A launch site for spacecraft, located near Baikonur (formerly Tyuratam and Leninsk), Kazakhstan, near the Aral Sea. It was built in 1955. The first Soviet satellites and all Soviet (later Russian) space probes, as well as crewed Soyuz missions, were launched from here. In July 2000 the Zvezda module for the International Space Station (ISS) was sent into orbit from Baikonur. Following NASA's suspension of shuttle flights after the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster, later flights to the ISS have been launched from Baikonur. The cosmodrome, which Russia now rents from Kazakhstan, is the world's largest space launching facility. It covers an area of 12 200 sq km, much larger than its US equivalent, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This includes dozens of launching pads, five tracking control centres, nine tracking stations, and a rocket test range. On 11 May 2002, a hanger used to assemble and test space vehicles collapsed, killing eight people.
The cosmodrome is some 322 km southwest of the mining town of Baikonur, but the Soviets informed the International Aeronautical Federation that Baikonur was Gagarin's launch site, and the name remained. However, in 1996 Russian president Boris Yeltsin changed the name of the town of Tyuratam, where the cosmodrome is situated, to Baikonur.
http://www.russianspaceweb.com/baikonur.html In-depth and illustrated accounts of the history of the Baikonur launch centre, with detailed information on the Energiya-Buran and Soyuz facilities, launch sites, and control station at Baikonur. There is also information on, as well as photographs of, the town of Baikonur (formerly Tyuratam).
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.