Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Baikonur Cosmodrome (Russian: Космодром Байконур, Kosmodrom Baykonur), also called Tyuratam, is the world's oldest and largest working space launch facility. It was originally built by the Soviets and is now under Russian regulation, although located in Kazakhstan. It is situated about 200 km to the east of the Aral Sea, on the north bank of the Syr Darya, near the town of Tyuratam, in the south-central part of the country.
The name Baikonur was chosen to intentionally mislead the West as to the actual location of the site by suggesting that the site was near Baikonur, a mining town about 320 km northeast of the space centre in the desert area near Dzhezkazgan. Its geographic coordinates are .
Baikonur was the chief operations center of the Soviets' ambitious space program from the late 1950s through the '80s and is equipped with complete facilities for launching both manned and unmanned space vehicles. It supports the largest range of launch vehicles: Soyuz, Proton, Tsyklon, Dnepr and Zenit. It plays an essential role in the deployment and routine operation of the International Space Station.
The facility was originally built in the mid-1950s as a long-range-missile centre, which was later expanded to include space-flight facilities. A supporting town was built around the facility to provide apartments, schools and support for workers. It was raised to city status in 1966 and named Leninsk, but later renamed Baikonur in 1995.
Many historic flights originated in Baikonur: the first artificial satellite in October 4, 1957, the first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin in 1961, and the flight of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963.
The program continued after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In March 1996 Russia agreed to lease the space center for 20 years, paying US $115 million annually in rent; the lease can be extended for another 10 years.
Due to the long-running dispute between Russia and Kazakhstan on the level of payments for the lease of the cosmodrome, Russia began expanding its own Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk Oblast of Northern Russia.
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