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Baikonur Cosmodrome
45.9 N 63.3 E

The Baikonur Cosmodrome (also known as Tyuratam) is the oldest space launch facility in the world. In the 1950's, the Soviet Union announced that space launch operations were being conducted from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Some concluded that this facility must be near the city of Baikonur, Kazakhstan. In truth, the launch facilities are located 400 km to the southwest near the railhead at Tyuratam The Soviets built the city of Leninsk near the facility to provide apartments, schools, and administrative support to the tens of thousands of worker at the launch facility. The first man­made satellite to orbit the Earth was launched from here. This site has been the source of all manned Soviet and CIS launches and of most lunar, planetary, and geostationary orbit launches. Due to range safety restrictions at other launch sites, Tyuratam is the only site that can launch satellites directly into retrograde orbits. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has claimed ownership of the facility. Most of the skilled workers and the military forces protecting some of the facilities are, however, Russian.

Baikonur supports the largest assortment of CIS launch vehicles: Proton-K, Rokot, Soyuz-U, Molniya-M, Tsyklon-2, and Zenit. Eight launch pads were operational in 1994, two were being overhauled, and three Energiya launch pads (complexes 110 left and right and 250) were no longer in use. Baikonur is the origin of all manned and man-related (e.g., space stations and resupply ships), lunar, interplanetary, high-altitude navigation, and GEO missions. Baikonur will also be critical for the deployment and the routine operations of the International Space Station. A total of 52 space launches were conducted at Baikonur in the 1993-1994 period, more than any other site in the world.

On 31 August 1991, soon after the attempted coup against the Soviet President Gorbachev, the President of Kazakhstan signed a decree asserting jurisdiction over Baikonur. The CIS agreement on Joint Activity in Space and Exploitation, signed at the creation of the CIS in Minsk on 30 December 1991, recognized the value of Baikonur and the need to maintain its facilities for the benefit of all CIS member states. However, the next three years witnessed considerable disagreement on how to effect this goal. Finally, in 1994 the Russian Federation and Kazakstan concluded a leasing arrangement whereby Baikonur would come under control of the Russian Federation for an annual fee.

During 1993-1994 world attention was fixed on the conditions at Baikonur and the adjacent town of Leninsk. Military unrest which let to riots in 1992 continued in 1993, and numerous Russian and Western reports warned of severe degradation of technical and social facilities. The Winter of 1993-1994 was particularly severe due to a shortage of food and heating, and launch delays and accidents (including a fire at an integration and test facility) occurred with disturbing frequency.

A US Congressional delegation visited Baikonur in December, 1993, to ascertain the extent of the problems and their potential impact on future US-Russian cooperative space missions. The situation stabilized in 1994 with the new Russian-Kazakhstan accord and direct intervention by the Russian government. In the short-term many military support activities will be transferred to the civilian Russian Space Agency, and in the long-term many space missions will likely be transferred to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome or the proposed Svobodnyy Cosmodrome (References 389-414).

Unlike many space launch facilities in the World, both Baikonur and Plesetsk are not directly situated on or near a coast. Consequently, the lower, sub-orbital stages of USSR/CIS boosters normally fall back on former Soviet territory. This situation limits the permissible launch azimuths to avoid impacts near populated or foreign regions, e.g., due east launches (the most advantageous) from Baikonur are forbidden since lower rocket stages would fall on Chinese territory. For those launch corridors which are used, tens othousands of tons of spent boosters, many with toxic residual propellants still on board, now litter the countryside. Steps are underway around both Baikonur and Plesetsk to mitigate the situation, but the problem remains monumental.


389. Oversight Visit. Baikonur Cosmodrome, House Report 103-451, House of Representatives, US Congress, 23 March 1994.

390. V. Kravtsov, Pravda, 4 January 1993, p. 4.

391. A. Zak, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 9 February 1993, p. 6. 392. M Rebrov, Delovoy Mir, 30 July 1993, p. 15.

393. A. Zak, Nezayisimaya Gazeta, 13 July 1993, p. 6.

394. V. Chernobrov, Rossiyskiye Vesti, 7 July 1993, p. 7.

395. O. Volkov, Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta, 14 July 1993, p. 2.

396. A. Shumilin, Pravda, 7 September 1993, pp.1-2.

397. O. Moroz, Literaturnaya Gazeta, 10 November 1993, p. 9.

398. V. Ardayec, Izvestiya, 28 December 1993, p. 2.

399. Novosti Kosmonavtiki, 20 November- 3 December 1993, pp.26-29 and 18-31 December 1993, pp.31-34.

400. V. Ardayev, Izvestiya, 14 January 1994, p. 2.

401. I. Marinin, Novosti Kosmonavtiki, 17-25 February 1994, pp. 37-41 and 26 February - 11 March 1994, p. 37.

402. L. Minasyan, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 February 1994, p.3.

403. V. Kononenko, Izvestiya, 30 March 1994, p.3.

404. O. Falichev, Krasnaya Zvezda, 30 March 1994, p.1.

405. S. Tsekhmistrenko, Kommersant Daily, 2 April 1994, p.4.

406. T. Sarabekova, Panorama, 25 June 1994, p.3.

407. Yu. Konorov, Rosslyskiye Vesti, 19 July 1994, p.5.

408. V. Li, Kazakstanskaya Pravda, 5 July 1994, p.1.

409. V. Berborodov, Krasnaya Zvezda, 22 October 1994, p.4.

410. S. Leskov, Izvestiya, 28 December 1994, p.2.

411. J. Villain, "Baikonour Grandeur et Decadence", Science et Vie, November 1994, pp.106-109.

412. J.M. Lenorovitz, "Russia Signs Pact on Asian Launch Site", Aviation Week and Space Technology, 19 September 1994, p. 25.

413. P.B. de Selding, "Cosmodrome's Operators Cite Deteriorating Conditions", Space News, 10-16 October 1994, p.7.

414. Baikonur. La Porte Des Etoiles, SEP, Armand Colin, Paris, 1994.

Sources and Resources

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