Published on Jan 19, 2020

Baikonur Background Images

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Baikonur (Kazakh: Байқоңыр, Baıqońyr, بايقوڭىر‎; Russian: Байконур, romanized: Baykonur), formerly known as Leninsk (also, see Tyuratam), is a city of republic significance in Kazakhstan on the northern bank of the Syr Darya river, rented and administered by the Russian Federation. It was constructed to service the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was officially renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on December 20, 1995. During the Soviet period, it was sometimes referred to as Звездоград (Zvezdograd), Russian for ‘Star City’.

In 2009, the population of Baikonur was 36,175 (2009 Census results), while in 1999, it was 28,776 (1999 Census results).

The rented area is an ellipse measuring 90 kilometres (56 mi) east to west by 85 km (53 mi) north to south, with the cosmodrome situated at the area’s centre.

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The original Baikonur (Kazakh for “wealthy brown”, i.e. “fertile land with many herbs”) is a mining town 320 kilometres northeast of the present location, near Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan’s Karagandy Region. Starting with Vostok 1 in April 1961, the launch site was given this name to cause confusion and keep the location secret. (The original Baikonur’s residents took advantage of the confusion by ordering and receiving many scarce materials before government officials discovered the deception.) Baikonur’s railway station predates the base and retains the old name of Tyuratam. This was the original Soviet railway station (railhead) on the Moscow to Tashkent Railway that the Cosmodrome was initially named after.

The fortunes of the city have varied according to those of the Soviet or Russian space program and its Baikonur Cosmodrome. Foreign visitors need pre-approval from the Russian authorities to visit both the town of Baikonur itself and the Cosmodrome. Foreign visitors need to obtain a written approval which is completely separate from having a regular Russian Visa.

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 right for a composite satellite image of the early Tyuratam launch complex, the cosmodrome (30 May 1962).

The Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakh: Байқоңыр ғарыш айлағы, romanized: Baıqońyr ǵarysh aılaǵy; Russian: Космодро́м Байкону́р, romanized: Kosmodrom Baykonur) is a spaceport located in an area of southern Kazakhstan leased to Russia.

The Cosmodrome is the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility. The spaceport is located in the desert steppe of Baikonur, about 200 kilometres (124 mi) east of the Aral Sea and north of the river Syr Darya. It is near the Tyuratam railway station and is about 90 metres (300 ft) above sea level. Baikonur cosmodrome and the city of Baikonur celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the foundation on 2 June 2018.

The spaceport is currently leased by the Kazakh Government to Russia until 2050, and is managed jointly by the Roscosmos State Corporation and the Russian Aerospace Forces.

The shape of the area leased is an ellipse, measuring 90 kilometres (56 mi) east–west by 85 kilometres (53 mi) 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 the Soviet space program. Under the current Russian space program, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military, and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian spaceflights are launched from Baikonur.

Both Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, and Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight, were launched from Baikonur. The launch pad used for both missions was renamed Gagarin’s Start in honor of Russian Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, pilot of Vostok 1 and first human in space.

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