June 02, 2015
Baikonur Cosmodrome has been launching rockets into space since the 1950s.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome, which sits on the Kazakh steppe, costs Russia $115 million each year to lease. Built by the Soviets, and inherited by virtue of geography by Kazakhstan, Baikonur is one of the most important space launch facilities in the world. This week, it celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Although the decree establishing the cosmodrome was issued by the Soviet government in February 1955, the still-operating facility marks June 2 as its official anniversary. The complex was originally used as a test site for the R-7, the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Although the R-7 never saw operational use, a modification of the missile was used as the launch vehicle that delivered Sputnik, the first artificial satellite and the starting flare in the Cold War space race, into orbit in 1957.