Russia’s spaceports (launch sites) serve as the basis for all Russian activities in space, enabling an independent policy in exploration and use of outer space. They comprise a number of facilities, equipment, and land areas designed for receiving, storing, assembling, testing, prelaunch preparation, and launching rockets with spacecraft. Depending on its location, a spaceport may have one or several launch azimuths along which tracking stations are located.
The spaceports of the Russian Federation. This figure is available in full color at
Figure 1. The spaceports of the Russian Federation.
The major facilities at spaceports are the launch and technical maintenance complexes, the fueling and decontamination stations, landing complexes, storage facilities of various types, launch debris impact areas, and telemetry monitoring stations. In addition, spaceports have plants for producing rocket propellants, airports, railroads, motor vehicle roads and various supply lines, as well as living quarters and social amenities.
Now Russia has three spaceports on its territory: Plesetsk, Kapustin Yar and Svobodnyy and, in addition, uses the Baikonur spaceport, which it acquired on a 20 year lease from the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1994. A map of these spaceport locations is provided in Fig. 1.

The History of Spaceport Construction in Russia

Spaceport construction followed logically from the need to ensure independent and efficient access to space for the Soviet Union and subsequently the Russian Federation. Spaceport construction started when a launch site was built for testing ballistic missiles in the region of the Kapustin Yar village in the Astrakhan Oblast. In 1946, a reconnaissance team headed by V.I. Voznyuk, selected the site of the future launch facility. The group studied seven regions of the USSR that seemed promising for this purpose and gathered and analyzed material related to the economy, weather, services, development level, construction potential, etc. Upon this group’s recommendations the launch site was selected near the Kapustin Yar village on the lower Volga. V.I. Voznyuk was appointed the first head of the missile launch site. Under his leadership, the first launch of the R-1 ballistic missile took place from the Kapustin Yar launch site as early as October 1947. Under the leadership of S.P. Korolev, between 1948 and 1956, the first Soviet ballistic and geophysical missiles were tested at this spaceport. Subsequently launch complexes were constructed for launching satellites for various purposes and also for vertical launch of the Vertikal geophysical missile. At the launch site an infrastructure was built to enable preparation work, launch spacecraft and provide all necessary services for the personnel to live at the site.
The injection of the first “small” artificial Earth satellite, later named Kosmos-1, on 16 March 1962 may be considered the point at which the Kapustin Yar launch site became a spaceport. Kapustin Yar became an international spaceport on 14 October 1969 when the first international satellite, Interkosmos-1 was launched.
The Kapustin Yar spaceport functioned as the launch facility for “small” missiles and “small” research satellites. This specialization continued until 1988, when the need to launch such satellites dropped sharply and launches from Kapustin Yar were terminated. However, the launch and technical complexes for Kosmos type launch vehicles were continuously maintained in working condition, which made it possible to use this site in 1996 to launch the German spacecraft ABRIXAS and MegSat.
In addition to construction of launch pads, the Znamensk town was built for spaceport personnel to live in. During different periods of time, V.I. Voznyuk, Yu.A. Pichugin, P.G. Degtyarenko, N.Ya Lopatin, N.V. Mazyarkin, V.K. Tonkikh, and V.P. Yushchenko headed the spaceport. The Kapustin Yar spaceport is currently under the authority of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The next spaceport built was Baikonur. Construction of the Baikonur launch site was required to support the development of the R-7, the first Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile. Its flight range exceeded 8000 km and required equipping new launch azimuths eastwards through virtually the entire Asian part of the Soviet Union. New drop zones of LV separable parts and new telemetry stations were needed. A new launch site was required to launch these missiles. For this purpose, in the early 1950s, a commission was created to develop the specifications for the new launch site and recommend the most desirable areas of the country for constructing it.
The commission considered three locations for the launch site. As a result of their deliberations, a site in Kazakhstan in the vicinity of the Aral Sea and the town of Kzyl-Orda was selected. In February 1955, the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a Resolution concerning construction of the launch site near the Tyura-Tam railroad station in the Kzyl-Ordinsk Oblast of the Kazakh SSR. A.I. Nesterenko was appointed the first head of the site.
The major structures that had to be build were the launch pads for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and the technical facilities of the launch site. By November 1956, construction of most of the facilities and installations were completed to provide flight tests of ICBMs. Facilities constructed included the launch complex, the launch control station, the assembly and test facility, some of telemetry stations, and the computer center building. The water line, water pumping station, and electric power station were all in operation. Motor vehicle roads and railroad lines were built.
On 15 May 1957, the first test launch of an R-7 ICMB took place but it failed. The second launch, planned for 9 June 1957 did not occur because of defects in the missile equipment. The third missile launch took place on 12 June 1957 and was unsuccessful. The fourth and fifth launches occurred on 21 August, and 7 September 1957 and were finally successful. On 4 October 1957, the first artificial Earth satellite was launched from Baikonur and on 12 April 1961 a spacecraft carrying the planet’s first cosmonaut, Yu.A. Gagarin was sent into space from there. Various launch and maintenance complexes were built at the launch site later. They were intended for preparing and launching spacecraft using launch vehicles of light (Tsiklon-M), intermediate (Soyuz, Molnia, Zenit), heavy (Proton) and super heavy classes, and the launch site infrastructure was developed. Now, all manned spacecraft and satellites into geostationary orbit (communications, television broadcast) are launched from Baikonur. This spaceport is also used for launching satellites into low and medium orbits (the GLONASS navigational system, Meteor weather satellite system, satellites for studying the Earth’s natural resources, etc.), and also for launching unpiloted interplanetary probes and commercial spacecraft.
After the dissolution of the USSR, Baikonur spaceport became the property of the Republic of Kazakhstan and was leased by the Russian Federation. Now most of facilities at Baikonur are under the authority of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (the launch complexes for the Soyuz, Molnia, Zenit, Tsiklon-M and Energia launch vehicles, one launch facility for the Proton, all assembly and test facilities, the oxygen-nitrogen plant). The Russian Ministry of Defense is responsible for the other Proton launch complex and the measurement complex. In 1990 the Baikonur Launch Site was renamed the Baikonur Spaceport.
The living area founded in 1955 was extended together with the spaceport. It had different names during its existence, and finally, in 1995, was renamed the Baikonur town. At different periods of time, the spaceport was headed by A.I. Nesterenko, K.V. Gerchik, A.G. Zakharov, A.A. Kurushin, V.I. Fadeyev, Yu.N. Sergunin, Yu.A. Zhukov, A.L. Kryshko, A.A. Shumilin, and L.T. Baranov. Now the Baikonur Federal Space Center, whose director is Ye.M Kushnir, performs general work coordination of Russian Aviation and Space Agency facilities at Baikonur spaceport.
At different times throughout the spaceport’s existence, the following leading scientists worked there: M.V. Keldysh, S.P. Korolev, I.V. Kurchatov, N.A. Pilyugin, M.K. Yangel, G.N. Babakin, V.N. Chelomey, V.P. Glushko, V.P. Barmin, V.N. Solovyev, B. N. Petrov, and V.F. Utkin.
For outstanding accomplishments in the testing of space technology, the following personnel of the spaceport were named Heroes of Socialist Labor: A.I. Nosov, A.S. Kirillov, V.A. Bokov, A.A. Shumilin, Ye.I. Nikolayev, and A.B. Berezin; The State Prize was awarded to B.A. Bululukov, A.P. Zavalishin, A.A. Shumilin, S.V. Limont, V.A. Menshikov, V.Ya. Khilchenko, Yu.N. Sergunin, V.A. Nedobezh-kin, and V.I. Katayev.
Further development of space exploration and activities made it necessary to build the Plesetsk Spaceport in the northern regions of the USSR. At first, the Plesetsk Spaceport was established as a launch site at the Angara facility, where the first combat group of R-7 ICBMs was stationed. Construction of the Plesetsk launch site started in 1957. The launch site was built very rapidly in the severe northern climate. This work was headed by M.G. Grigoryev. During the 1960s and 1970s, a highly developed infrastructure, including launch and technical complexes, was built to prepare and launch spacecraft using the Soyuz, Molnia, Kosmos, and Tsiklon launch vehicles.
The only missile launch site in Europe, Plesetsk enables to launch spacecraft for defense, socioeconomic, and scientific purposes and also in the framework of international collaboration programs. The Mirnyy town was founded simultaneously with construction ofthe launch site facilities and implementation of space programs. Plesetsk launch site was granted the status of Spaceport in November 1994. During various periods of time, the launch site was headed by M.G. Grigoryev, S.F. Shtanko, G.Ye. Alpaidze, Yu.A. Yashin, V.L. Ivanov, G.A. Kolesnikov, I.I. Oleynik, A.N. Perminov, A.F. Ovchinnikov, G.N. Kovalenko. Now, Plesetsk is under the authority of the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The Svobodnyy Spaceport was founded in 1993 and received official spaceport status in March 1996. The Svobodnyy Spaceport was formed using the facilities of a decommissioned missile division in the Amur Oblast. The existing infrastructure of the spaceport had to be modified for launching light-class launch vehicles derived from decommissioned ICBMs. The first head of the spaceport was A.A. Benediktov.

Current Russian Activity in Space

Space activity includes all activities associated with exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies. Space activity occupies one of the key places in Russian geopolitics and is the most important factor determining the country’s status as a world power and a country possessing highly advanced technologies. The exploration and use of outer space plays an ever more important role in the economic, scientific, and social development of the country and in national security. The characteristics of the Russian Federation’s geographic position (its size, the length of its sea, land and air borders, its varied terrain, rich natural resources, and other factors) have led logically to develop and efficiently use its space potential.
Russian space activity is implemented in accordance with the Russian Federation Law ”About Space Activity.” The major goals and objectives of RF space activity are defined by the Concept of the Russian Federation’s National Space Policy. The main objectives of Russia’s space policy are modernization, consolidation and efficient use of its space potential to increase the economic and defensive power of the country, ensure its national security, develop science and technology, solve social problems and expand international collaboration.
The directions of space activities are defined and developed in Russia’s Federal Space Program approved by the RF Government every 5 years.
Space activity includes creating (including development, manufacture, and testing) and using space technology, materials and technological processes, and providing other services associated with space activity, and also the RF’s international collaboration in exploration and use of space. Volume of Freight Traffic from Russia’s Spaceports Compared to Other Spaceports in the World. Between 1957 and 2000 throughout the world, there were approximately 4000 rocket launches for exploration and use of space.
More than 2500 were launched from the spaceports of Russia (Table 1). Plesetsk was the leader in the number of launch vehicles sent into space. However, Baikonur was the leader with respect to the volume of freight traffic. Up to 80% of the total payload launched annually from all of Russia’s spaceports was launched from Baikonur. Between 1995 and 2000 Baikonur occupied first place in the number of launches as well. During this period, approximately 70% of the total number of Russian launches took place from this spaceport. The maximum possible payload traffic for Russian spaceports is approximately 60% of the total payload traffic from all launch sites of the world.
The Main Launch Vehicles Used at Russian Spaceports. The launch vehicles currently used at the Baikonur, Plesetsk, Kapustin Yar and Svobodnyy spaceports to launch spacecraft differ in classes and types and provide injection into near-Earth orbit of payloads weighing between 50 kg and 20 tons. The existing system of launch vehicles includes the expendable Kosmos, Tsiklon, Tsiklon-M, Start, Rokot, Dnepr (light class); Soyuz, Molnia, Zenit (intermediate class); Proton (heavy class); and also launch vehicles based on converted ICBMs.
The main types of launch vehicles used in Russian spaceports are cited in Table 2. Information about the number of launches of the major launch vehicles from Russian spaceports as of January 2000 is provided in Table 3.
In Russia currently, the basic launch vehicles are Soyuz and Proton types. These account for most of the spacecraft launches. Their high reliability and relatively low cost of manufacture compared to foreign analogs have made these launch vehicles competitive on the world market for launch services.
Space launch vehicle systems using the Soyuz intermediate-class launch vehicle are assembled at the Baikonur and Plesetsk spaceports. The Soyuz was developed from the R-7A ICBM. In the past, this launch vehicle was the foundation of intermediate-class Russian launchers for manned and unmanned spacecraft used for various purposes.
The intermediate-class Soyuz launcher uses ecologically clean propellants, kerosene and liquid oxygen. The liftoff mass of this vehicle is approximately 310 tons, and its engines have a total thrust at sea level up to 400 tons. Its technical specifications make it possible to insert payloads of up to 7 tons into a reference orbit. The Soyuz is one of the most reliable and efficient launch vehicles in the world. Its reliability has reached a value above 98%. The Soyuz is used to launch approximately 40% of all Russian spacecraft launched annually.
Three-stage heavy-class Proton launch vehicle (used only at Baikonur) can insert a payload of up to 20 tons into a reference orbit, and when the DM upper stage is combined with it, it can put a satellite weighing up to 3.5 tons into geostationary orbit. The thrust of its engines at sea level is 900 tons. Its liftoff mass is 690 tons, its length 44.3 meters, and its maximum cross section is 7.4 meters. The propellants used in this launch vehicle are unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (fuel) (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (oxidizer). At present, Proton launch vehicles are being updated by installing an improved control system and a new upper stage, Briz-M. As a result, environmental pollution with propellant traces in the launch debris impact area will be decreased, and the impact area will be significantly diminished. The updated Proton-M with the new upper stage, Briz-M, was successfully launched on 7 April 2001.
Table 1. Number of Launches from the Spaceports of the World and their Potential Payload Capacities

Country Spaceport Number of launches by year Max. payload
capacity to low
orbit, tons/yr
1957-1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Russia Baikonur 968 19 16 18 17 21 30 1500
Plesetsk 1413 13 11 9 7 6 5 500
Kapustin Yra 84 - - - 1 2 -
Svobodnyy - - 2 - 1
United States Eastern Test Range 494 16 17 16 17 16 18 653
(Cape Canaveral)
Kennedy Space Center » 7 7 8 5 CO 360
Western Test Range
(VandenbergAFB) 503 4 4 9 8 11 10 370
China Jiuquan 22 - 1 1 - 1 -
Xichang 15 3 3 3 2 2 4 48
Taiquan 2 4 1 1
Japan Tanegashima 26 1 1 1 1 - - 24
Kagoshima 21 1 1 1 2
France Kourou 69 11 11 12 11 10 12 72
India Sriharikota 6 - 1 1 - 1 1 4.5

Table 2. The Main Types of Launchers Used at Russian Spaceports

Launch vehicle class Spaceport
Baikonur Plesetsk Kapustin Yra Svobodnyy
Light class Tsiklon-M
Kosmos Tsiklon Start Rokot Kosmos Start
Intermediate class Soyuz Zenit Soyuz Molnia
Heavy class Proton

The Zenith intermediate-class launch vehicle (launched at Baikonur) is used to insert spacecraft into low orbits, including sun-synchronous ones. It has two stages and is capable to insert a payload mass up to 13.7 tons into a reference orbit at an altitude of 200 km and inclination of 51°. The liftoff mass of the launch vehicle is 460 tons. Both stages use ecologically clean propellants—liquid oxygen (oxidizer) and kerosene (fuel). All operations to prepare the vehicle for launch are automated. If the launch is canceled, work to return the vehicle to its initial state is implemented by remote control from the command point. Modified Zenit stages were used as the side modules of the Energia launch vehicle. In the late 1980s, space programs were seriously curtailed. Many new satellites were not built. For this reason, there were only 32 launches of Zenit LV.
Light-class Tsiklon-M launch vehicles (Baikonur launches) based on converted R-36 ICBMs, were developed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau under the direction of M.K. Yangel, General Designer. The liftoff mass (not counting the spacecraft mass) is 178.6 tons. This launch vehicle enables inserting spacecraft weighing 3.2 tons and 2.7 tons into circular orbits of 200 km at inclination of 65° and 90°, respectively. Launches of Tsiklon-M began in 1967. At present, the launch vehicle is used only for launching Kosmos series spacecraft.
Table 3. Number of Launches as of 1 January 2000

Spaceport Year of first Number of Number of failures
launch launches
Heavy-class launch vehicle s
Baikonur 1965 266 11
Intermediate-class launch vehicles
Baikonur 1957 705 56
Plesetsk 1966 904 32
Light-class launch vehicles
Baikonur 1967 103 0
Plesetsk 1973 515 22
Kapustin Yra 1967 87 2

The three-stage light-class Tsiklon launch vehicle has been used at the Plesetsk spaceport since 1977. It has a lift-off mass of 191 tons. It is capable to insert a payload of up to 4 tons into high orbit of 200 km and launch six spacecraft at a time. The launcher uses toxic propellants: nitrogen tetroxide (oxidizer) and UDMH (fuel). When the Tsiklon launch vehicle system was developed, new approaches for preparing a vehicle for launch were incorporated. This advanced Soviet rocket building to a new level in the mid-1960s. The cycle of preliftoff preparation and launch of Tsiklon is 100% automated, and all operations at the complex is at least 80% automated. The developer and manufacturer of the Tsiklon vehicle is the Yuzhnoye NPO (Ukraine).
The two-stage light class Kosmos launch vehicle (Plesetsk) enables inserting payloads of up to 1500 kg into circular orbits from 200 to 2000 km in altitude and elliptical orbits. The vehicle liftoff mass is up to 109 tons. It is 32.4 meters long and 2.4 m in diameter. The engine units of the launch vehicle run on hype-rgolic propellants—an oxidizer (nitric acid) and UDMH fuel.
The Start launch vehicle was developed by the Kompleks-MIT Scientific and Technological Center to launch small spacecraft using mobile launchers. At present, this vehicle is used for launches of spacecraft of 200-400 kg from the Svobodnyy spaceport.
The Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center developed the Rokot launch vehicle. The launch vehicle, which is based on the RS-18 military missile, uses the new Briz-KM upper stage that can employ complex orbital insertion patterns. This is especially important for limited selection of drop zones for LV separable parts.
The Dnepr launch vehicle was developed by the Kosmotras International Space Company on the basis of RS-20 military missiles to inject single and multiple payloads into space from Baikonur. The basic version differs minimally from the standard RS-20 missile. Fitting the vehicle with a more powerful third stage is being considered.

Baikonur Spaceport

Baikonur Spaceport is located within the Republic of Kazakhstan. The geographical coordinates of the spaceport are 46° North latitude and 63° East longitude. A schematic map of the spaceport is presented in Fig. 2. The total area of the spaceport is 6717 km2. In accordance with a treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan on the basic principles and conditions for use of Baikonur, signed by the heads of state on 28 March 1994, Baikonur was leased to the RF for 20 years. To ensure effective use of Baikonur spaceport to implement various space programs, Russia and Kazakhstan have signed appropriate agreements concerning lease conditions. This has made it possible to create a legal foundation for the Russian Federation’s use of Baikonur, as well as the most favorable conditions for efficiently investing funds in the spaceport’s ground-based infrastructure, which is necessary to implement space programs. The property rights to the real and movable property built, acquired, and delivered by the Russian Federation to Baikonur belong to it, as the party providing the funds.
Schematic map of Baikonur. This figure is available in full color at
Figure 2. Schematic map of Baikonur.
Before 1993, Baikonur Spaceport was fully under the authority of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense. Since 1993, the Russian Space Agency, subsequently the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, has been taking an active part to ensure functioning and use of all facilities. From 1993 to 2000, approximately 80% of the spaceport infrastructure, which is used by space industry organizations, was transferred to the Russian Aviation and Space Agency.
Baikonur spaceport includes nine launch complexes with 15 launch pads and 11 assembly and test areas with 34 technical complexes for assembly, testing and prelaunch preparation of launch vehicles and spacecraft; three fueling and decontamination stations for fueling spacecraft and upper stages with propellants and compressed gas; a measurement complex with a powerful computer center, and an oxygen and nitrogen plant with a total production capacity of up to 300 tons of cryogenic products per day. The spaceport infrastructure includes an advanced electric power supply grid, which contains more than 600 transformer substations and 6000 km of electric transmission lines; two first-class airports, including Yubileynyy, can receive different classes of aircraft; more than 400 km of railroad tracks; more than 1000 km of motor roads and 2500 km of communications lines.
The Russian Federation uses Baikonur spaceport to satisfy the demands of the state for space-based means of communications; television and radio broadcasting; remote sensing of the Earth; time standards and geographic navigational coordinates of various types to users on the ground, in the air and at sea; and implementation of manned and international collaborative space programs.
The Baikonur spaceport plays an extremely important role in implementing Russia’s space programs, since it occupies the leading place among Russian spaceports with regard to the number of space launches. Thus, from 1996-1999, 70% of all Russian launches took place from Baikonur; the analogous figure for 2000 was 83%. Spacecraft of various purposes and automated interplanetary probes are prepared and launched from Baikonur into orbits from 200 km to 40000 km high using light-intermediate- and heavy-class launch vehicles. The azimuth of launches has ranged from 35 to 192°.
To support preparation and implementation of spacecraft launches, Baikonur has space rocket complexes for the Proton, Soyuz, Zenit, Tsiklon-M, and Rokot vehicles. These complexes comprise launch and technical facilities for preparing launch vehicles, upper stages, and spacecraft. The technical facilities are located in the assembly and test areas with sites for assembly and testing of launch vehicles and spacecraft, fitted with all necessary technical, installation, rigging, docking, and crane equipment.
Baikonur is a unique spaceport due to launch facilities for heavy Proton launch vehicles, which are used to launch all space station modules, including those for the International Space Station (ISS), Russian television broadcasting satellites, most of the relay, communications, and navigation satellites, and also interplanetary probes. The launch facilities for Proton were developed under the direction of General Designer V.P. Barmin. The first launch of a Proton vehicle with a heavy spacecraft occurred on 16 July 1965. The weighty contribution of Baikonur to the conquest of space involved Proton launches with interplanetary probes to the Moon, Venus, Mars, and the Salyut and Mir orbital stations, as well as launches of Ekran and Gorizont satellites for national economy programs.
Both transport and cargo vehicles in the framework of manned flight programs were launched from Baikonur.
The space rocket complexes developed at Baikonur for Soyuz launch vehicles are well known throughout the world due to launching all manned spacecraft with Russian and international crews. The Design Bureau of General Machine Building developed these legendary launch complexes under the direction of General Designer V.P. Barmin.
The contribution of Baikonur to the implementation of Russia’s national space programs may be evaluated by the number of spacecraft launched in each of these programs. Thus, there were launched from Baikonur: 95% of spacecraft in the Earth space observation and remote sensing programs; more than 70% of the spacecraft in the navigational program; 25% in the communications and television broadcasting programs; more than 40% in the weather satellite program; more than 30% of the spacecraft in the scientific research program; and 100% spacecraft in the manned spacecraft program. The Baikonur Spaceport was used to implement such space programs and missions as Vostok, Voskhod, Salyut, Mir, Mars, Venera, Luna, and Energia-Buran. Baikonur played the largest role in the implementation of the Mir program. Approximately 220 organizations and 80 scientific-research institutions participated in the Mir program.
The history of the spaceport is associated with the construction of launchers. The first launcher for the Soyuz launch vehicle was put into operation in 1957. The second, analogous to it, in 1961. Two launchers for Tsiklon-M were put into operation in 1967. The first Proton launcher went into operation in 1965, the second in 1966, and two more in 1979.
Launch complexes for the Energia launch vehicle (General Designer B.P. Barmin) were built at the spaceport in the framework of the Energia-Buran program. On 15 May 1987, these facilities provided the successful test launch the new superpowerful Energia launch vehicle from Baikonur. On 15 November 1988, this launch vehicle was used to insert the 30-ton reusable orbital spacecraft Buran (unmanned version) into near-Earth orbit. The success of this outstanding experiment was due to the ground-based test facilities for this program that already existed at this spaceport. The Energia-Buran program was preceded by the grandiose N-1 lunar program adopted by the USSR government in 1964. Between 1969 and 1972, there were four launches of the N-1 launch vehicle, which were unsuccessful. In 1976, work related to N-1 launch vehicle was terminated completely. The unique ground-based complex created for this program was closed down, but at the end of the 1970s, rebuilding was started and new ground-based facilities for the Energia-Buran complex began to develop. As a result, a launch complex and a universal multisystem launch stand were built. A special landing facility was built to allow the orbital spacecraft to land at Baikonur. In the early 1990s, the Energia-Buran program at the spaceport was terminated, the facilities were closed down andsomeofthemwereusedforotherprograms.
At the same time as the Energia-Buran complex was being built at Baikonur, a ground complex was also built for Zenit—a new generation of middle class launch vehicles—which could insert a payload of 15 tons into near-Earth orbit. A key feature of the Zenit complex is the maximum level of prelaunch automated operations. Zenit’s launch facility was developed by the Design Bureau for Transport Machine Building under the direction of Chief Designer V.N. Solovyev.
Silos for Rokot and Dnepr were reequipped to launch spacecraft. The first launch of Rokot occurred in 1994, and the first one of Dnepr—in 2000.
The Baikonur Spaceport is used for international programs in which Russia participates. These include: Phobos, Vega, Interkosmos, IRS, and the International Space Station. Plans for collaboration with the world community for developing and using the International Space Station were designed specifically for Baikonur. In recent years Baikonur began to be used extensively for commercial space projects. The Proton and Soyuz launch vehicles have the same capacities as their Western analogs, and in the near future, we can expect expansion of their use for spacecraft launches in the world market. The first two commercial launches occurred in 1996; in 1997-2000 there were already 33 spacecraft launched from Baikonur. Foreign partners actively collaborate with Russian enterprises in marketing these rockets in the world market.
The practical implementation of the principles of Russia’s international collaboration in the launch services market started with establishing of the ILS joint venture based on the Lockheed-Khrunichev-Energia International, Inc. As a result, the Proton space rocket system entered the market and demonstrated its capabilities.
The Starsem Company in the Globalstar and Cluster programs used the facilities for the Soyuz launch vehicle. In the framework of these programs there were 10 launches of Soyuz LV since 1999.
The Baikonur Spaceport is a component of the Baikonur Complex, which also includes an administrative center—the Baikonur town. The infrastructure of the Baikonur town includes more than 300 apartment buildings, six hotels, a hospital with 1600 beds, an inpatient clinic with 360 beds, and two out-patient clinics that handle 470 and 480 patients a day. The town has a whole series of educational institutions: more than 10 schools for general education, a branch of the Moscow Aviation Institute, a communications technical school, a medical school, and others.
The future prospects for Baikonur rest on technical modifications of the launch and technical complexes for Proton LV to support launches of Proton-M, including launches involving the Briz-M, DM-03 and KVRB upper stages; updating of the launch and technical complexes for Soyuz to support launching of Soyuz-2, including launches with the Fregat upper stage; reequipping the infrastructure of the Zenit launch complex for launching Zenit with its new control system; and developing of new work sites for preparing and testing spacecraft in the framework of the Russian Federal Space Program.

Plesetsk Spaceport

The Plesetsk Spaceport is located in the Arkhangelsk Oblast and has geographical coordinates of 63° North latitude and 41° East longitude. A schematic map of the complex is provided in Fig. 3. The total area of the complex is 1762 km2. The Plesetsk Spaceport is used for launching spacecraft for scientific, social and economic, and defense purposes and also in the framework of international and commercial space programs. Plesetsk has six launch complexes with nine launch pads, six assembly-test areas, containing 37 technical complexes for assembly, testing, and preparation of launch vehicles and spacecraft; two fueling and decontamination stations; and a measurement complex with a computer center. The spaceport’s infrastructure includes a well-developed network of power lines, whose total line extent is 152.4 km, railroads and asphalt-concrete roads, a water and heat supply network, and the Pero airport. As the major site of space launch on Russian territory, the spaceport plays a key role in providing the country with independent and free access to space.
Schematic map of the Plesetsk spaceport. This figure is available in full color at
Figure 3. Schematic map of the Plesetsk spaceport.
During Plesetsk’s existence, approximately 1500 launches of space rockets took place from there. This represents approximately 60% of all space rocket launches from Russian spaceports. In the 1980s, up to 60% of all space rockets were launched from Plesetsk. In the 1990s, the number of launches of space rockets decreased, and between 1996 and 1999, this was approximately 30%.
The role of the Plesetsk spaceport in implementing Russia’s national space programs can be evaluated by the number of launches for each program. Thus, Plesetsk launched 35% spacecraft for the space observation program, 75% for communications and television broadcasting, more than 25% spacecraft for navigation, approximately 70% spacecraft for the remote Earth sensing program, approximately 60% spacecraft for the weather satellite program, and up to 70% for the scientific research program.
Plesetsk’s participation in the implementation of national space programs has been associated with such projects as Kosmos, Molnia, Tsikada, Meteor, Okean, Foton, AUOS, and Prognoz. The international missions launched from Plesetsk include: MAS-1, Magion, Gelisat, Tubsat, Astrid, Faysat, COSPAS-SARSAT, and Bion. The history of the Plesetsk launch site as an official spaceport began with the rebuilding of the R7-1 ICMB launch facilities for Soyuz and Molniya launch vehicles (General Designer, B.P. Barmin) and with founding in 1964 of a spacecraft testing and launch administration.
On 17 March 1966, the first spacecraft, called Kosmos-112 was launched from launch pad No. 1 of the Angara facility. As the number and type of satellite launched in the Soviet Union increased, the process to build new launch and technical complexes continued at Plesetsk spaceport. The first standard launch complexes specially for Kosmos launch vehicles were developed and put into operation in the last half of the 1960s and in the early 1970s (Chief Designer, V.N. Solovyev). More than 450 space rockets were launched from these complexes. Now one of these was refitted to launch Rokot launch vehicles. In the 1970s, launch and technical facilities for the Tsiklon-3 vehicle were built and put into operation in 1980 at Plesetsk, and since then they have been used for hundreds of launches.
The need to improve existing space rocket complexes and develop new ones determine the future prospects for Plesetsk, including updating the launch and technical complex of the Soyuz vehicle to prepare and launch Soyuz-2, and the refitting of the Kosmos launch facility for Rokot LV, supporting measures to launch Start LV, development of a unified launch and technical complex to prepare and launch Angara light- and heavy-class vehicles, and development of technical complexes for future spacecraft.

Svobodnyy Spaceport

This spaceport is located in the Svobodnensk Region of the Amur Oblast in Khabarovskiy Kray on a site whose geographical coordinates are 51° North latitude and 128° East longitude. A schematic map of the complex can be seen in Fig. 4. The total area of the spaceport is approximately 972 km2. The spaceport infrastructure includes technical complexes for launch vehicles and spacecraft, the launch facility (launch pad and temporary command post), the instrumentation stations along the launch azimuth, the communications and data transmission lines, motor roads and railroads, storage and support structures, and a living area. This infrastructure was built to launch spacecraft using the Start-1 launch vehicle. As of 1 January 2001 three spacecraft had been launched from Svobodnyy, including the Russian communications satellite Zeya (March 1997), the American Early Bird-1 (December 1997) and the Israeli EROS-A1 (December 2000). The spaceport has five launch silos developed for RS-18 missiles, which are to be refitted for Rokot and Strela launch vehicles. Technical complexes plan to be built for preparing spacecraft.

Kapustin Yar Spaceport

Kapustin Yar is located in the Volgograd Oblast on a site whose geographic coordinates are 49° North latitude and 46° East longitude. This spaceport has a developed infrastructure, including launch and technical complexes, and telemetry stations for receiving data from launch vehicles and spacecraft at powered trajectory. At first, silo launch facilities for testing ballistic missiles were adapted for launching spacecraft. Later, the Voskhod space rocket complex, which began operation in 1973, was used.
Schematic map of the Svobodnyy spaceport. This figure is available in full color at
Figure 4. Schematic map of the Svobodnyy spaceport.
This spaceport made a significant contribution to scientific research and meteorological and geophysical studies of the upper atmosphere in the framework of USSR Academy of Science programs, and also to international collaboration. In addition to facilitating development of the orbital spacecraft within the Soviet reusable space system, from 1980-1988 it was used for flight tests of the Bor-4 and Bor-5 air vehicles.
International collaboration started in 1969 to develop the technology spacecraft DS-YZ-IK, that was renamed Interkosmos-1 after injection into orbit. There were 14 launches in the framework of the Interkosmos program. In addition, spacecraft have been launched as part of joint programs with India and France. Approximately 90 spacecraft were launched from Kapustin Yar between 1962 and 2000.

Future Prospects for Development of Russian Spaceports

Future prospects for the general development of spaceports will be determined by their geographic location and their national ownership, the potential of existing launch vehicles and new improved vehicles in the future. The need to accomplish the required number of spacecraft launches, considering geopolitical and economic changes expected in the future, predetermined the use of Russian spaceports. Baikonur will be used for Russia’s Federal Space Program and international and commercial space projects. Plesetsk is intended for launching spacecraft for defense, scientific, social and economic purposes, as well as for international and commercial space projects. Svobodnyy will be used for launching defense spacecraft and spacecraft for commercial space projects. Thus, Bai-konur requires the implementation of measures to maintain its facilities in working order to prepare and launch spacecraft and updating of advanced launch and technical complexes taking into account future improvements of launch vehicles and spacecraft. Ple-setsk requires, first of all, construction of a space rocket complex to support preparation and launch of Angara family vehicles, and improvement of the entire spaceport infrastructure. Svobodnyy needs to rebuild existing facilities and construct new ones considering the tasks that will be assigned to this spaceport. Development of spaceports in the future will be directed at
* maintaining the high technical readiness and capacity of their infrastructure;
* raising the level of automated processes involved in preparing and launching space rockets;
* standardizing facilities for preparing launch vehicles, upper stages and spacecraft, and launching rockets;
* ensuring high reliability and safety of work performed to prepare and launch rockets;
* decreasing environmental harmful impact and operational costs.

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