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Baikonur Cosmodrome
45.9 N 63.3 E, TYURATAM

Baikonur Cosmodrome

Overview, Supporting Facilities and Launch Vehicles of the

Soviet Space Program *

Post 1988 Studies

The Kazakhstan parliament finally ratified the Baikonur Cosmodrome agreement of 2004 for Russian use of the facilities through 2050. Though Russia and Kazakhstan have ratified the treaty for the use of the Baikonur Cosmodrome through 2050 Russia apparently has no intent of renewing that later but economics may change that in the final analysis. This is due to the fact that the Baikonur Cosmodrome is not on Russian territory and the $115 million dollar yearly rental bill for the use of the Baikonur Cosmodrome paid to Kazakhstan is not liked. Russia pays an additional $50 million yearly for the Baikonur Cosmodrome’s up keep maintenance of the facilities infrastructure over and above the rental bill. Russia and Kazakhstan are working together to build the Angara booster variant called Baiterek [“Poplar”] on a redeveloped Proton launch site on the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Apparently both countries have allocated $223 million for the facilities development once Angara development is completed. Some work has been started but its present status is uncertain and appears to be in limbo. So it would appear that the Baikonur Cosmodrome will remain in service through 2020 utilizing Soyuz through 2017-2020, Progress mission will last to the end of 2015 and the Angara derivation and perhaps the Dnepr SS-18 ICBM derived space booster through 2020-2025. Whether the Baikonur Cosmodrome will remain active through 2050 is uncertain.

In fact for all practical purposes except for a small number of required personnel during a launch campaign the Russia military Space Forces and Strategic Rocket Forces have left the Baikonur Cosmodrome leaving it to the Russian, Federal Space Agency (“Roskosmos”) and Kazakhstan’s Space Agency (Kazcosmos) to run. “The Russian military simply was not prepared to be diplomats with Kazakhstan’s newly independent government” which has not helped the Baikonur Cosmodrome future prospects. The Russian military typically does what it pleases for its own reasons with its facilities and does not care who likes it or dislikes it. This especially applies for those looking over their shoulders to see what they are doing to their country. Examples of this abuse are littered all over the now newly free eastern European countries and Russia and the Baikonur Cosmodrome is no different.

On 24 December 2013 Russia and Kazakhstan agreed a three-year roadmap for the joint use of the Baikonur space center. “We are pleased with this latest meeting and it has been very productive,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “Since our last meeting there has been a lot of work on concrete issues related to deepening and expanding cooperation in sensitive areas, including on energy issues and Baikonur.” The announcement came following a meeting of the two countries’ presidents on the sidelines of a Eurasian economic summit in Moscow on Tuesday. Most of the details of the agreement were not disclosed, but Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev said it "provides the possibility of involving our Ukrainian partner Yuzhmash," producer of the Zenit rocket that launches commercial satellites from the facility.

The newly-signed roadmap with Russia will hand ownership of the new Baiterek launch pad for the Zenit rocket to Kazakhstan, and requires recommendations be made to reduce the ecological impact of Russian heavy-lift Proton rocket launches beginning in 2016, he added.

After years of argument between Moscow and Astana over Russia’s use of Baikonur, the head of its space program said on 09 January 2014 that Kazakhstan wanted a permanent Russian presence at the space center. “Neither I nor any sane person in Kazakhstan wants Russia to leave Baikonur. We are partners and allies and at this level of international cooperation it’s normal to have joint strategic projects,” Talgat Musabaev said in an interview published Thursday by the Izvestia newspaper.

Musabaev, a former cosmonaut, said if Russia was to leave Baikonur, Kazakhstan would “do everything possible to ensure Baikonur remains a gateway to space.” He claimed Russian resistance to launches of Ukrainian-made Dnepr and Zenit rockets from Baikonur by Kazakhstan and its partners had relaxed following the appointment of Oleg Ostapenko as head of the Russian space agency Roscomos in October.

Proton launches were suspended for three months following the explosion of one of the rockets shortly after liftoff in July that rained blazing, highly toxic propellants on the Kazakh countryside. Russia is currently building the Vostochny space center in the Far Eastern Amur region, expected to open in 2018, to reduce its dependence on the Baikonur facility, which it leases from Kazakhstan for $115 million annually.

Baikonur supports the largest assortment of CIS launch vehicles: Proton-K, Rokot, Soyuz-U, Molniya-M, Tsyklon-2, and Zenit. Eight launch pads were operational in 1994, two were being overhauled, and three Energiya launch pads (complexes 110 left and right and 250) were no longer in use. Baikonur is the origin of all manned and man-related (e.g., space stations and re supply ships), lunar, interplanetary, high-altitude navigation, and GEO missions. Baikonur will also be critical for the deployment and the routine operations of the International Space Station. A total of 52 space launches were conducted at Baikonur in the 1993-1994 period, more than any other site in the world.

On 31 August 1991, soon after the attempted coup against the Soviet President Gorbachev, the President of Kazakhstan signed a decree asserting jurisdiction over Baikonur. The CIS agreement on Joint Activity in Space and Exploitation, signed at the creation of the CIS in Minsk on 30 December 1991, recognized the value of Baikonur and the need to maintain its facilities for the benefit of all CIS member states. However, the next three years witnessed considerable disagreement on how to effect this goal. Finally, in 1994 the Russian Federation and Kazakstan concluded a leasing arrangement whereby Baikonur would come under control of the Russian Federation for an annual fee.

During 1993-1994 world attention was fixed on the conditions at Baikonur and the adjacent town of Leninsk. Military unrest which let to riots in 1992 continued in 1993, and numerous Russian and Western reports warned of severe degradation of technical and social facilities. The Winter of 1993-1994 was particularly severe due to a shortage of food and heating, and launch delays and accidents (including a fire at an integration and test facility) occurred with disturbing frequency.

A US Congressional delegation visited Baikonur in December, 1993, to ascertain the extent of the problems and their potential impact on future US-Russian cooperative space missions. The situation stabilized in 1994 with the new Russian-Kazakhstan accord and direct intervention by the Russian government. In the short-term many military support activities will be transferred to the civilian Russian Space Agency, and in the long-term many space missions will likely be transferred to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome or the proposed Svobodnyy Cosmodrome (References 389-414).

Unlike many space launch facilities in the World, both Baikonur and Plesetsk are not directly situated on or near a coast. Consequently, the lower, sub-orbital stages of USSR/CIS boosters normally fall back on former Soviet territory. This situation limits the permissible launch azimuths to avoid impacts near populated or foreign regions, e.g., due east launches (the most advantageous) from Baikonur are forbidden since lower rocket stages would fall on Chinese territory. For those launch corridors which are used, tens of thousands of tons of spent boosters, many with toxic residual propellants still on board, now litter the countryside. Steps are underway around both Baikonur and Plesetsk to mitigate the situation, but the problem remains monumental.


  • 389. Oversight Visit. Baikonur Cosmodrome, House Report 103-451, House of Representatives, US Congress, 23 March 1994.
  • 390. V. Kravtsov, Pravda, 4 January 1993, p. 4.
  • 391. A. Zak, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 9 February 1993, p. 6.
  • 392. M Rebrov, Delovoy Mir, 30 July 1993, p. 15.
  • 393. A. Zak, Nezayisimaya Gazeta, 13 July 1993, p. 6.
  • 394. V. Chernobrov, Rossiyskiye Vesti, 7 July 1993, p. 7.
  • 395. O. Volkov, Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta, 14 July 1993, p. 2.
  • 396. A. Shumilin, Pravda, 7 September 1993, pp.1-2.
  • 397. O. Moroz, Literaturnaya Gazeta, 10 November 1993, p. 9.
  • 398. V. Ardayec, Izvestiya, 28 December 1993, p. 2.
  • 399. Novosti Kosmonavtiki, 20 November- 3 December 1993, pp.26-29 and 18-31 December 1993, pp.31-34.
  • 400. V. Ardayev, Izvestiya, 14 January 1994, p. 2.
  • 401. I. Marinin, Novosti Kosmonavtiki, 17-25 February 1994, pp. 37-41 and 26 February - 11 March 1994, p. 37.
  • 402. L. Minasyan, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 February 1994, p.3.
  • 403. V. Kononenko, Izvestiya, 30 March 1994, p.3.
  • 404. O. Falichev, Krasnaya Zvezda, 30 March 1994, p.1.
  • 405. S. Tsekhmistrenko, Kommersant Daily, 2 April 1994, p.4.
  • 406. T. Sarabekova, Panorama, 25 June 1994, p.3.
  • 407. Yu. Konorov, Rosslyskiye Vesti, 19 July 1994, p.5.
  • 408. V. Li, Kazakstanskaya Pravda, 5 July 1994, p.1.
  • 409. V. Berborodov, Krasnaya Zvezda, 22 October 1994, p.4.
  • 410. S. Leskov, Izvestiya, 28 December 1994, p.2.
  • 411. J. Villain, "Baikonour Grandeur et Decadence", Science et Vie, November 1994, pp.106-109.
  • 412. J.M. Lenorovitz, "Russia Signs Pact on Asian Launch Site", Aviation Week and Space Technology, 19 September 1994, p. 25.
  • 413. P.B. de Selding, "Cosmodrome's Operators Cite Deteriorating Conditions", Space News, 10-16 October 1994, p.7.
  • 414. Baikonur. La Porte Des Etoiles, SEP, Armand Colin, Paris, 1994.
  • Adapted from: Europe and Asia in Space 1993-1994, Nicholas Johnson and David Rodvold [Kaman Sciences / Air Force Phillips Laboratory]

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Page last modified: 10-04-2016 19:05:17 ZULU