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Baikonur – Gagarin’s Start

Baikonur - Gagarin's Start

The launchpad for the world’s first human spaceflight made by Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1 in 1961, the site was referred to as Site No.1 (Площадка №1, Ploshchadka No. 1) as the first one of its kind. It is also sometimes referred to as NIIP-5 LC1, Baikonur LC1, LC-1/5, LC-1 or GIK-5 LC1.

On 17 March 1954, the Council of Ministers ordered several ministries to select a site for a proving ground to test the R-7 rocket by 1 January 1955. A special reconnaissance commission considered several possible geographic regions and selected Tyuratam in the Kazakh SSR. This selection was approved on 12 February 1955 by the Council of Ministers, with a completion of construction targeted for 1958. Work on the construction of Site No.1 began on 20 July 1955 by military engineers. Day and night more than 60 powerful trucks worked at the site; 15,000 cubic metres (20,000 cu yd) of earth were excavated and removed per day, with the total volume estimated to be 750,000 cubic metres (980,000 cu yd). During winter explosives were widely utilised. By the end of October 1956, all primary buildings and installation of infrastructure for R-7 tests were completed. The Installation and Testing Building (Монтажно-испытательный корпус, Montazhno-ispytatel’nyj korpus) named “Site No.2” was built and a special railway completed from there to Site No.1 where the launch pad for the rocket was located. By April 1957, all remaining work was completed and the site was ready for launches.

The R-7 missile made its maiden voyage from LC-1 on 15 May 1957. On 4 October 1957, the pad was used to launch the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. Crewed spaceflights launched from the site include Yuri Gagarin’s flight, Valentina Tereshkova’s flight, and numerous other human spaceflight missions, including all Soviet and Russian crewed spaceflights to Mir. The pad was also used to launch Luna program spacecraft, Mars probe program spacecraft, Venera program spacecraft, many Cosmos satellites and others. From 1957 through 1966 the site hosted ready-to-launch strategic nuclear ICBMs in addition to spacecraft launches; by the 2000s there were more than 400 launches from the site. The 500th launch from this site was of Soyuz TMA-18M on 2 September 2015.

Scheme of Baikonur