Baikonur Cosmodrome

Baikonur Cosmodrome

The Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakh: Байқоңыр ғарыш айлағы, "Bayqoñır ğarış aylağı"; Russian: Космодром Байконур, "Kosmodrom Bajkonur"), also called Tjuratam, is the world's oldestFact|date=June 2008 and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppes of Kazakhstan, about km to mi | 200 | precision=0 east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tjuratam railway station. The facility derives its name from a wider area known as Baikonur and is also traditionally linked with the town of Zhezqazghan. It is leased by the Kazakh government to Russia (currently until 2050) and is managed by the Russian Federal Space Agency. The shape of the area leased is an ellipse, measuring 90 kilometres east-west by 85 kilometres north-south, with the cosmodrome at the centre. It was originally built by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s as the base of operations for its ambitious space program, but fell into decline [ cite news | publisher=BBC | title=Russia's space dreams abandoned | url= | | accessdate=2007-11-14 | date=2002-05-13 | last=Whitehouse | first=David ] in the years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. One of the launch pads, known as Gagarin's Start, is located at coord|45|55|13|N|63|20|32|E|region:KZ_type:landmark|name=Gagarin's Start (Baikonur Cosmodrome) and is the launch pad from which Vostok 1 was launched.


Russian sources have claimed the name "Baikonur" was chosen to misdirect the West to Baikonur, a mining town about km to mi | 320 | precision=0 northeast of the launch center, near Zhezqazghan. "Baikonur" may also refer to the entire region. [] In the Kazakh dialect, Tyuratam means "broken arrow", which may be another reason why it was not used as the public name of the launch site. For whatever reason, the name of "Baikonur Cosmodrome" became official when the nearby town of Leninsk, was renamed to Baikonur by Boris Yeltsin on December 20, 1995.


Soviet era

Baikonur was founded on June 2, 1955. It was originally built as a long-range-missile center and later expanded to include launch facilities for space flight. Sergei Korolev, the Chief Designer of the Soviet R-7 Semyorka ICBM, selected the site, as the radio control system of the rocket required a ground station several hundred kilometers down range of the launch pads. The expense of constructing the launch facilities and the several hundred kilometers of new road and train lines made the Cosmodrome one of the most costly infrastructure projects the Soviets undertook. A supporting town was built around the facility to provide housing, schools and support infrastructure for workers. It was raised to city status in 1966 and named Leninsk.

The Soviet government established the Nauchno-Issledovatel’skii Ispytatel’nyi Poligon N.5 (NIIIP-5), or Scientific-Research Test Range N.5, by its decree of 12 February 1955. The U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane found and photographed the Tyuratam missile test range (cosmodrome Baikonur) for the first time on 5 August 1957. See a composite satellite image of the early Tyuratam launch complex, the cosmodrome (30 May 1962).

Many historic flights lifted off from Baikonur: the first operational ICBM; the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957; the first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961; and the flight of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. 14 cosmonauts of 13 other nations, such as Czechoslovakia, East Germany and France, started their historical journeys from here as well under Interkosmos program. In 1960, a prototype ICBM exploded before launch, killing over 100 people.

Russian era

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Russian space program continued to operate from Baikonur under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 1995, the city surrounding the spaceport was renamed Baikonur. On June 8, 2005 the Russian Federation Council ratified an agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan extending Russia’s rent term of the spaceport until 2050. The rent price - which is fixed at 115 million US dollars per year - is the source of a long-running dispute between the two countries. That dispute has prompted Russia to begin upgrading its own Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk Oblast of Northern Russia as a fallback option.Fact|date=April 2008


Baikonur is fully equipped with facilities for launching both manned and unmanned space vehicles. It supports several generations of Russian spacecraft: Soyuz, Proton, Tsyklon, Dnepr, Zenit and Buran. During the temporary lapse of the United States' Space Shuttle program after the Columbia Disaster in 2003 it played an essential role in operating and resupplying of the International Space Station with Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.

Downrange from the launchpad, spent launch equipment is dropped directly on the ground where it is salvaged by the workers and by the local population. [ Baikonur Downrange]

List of launchpads

* Pad 1/5 (Gagarin's Start): Soyuz-Soyuz/Progress/Ikar - coord|45.920|N|63.342|E
* Pad 31/6: Soyuz-Kosmos/Fregat - coord|45.996|N|63.564|E
* Pad 41/15: Kosmos 3(1964-1968) - coord|45.976|N|63.669|E
* Pad 45/1: Zenit 2, Zenit 2M, Zenit 3M - coord|45.943|N|63.653|E
* Pad 45/2: Zenit 2(Destroyed in 1990 explosion) - coord|45.940|N|63.655|E
* Pad 81/23 (81L): Proton-K - coord|46.074|N|62.978|E
* Pad 81/24 (81P): Proton-M - coord|46.071|N|62.985|E
* Pad 90/19 (90L): Tsyklon-2(Inactive >1989) - coord|46.081|N|62.932|E
* Pad 90/20 (90R): Tsyklon-2 - coord|46.080|N|62.935|E
* Pad 109/95: Dnepr - coord|45.951|N|63.497|E
* Pad 110/37 (110L): N-1 (inactive after 1972)- coord|45.965|N|63.305|E
* Pad 110/38 (110R): N-1 (inactive after 1969)- coord|45.962|N|63.310|E
* Pad 175/59: Rokot(1991-1994) - coord|46.052|N|62.986|E
* Pad 200/39 (200L): Proton-M/Proton-K - coord|46.040|N|63.032|E
* Pad 200/40 (200R): Proton-K (inactive after 1991) - coord|46.036|N|63.038|E
* Pad 250: Energia (inactive after 1988) - coord|46.008|N|63.305|E

Future projects

On December 22, 2004, Kazakhstan and Russia signed a contract establishing the "Russia-Kazakhstan Baiterek JV" joint venture, in which each country holds a 50-percent stake. The goal of the project is the construction of the Baiterek (poplar tree) space launch complex, to facilitate operations of the Russian Angara rocket launcher. The site is scheduled to be completed in 2009. [cite web
url =
title =“Baiterek” Space Launch Complex
publisher =Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center
] This will allow launches with a payload of 26 tons to low earth orbit, compared to 20 tons using the Proton system. An additional benefit will be that the Angara uses kerosene and oxygen as fuel, which is less hazardous to the environment than the toxic fuels used by older boosters. The total expenditure on the Kazakh side will be $223 million over 19 years. [cite web
url =
title =Kazakh President Signs Law Re Baiterek Rocket Center

In 2010 construction is due to start on a new cosmodrome in the Russian Far East at Vostochny Cosmodrome. Upon completed in 2018 this new spaceport is due to become Russia's primary launch site replacing Baikonur.Fact|date=July 2008

Fictional Portrayals

The launch site is mentioned in the American "" TV series as being the launch site for an Oberth class starship, a science exploration vessel, in the 24th Century. This is likely a tribute to the heritage of the Cosmodrome by the writers of the show. Baikonur Cosmodrome is also featured in the computer game , when it is captured by GLA (Global Liberation Army) terrorists and used as a launch site for anthrax-armed ICBMs; however the site is destroyed by a USA counterattack in . Much of the first half of the anime Blue Gender covers the journey of the main characters, Yuji Kaido and Marlene Angel, from Japan to Baikonur in an attempt to flee the infested planet to an orbital space colony. In the video game "", the Cosmodrome is besieged by Kazakh-Pakistani rebel forces who attempt to take command of the facility for their own usage. United Nations soldiers and the titular "Ghosts" repel the attack.


External links

* Baikonur Cosmodrome [ historical note (in Russian) and historical pictures (2002)] on [] - NPO Molniya, maker of Russian space shuttle Buran.
* [ on Baikonur]
* [ on Angara and Baikonur expansion]

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