The September 2019 launch of a Soyuz MS-15 taking astronauts to the international space station from the famous ‘Gagarin’s Start’ launchpad is expected to be the last manned launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome as both Russia and the USA have constructed their own launch facilities within their respective territories. These are expected to accommodate the manned space launches for each nation from 2020 onwards. This may mark the end of an era for the legendry Baikonur cosmodrome.
Quick facts about Baikonur
- The cosmodrome is located in the harsh Kazakhstani desert, formerly part of the Soviet Union. The area is now rented by Russia and classed as Russian territory also land locked by Kazakhstan.
- Sputnik-1 the world’s first satellite launched in 1957. It was also the first successful launch from Baikonur.
- Luna-1 the first spacecraft to go near the moon, launched from Baikonur in 1959.
- Baikonur saw the world’s worst launchpad failure in 1960 when a missile detonated on the launchpad killing an estimated 150 people. The incident was kept secret for decades, even from the families of those killed in the disaster.
- Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space is launched from Baikonur in 1961 in the Soviet Vostok spacecraft.
- Buran, the Soviets own space shuttle takes its first flight, autonomously on top on an Energia rocket, launched from Baikonur in 1998.
- Funding for the Soviet space program is then cut, and the Soviet Union finally collapses in 1991. The Buran prototype is left abandoned in a hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome and never flies again.
- The small mining town of Baikonur is actually around 200km away from the Cosmodrome. During the cold war it was common for the Soviets to name secret facilities with the same name as an existing town to mask the real location.
Click the image below to see a 360 panorama of Baikonur from above
You can also view the panorama on a VR headset – just click the image above on the headsets VR browser and take a look around!