is the launch
complex where Sputnik
1, Earth's first artificial satellite
, was launched. The rocket that lifted Yuri Gagarin
, the first human in orbit, was also launched from Baikonur. In fact, all Russian manned missions are launched from Baikonur, as well as all geostationary
, planetary, and ocean surveillance missions. Baikonur is the only Russian site that has launched satellites into retrograde orbits.
All Space Station flights using Russian launch vehicles will be launched from Baikonur, since all nonmilitary launches take place there. Baikonur is also the only Russian launch site capable of launching the Proton launch vehicle, which will be used for several Station missions.
The name Baikonur is misleading. The former Soviet Union used the name and coordinates of a small mining town, Baikonur, to describe the location of its rocket complex. In fact, the launch complex is about 200 miles southwest of the mining town near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan. This misrepresentation was done intentionally to hide the actual location of the launch complex. Although the true location is now known, the launch complex is still referred to as Baikonur.