Baikonur Cosmodrome is the launch complex where Sputnik 1, Earth's first artificial satellite, was launched.
Image at right: Launch Complex 333-L: Baikonur has two Proton launch complexes, one for international launches, and one for Russian military launches. Each launch complex consists of two launch pads. Launch Complex 333, the left launch pad, was used for the Zarya launch. This launch pad, which is also referred to as "point 23," was fully refurbished in 1989. Launch pad 333-R is currently undergoing refurbishment.
The rocket that lifted Yuri Gagarin, the first human in orbit, was also launched from Baikonur. In fact, all Russian crewed missions are launched from Baikonur, as well as all geostationary, lunar, planetary and ocean surveillance missions.
All space station flights using Russian launch vehicles will be launched from Baikonur. Baikonur is also the only Russian launch site capable of launching the Proton launch vehicle, which was used for Zarya, the first element launch of the space station.
The name Baikonur is misleading. The former Soviet Union used the name and coordinates of a small mining town, Baikonur, to describe the location of its rocket complex. In fact, the launch complex is about 322 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of the mining town near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. This misrepresentation was done intentionally to hide the actual location of the launch complex. Although the true location is now known, the launch complex is still referred to as Baikonur.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome is located in the Republic of Kazakhstan, in a semi-arid zone. It is approximately 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) southeast of Moscow, Russia. The annual temperature averages 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit), but ranges from minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter to plus 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer.
Map of Baikonur Cosmodrome