of 10 m in diameter and 70 m in length for gas, oil, mining, energy, and other industries. The aircraft delivered the Buran space shuttle orbiter. To attach these cargoes above the fuselage, an appropriate attachment system is available.

On October 16, 1986, the tactical-technical task to design universal airplane for air-space system including Buran multiply space apparatus and Rassvet (later Energiya) carrier-rocket was approved. On May 20, 1987, Decree No.587-132 of the USSR Government on the start of the aircraft 400 (later AN-225) design was issued.

Usually this period in the creation of any aircraft is characterized by a significant alteration of the preliminary draft, especially if it was assumed to without change any parts of other aircraft. As a rule, the detailed design stage ruthlessly smashes such illusions, but - again, as a rule - it does not matter, because the order is already in pocket. In this case, and it is desirable to emphasize the above-described first project hypothesis, due to the high level of performance, there were few changes. In the end, and detailed design and construction of the An-225 were generally quite smooth. A huge collective experience had created numerous families of transport aircraft. But it was not a period of calm, in contrast, ASTC and hundreds of other organizations worked hard, brnging the project to life.

On November 30, 1988 the aircraft named Mriya was rolled out from ANTONOVs an assembly shop. On 21 December 1988 the AN-225 took-off for the first time piloted by the crew including A.Galunenko, pilot-in-command, S.Gorbik, co-pilot, A.Shuleshchenko, senior flight-engineer, V.Gusar, the flight-engineer, S.Nechayev, the navigator, V.Beloborodov, radio-operator, and M.Kharchenko, the leading engineer on flight-tests.

On February 1, 1989, Mriya was represented to the Soviet and foreign specialists at Borispol airport. In February 1989 M.Gorbachov, General Secretary of Central Committee of the CPSU, familiarized with the AN-225 in Borispol. On board of this airplane the historical decision to pass two AN-124 airplanes to ANTONOV was taken. This event opened a broad way for commercial transportations by Ruslans and became an impulse for establishing of Antonov Airlines, ANTONOVs aviation transport subdivision.

On 22 March 1989 the first and only Antonov An-225 (crew captain A.Galunenko) established 106 new Federal Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) world records in several classes [other accounts report 110 world records during one flight]. Among them - the record of flight speed of 815.09 km/h along 2000 km closed circle with cargo of 155t , the record of altitude of 12430 m with this cargo. Other accounts report a speed of 813.09 km/h (505.2 mph) carrying a payload in the 70 -155 metric ton (154,320 - 341,710 lb.) class around a closed circuit of 2,000 km (1,243 miles). Entering in competition with American Boeing 747-400 held the record of maximum take-off weight (404.8t) the AN-225 surpassed this achievement by 104 tons.

On May 3, 1989 Mriya started from the airfield in Baikonur carrying on a back its first cargo Buran space shuttle weighted 60 t. Together they performed 13 test flights. On May 13, 1989 the AN-225 with Buran performed non-stop flight on 2700 route Baikonur Kiev during 4 h and 25 min and successfully landed in Gostomel. From May 15, 1989 January 5, 1996 the AN-225 was under state tests.

In June 1989 the Mriya and Buran were demonstrated on the 38th International airshow in Le Bourget (France). When it took of from Kiev to fly to Paris, the combination has a takeoff weight of 1,234,600 lb., the greatest weight ever lifted into the air. Thousands of people from all over the world came to look at them. The AN-225 in a flash became the world sensation. Technique is a miracle, on the brink of what may be imagined in our rapid time!,A heart isoverfilled with pride of might of human mind looking at this fantastic aircraft. The aircraft is big like your Soviet country, Thank you those enthusiastic appraisals were took out of multilanguage book of comments which was on board of the AN-225 during a show.

In August 1989 the AN-225 participated in air show in Vancouver (Canada). Brian Malrooni, prime-minister of the country, told Soviet aviators who flew to Canada by their airplanes gifted us a holiday. In September the airplane visited Prague and was demonstrated in the exhibition of the SEI countries.

In 1990 the AN-225 was shown at the shows in Farnborough (Great Britain) and in the USA, it participated in two American air shows in Okhlahoma-City and in Seattle. The worlds biggest airplane attracted attention of the huge number of Americans. In May 1990, the Mriya (crew captain S.Gorbik) performed its first commercial flight. It carried a tractor weighing over 110 t from Chelyabinsk to Yakutia. This expedition to Zapolyarye was very useful to investigate the AN-225 behavior under North conditions. on June 21, 1991 the presentation of aerospace system consisting of the Mriya and Interim HOTOL shuttle of British Aerospace was conducted in the Headquarter of the European space agency.

Together with Buran, Mriya performed 14 flights with total duration of 28 hours and 27 minutes. They had been performed from the airfields located in various climatic zones of the USSR. In 1990 CIA assessed that the Soviets would build five to 10 An-225s. However after collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, financing of Energiya-Buran program was terminated and the project stopped. In 1994 Mriya stopped its flights also.





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