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MiG 105-11 test vehicle at the Monino Air Force museum.[1]
Role Test vehicle
Manufacturer Mikoyan-Gurevich
First flight 1976
Status Cancelled
Primary user Soviet Air Force

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-105 part of a program known as the Spiral (aerospace system) was a manned test vehicle to explore low-speed handling and landing.[2] It was a visible result of a Soviet project to create an orbital spaceplane. This was originally conceived in response to the American X-20 Dyna-Soar military space project and may have been influenced by contemporary manned lifting body research being conducted by NASA's Flight Research Center in California. The MiG 105 was nicknamed "Lapot" Russian: лапоть, or bast shoe (the word is also used as a slang for "shoe") for the shape of its nose.


The program was also known as EPOS (Russian acronym for Experimental Passenger Orbital Aircraft). Work on this project finally began in 1965, two years after Dyna-Soar's cancellation. The project was halted in 1969, to be briefly resurrected in 1974 in response to the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. The test vehicle made its first subsonic free-flight test in 1976, taking off under its own power from an old airstrip near Moscow. It was flown by pilot A. G. Festovets to the Zhukovskii flight test center, a distance of 19 miles. Flight tests, totaling eight in all, continued sporadically until 1978. The actual space plane project was cancelled when the decision was made to instead proceed with the Buran project. The MiG test vehicle itself still exists and is currently on display at the Monino Air Force Museum in Russia.

Gleb Lozino-Lozinskiy was the leader of the Spiral development programme.

Differences between Dyna-Soar and Spiral

Although having basically the same mission, Dyna-Soar and Spiral were radically different vehicles. For example:

  • While the X-20 Dyna-Soar was designed for launch atop a conventional expendable rocket such as the Titan III-C or Saturn I, Soviet engineers opted for a midair launch scheme for Spiral. Known as "50 / 50", the idea was that the spaceplane and a liquid fuel booster stage would be launched at high altitude from the back of a large, airbreathing mothership travelling at hypersonic speeds. The idea was similar to that used by the United States in launching the D-21 Tagboard reconnaissance drone from the back of the A-12 Oxcart. The mothership was to have been built by the Tupolev Design Bureau (OKB-156) and utilize many of the same technologies developed for the Tu-144 supersonic transport and the Sukhoi T-4 mach-3 bomber (somewhat similar to the XB-70 Valkyrie). It never made it off the drawing boards. The U.S. purportedly flew a similar design in the 1990s under the secret Blackstar project.
  • Dyna-Soar was designed with a fixed, delta-wing planform, while Spiral featured an innovative variable-geometry wing. During launch and reentry, these were folded against the sides of the vehicle at a 60-degree angle, acting as vertical stabilizers. After dropping to subsonic speeds post-reentry, the pilot activated a set of electric actuators which lowered the wings into the horizontal position, giving the spaceplane better flight characteristics.
  • Spiral was built to allow for a powered landing and go-around maneuver in case of a missed landing approach. An air intake for a single Koliesov turbojet was mounted beneath the central vertical stabilizer. This was protected during launch and reentry by an electric clamshell door, which would open at subsonic speeds. By comparison, Dyna-Soar was designed primarily for a once-off, unpowered deadstick landing, although some documentation claims that its emergency solid-fuel escape rocket (the third stage engine from an LGM-30 Minuteman ICBM) could be used for a go-around maneuver if necessary.
  • Spiral was designed as a lifting body, while Dyna-Soar was designed more like a conventional aircraft.
  • High temperature superalloy metals such as niobium, molybdenum, tungsten and rene 41 were to have been used in the heatshield structure of the X-20. Spiral was to have been protected by what Soviet engineers termed "scale-plate armour": individual steel plates hung from articulated ceramic bearings to allow for thermal expansion during reentry. Several BOR (Russian acronym for Unpiloted Orbital Rocketplane) craft were built and launched to test this concept.
  • In the event of a booster explosion or in-flight emergency, the insulated crew compartment of Spiral was designed to separate from the rest of the vehicle and parachute to earth like a conventional ballistic capsule; this could occur at any point in the flight. Such an escape crew capsule was also considered for Dyna-Soar, but American engineers eventually opted for a solid-fuel escape rocket that would kick the spaceplane away from an exploding booster, saving both pilot and spacecraft.
  • Much like today's Space Shuttle, Dyna-Soar was designed with a small payload bay behind the pressurized crew module. This could be used for lofting small satellites, carrying surveillance equipment, weapons or even an extra crewmember in a pop-in cockpit. Spiral, on the other hand, appears to have been intended to carry only its pilot. Presumably, this was because the extra space which could have held a payload bay was needed for the Koliesov turbojet and its fuel tanks.
  • Both Dyna-Soar and Spiral were designed to land on skids. The landing skids on Dyna-Soar were designed to deploy from insulated doors on the underside of the vehicle, like a conventional aircraft. Soviet engineers, most likely concerned about heatshield integrity, designed the landing skids on Spiral to deploy from a set of doors on the sides of the fuselage just above and ahead of the wings. This unusual arrangement resulted in a hard landing on at least one occasion.


Gherman Titov, the second cosmonaut and the main test pilot of the MiG-105.

A cosmonaut training group for pilots assigned to fly this vehicle was formed in the early 1960s. It went through many changes and was eventually dissolved entirely. Known members included:

  • Gherman Titov, the second man to orbit the Earth (see Vostok 2 mission).
  • A. G. Fastovets, who piloted the vehicle during the majority of its atmospheric tests.


The БОР ([Беспилотный Орбитальный Ракетоплан, Bespilotnyi Orbital'nyi Raketoplan] Error: {{Lang-xx}}: text has italic markup (help), "Unpiloted Orbital Rocketplane"). Another spacecraft to use the Spiral design was the BOR series, unmanned subscale reentry test vehicles. American analogs X-23 PRIME and ASSET. Several of these craft have been preserved in aerospace museums around the world.

Image Type Launch date Usage Current status
BOR-1 15.07.1969 Flight test, the experimental 1:3 scale model.
Burned in the atmosphere at a height of about 60–70 km with the speed 8 000 mph (13 000 km/h). Was deployed at an altitude 328,083 ft (100 km) by 11K65
BOR-2.jpg BOR-2 1969–1972 Sub-scale model of the Spiral space plane. 4 launches. NPO Molniya, Moscow
BOR-3 1973–1974 Sub-scale model of the Spiral space plane. 2 launches.
1. Destruction of the nose fairings after launch at a height of about 5 km (speed 0.94 Mach).
2. Flight program is fully implemented. Crashed on landing (Parachute failure)
BOR-4S.jpg BOR-4 1980–1984 Sub-scale model of the Spiral space plane. 4 launches and 2 unconfirmed NPO Molniya, Moscow
BOR-5 Oberseite.JPG BOR-5 1984–1988 Flight tests, the experimental sub-scale base model. 5 launches. Data was also used in the Buran project. Technik Museum Speyer, Germany
Museum in Monino, Russia
BOR-6.jpg BOR-6 Sub-scale model of the Spiral space plane NPO Molniya, Moscow


 Soviet Union

Specifications (MiG 105-11)

Data from Soviet X-planes; Yefim Gordon, Bill Gunston

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 10.6m (including instrument boom) (34 ft 9 in)
  • Wingspan: 6.7m (21 ft 12 in)
  • Height: m (ft in)
  • Wing area: 24m² (258ft²)
  • Empty weight: 3,500 Kg (7,716 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 4,220 Kg (9,303 lb)
  • Useful load: Kg (lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: Kg (lb)
  • 500 Kg Fuel


  • Never exceed speed: km/h (knots, mph)
  • Maximum speed: 800km/h (432 knots, 500 mph)
  • Cruise speed: km/h (knots, mph)
  • Stall speed: km/h (knots, mph)
  • Range: km (nm, mi)
  • Service ceiling: m (ft)
  • Rate of climb: m/s (ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 175 kg/m² (lb/ft²)

Landing speed 250-270 km/h ( 155-168 mph )

See also


  1. Soviet X-planes; Yefim Gordon, Bill Gunston
  2. Soviet X-planes; Yefim Gordon, Bill Gunston

External links

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