The complex includes the territory of the space centre and the city.
The complex began its existence as a research and testing ground of the USSR Defence Ministry, and later became a space port.
The space centre was founded on 2 June 1955. City day is also celebrated on this day. Construction on the first capital building of the future space centre was started by army builders on 5 May 1955.
15 May 1957 saw the first launch of the R-7 intercontinental ballistic rocket. On 4 October 1957 a rocket of this type sent the world’s first artificial satellite into orbit.
On 12 April 1961, the spaceship Vostok was launched from the space centre carrying the world’s first cosmonaut Yury Gagarin.
In the first decade of the space centre’s existence, a number of research and military spacecraft were sent into orbit. Soviet satellites launched from Baikonur reached the moon, Venus and Mars.
From the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s, tests of new military missile complexes and missile carriers were tested at the space centre. In these years, lengthy pilot flights were made at orbital space stations, communications and meteorological satellites were launched, and the creation of orbital groups of various types continued.
Over the next decade, orbital space stations were developed, and the international programmes Soyuz-Apollo and Intercosmos were realised. The launch of new generation spacecraft started.
In 1985–1995, the space centre conducted testing of the complexes Zenit and Energiya-Buran, and participated in construction and maintenance of the orbital space station Mir.
At the beginning of the 1990s, many space programmes were closed down, the number of launches was reduced, and the population of the city dropped noticeably.
In 1994, the Baikonur complex was leased by the Kazakhstan Government to the Russian Government for a period of 20 years. On 9 January 2004, the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan agreed to extend the lease period to 2050.
The last decade has been a time of revival for the space centre and the city, the creation of enterprises of the Federal space agency, commercial launches with the participation of foreign companies, and participation in a large-scale programme to create an International space station. The carrier rockets Proton M, Soyuz FG, Rokot, Dnepr and Strela have been launched for the first time.
Today, Baikonur is one of the major space centres in the world, both in the assortment of rockets leaving its launch complexes, and by the level of projects realised there and the scientific and human potential.
In 50 years, according to the calculations of the space centre, over 1,200 carrier rockets, around 1,200 intercontinental ballistic missiles and over 1,400 spacecraft have been launched.
Currently, priority areas of test work are preparation and launching of spacecraft of various kinds, maintaining and modernising the existing ground complexes, and realising joint projects, including the Russian-Kazakhstan project to create the space rocket complex Baiterek.
THE CITY OF BAIKONUR
The city was created at the same time the technical grounds of the space centre were built. Progress was made from the first tents and wooden barracks to modern buildings, and hundreds of kilometres of engineer networks and roads.
Today, the city infrastructure consists of 1,200 objects and buildings. The housing fund consists of 360 multi-storey buildings with a total area of over 1 million square metres. There are 14 schools in the city, two musical schools, a sport school and an art school, 10 pre-schools, a polytechnic university, a city Palace of Culture, a garrison House of Officers, a city hospital, a military hospital, the sporting complex Mayak, the swimming pool Orion, and two beach relaxation zones.
Baikonur is developing in accordance with the special programme “Main directions in restoring and maintaining the infrastructure of the Baikonur complex for 2001–2005”. State unitary enterprises are responsible for ensuring the functioning of the city infrastructure and the complex as a whole.
Owing to the special status of the city, the head of the city administration is appointed to the position by joint decision of the Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan. In May 2002, Aleksandr Fyodorovich Mezentsev (a retired general-major, an honoured builder of the Russian Federation and veteran of the space centre) was appointed head of city administration.
The Yubileiny aerodrome is a special-class aerodrome and designed for planes carrying passengers and spacecraft to land and take off. It was built under the programme Energiya-Buran. Large loads of cargo and modules of the Energiya carrier rocket arrived at this aerodrome.
The orbital spaceship Buran landed at the Yubileiny runway after its only flight into space.
After the aerodrome was transferred to Roskosmos, it was repaired, and since the mid-1990s it has been used for planes carrying commercial spacecraft and charter flights carried out in the interests of space industry companies.
ASSEMBLY AND TESTING CORPUS
The assembly and testing corpus on ground 92 was built in 1975–1980 to prepare the launch using Proton carrier rockets of spacecraft developed by the research and production association “Applied Mechanics” named after M.F. Reshetnev and the research and production association named after S.A. Lavochkin, and booster units developed by the space rocket company “Energiya”.
The corpus is a general industry building of five halls with a total area of 150,400 square kilometres.
At the end of the 1990s, most of the halls were reconstructed for manufacturing, refuelling and assembling the head sections of spacecraft created with the use of modern technology.
As part of bilateral Russian-Kazakhstan agreements, currently in the assembly and testing corpus technical complexes are being created to manufacture Angara rocket carriers, for the new ecologically safe cosmic rocket complex Baiterek, the spacecraft KAZSAT and an oxygen-hydrogen booster unit.
Currently 27 spacecraft of leading foreign aerospace companies have been manufactured at the assembly and testing corpus, as well as seven Proton-M missile carriers.
PROTON LAUNCH COMPLEX
The launch complex at ground №200 consists of two launchers. The left launcher (№39) is designed for launching the Proton-K and Proton-M rocket carriers with the entire selection of spacecraft of Russian and foreign manufacture. The last launch (of the American spacecraft Direk TV-8) was made on 22 May 2005. The next launch is planned for mid-June 2005, of the Russian telecommunications spacecraft Express-AM3.
The right launcher (№40) is no longer used. In its place, it is planned to build a launching complex for the Baiterek rocket carrier.
The creation of the joint Russian-Kazakhstan space rocket complex Baiterek on the basis of the Angara rocket carrier is stipulated in accordance with the bilateral documents on Baikonur signed in January 2004 in Astana (Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on the development of cooperation on effective use of the Baikonur complex, Memorandum between Russia and Kazakhstan on further development of cooperation on issues of supporting the functioning of the Baikonur complex, Memorandum between the Federal Space Agency and the Kazakhstan Transport and Communications Ministry on mutual understanding on the issue of creating the Kazakhstan communications and broadcast satellite KazSat).
Development of the space rockets is carried out by Russia, and financing of the project is provided by Kazakhstan.
At the construction stage around 2,000 jobs will be created, and around 1,000 specialists will work on the space rocket complex. Construction of the infrastructure will take 3–5 years.
SOYUZ LAUNCH COMPLEX (Gagarin launch)
The launch complex on ground №1 is the first launcher in the world for intercontinental and space rockets. It was built in 1956–1957. This is where the first intercontinental ballistic missile in the world was launched, the first satellite, the world’s first cosmonaut, the majority of Soviet/Russian cosmonauts, and the first spacecraft to the moon, Venus and Mars. A total of 391 launches have been made from the complex.
The latest launch (research laboratory Foton-M №2) was held on 31 May 2005. The next launch is planned in mid-June with the freight transport ship Progress M-53, designed to deliver supplies to the International space station.
MEMORIAL TO PERISHED TEST PILOTS
The memorial grave of space centre test pilots tragically killed in 1960 and 1963 is located on Gagarian Boulevard.
On 24 October 1960, while preparing R-16 rockets on ground 41, there was an unsanctioned start of the main engine of the second stage of the rocket. The instant combination of fuel components led to intensive ignition and destruction of the entire construction of the rocket. Dozens of test pilots were killed, and many received burns and injuries of various degrees.
On 24 October 1963, during routine maintenance a fire broke out in the launcher shaft of an intercontinental ballistic rocket on ground 70, killing seven soldiers.
Since then, on 24 October rocket launches are not planned or carried out at the space centre, and neither are other important works.
Cosmonaut Hotel is designed for cosmonauts in Baikonur to stay at and make final pre-flight preparations. It has specialised training machines, laboratories, medical check-up rooms, a gym and a summer swimming pool.
At the conference hall of the hotel, sessions of the State commission are held to approve the crew members and make decisions on the launch, as are press-conferences.
According to tradition, each crew signs their autographs on the doors of the two hotel rooms where the commanders usually stay. Cosmonauts who are going into space for the first time plant trees on Cosmonaut Avenue.
Zvyozdny (Star) Hotel (it has been called this since October 2004, previously it was called “Pervy Domik” (First House)) is situated on the shore of the Syr-Darye River, and has been working since 1964. It is a two-storey cottage designed for brief stays by VIP guests.