Cosmodrome — the first and largest cosmodrome in the world, who is now the territory of Kazakhstan, in the Kyzyl-Orda region, near the village of Tyr-there. Construction Baikonur was the great achievement of Soviet science and technology, a breakthrough in the field of astronautics.
Today few people know that originally the world’s first Baikonur cosmodrome was built as a test site for Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. In the early 1950s, the R-7 rocket, developed for the delivery of the hydrogen bomb, demanded a new place to test it. Previously, all the launches of Soviet missiles were performed at Kapustin Yar in the Astrakhan region, but its size does not meet the required specifications. The government commission hastily began to look for a new landfill. It was necessary to find a vast, sparsely populated area, the land is little used in agricultural production. Near railway should pass required for the delivery of various cargoes, including large-size blocks of missiles. The distance between the launch of the fall and the place of its head (the Kura testing ground in Kamchatka) had to be at least 7,000 kilometers. It is considering several options: Mari ASSR Dagestan and the Kyzyl-Orda region.
The first modification of the R-7 were equipped with radio. Therefore, for the successful operation it was necessary to have multiple ground stations supplying radio controls: two symmetrical on either side from the starting point in the region of 150-250 kilometers, and third — spaced from the start of the flight path at 300-500 kilometers.
This factor ultimately was decisive. The Commission chose the Kyzyl-Orda region. The radio version of paragraph Mari would be in the impenetrable forests and marshes, and in Dagestan — in a remote mountainous area.
To create a test site was chosen desolate place in Kazakhstan, located to the east of the Aral Sea, close to the railway Moscow-Tashkent. The area was known as Baikonur, which in Kazakh means «rich valley.» In this region, there were more than three hundred days of sunshine a year. In addition, the closer to the equator is ground, the easier it is to produce missile launch.
Curiously, the original project was code-named «Taiga» to Western intelligence disinformation. The first detachment of military builders arrived at Baikonur 12 January 1955. And on May 5, 1957 a special commission adopted the first starting complex polygon.
However, the official birthday of the Baikonur cosmodrome considered June 2, 1955, when the directive was approved by the General Staff, staff structure of the Fifth Research and test site, a special military unit for its maintenance. By the beginning of the test and starts at the site were 527 engineers and 237 technicians. The total number of military personnel was 3,600 people.
October 4, 1957 from Baikonur was launched the world’s first artificial satellite. It was launched by a combat missile R-7. This was the beginning of the space age.
The launch of an artificial satellite enabled the Americans to establish the true location of the main Soviet missile range, and to a certain extent to declassify it. But the Soviet leadership went on a risky step to consolidate the supremacy in the space race.
November 3, 1957 took the start of «Sputnik-2» with the dog Laika on board. In the fall 1959 a rocket «Luna 2» for the first time brought the Earth to the Moon-controlled device. At the same time a space launch from Baikonur were tested new military rockets. Inferno at the start
October 24, 1960 at the site of Baikonur was a serious emergency. When tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile R-16, there was an explosion, and then — fire. As a result, 74 people were killed, including the commander in chief of the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), Chief Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Nedelin.
The disaster was caused by gross violations of safety rules and a desire to coincide with the launch of a rocket ill-prepared for the upcoming holiday — the anniversary of the October Revolution.
In spite of the problems found in the launcher system, the R-16 still decided to try. Setting an example of courage, Marshal Nedelin sitting on a chair on the so-called zero point — about seventeen meters from the foot of the rocket.
About an hour before the start broke through separation membranes fuel tanks. There was unauthorized starting of the engine of the second stage. Fire destroyed the tanks of jet fuel and the oxidizer of the first stage. Then destroyed tanks of the first stage, after which the components of rocket fuel erupted. Sound of explosion monstrous destructive force.
Expenses from rocket fire concentric waves spread with great speed and devoured everything in its path. From the fire jumped and ran in all directions, burning people. Avalanche burning lasted about twenty seconds, after which the remains of the rocket units and buildings were burning starting two hours. Only after that there was an opportunity to start rescue work.
The explosion killed almost everyone who was close to the launch pad. In addition to the Marshal Nedelina killed the deputy chief of the landfill colonel Alexander Nosov, Head of the 1st and 2nd departments landfill colonel Eugene Ostashev and Ruben Grigor’yants, deputy chief designer of OKB-586 Leo Berlin and Vasily End.
The chief designer of the rocket Mikhail Yangel miraculously survived. He decided to smoke and not to serve a bad example to subordinates, he moved to the smoking room. It saved his life.
The bodies were formed in a special room for further identification. It was not easy, as many victims were mutilated beyond recognition. For example, Marshal Mitrofan Nedelina were able to identify only melted star of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Information about the crash were kept secret, and the first mention of it in the Soviet media appeared only in 1989.
Way to heaven
August 19, 1960 from Baikonur launched the «Sputnik-5» with the dogs Belka and Strelka on board. After seventeen revolutions around Earth spacecraft landed successfully in a given area. Dogs return to Earth alive. After that, the Soviet leadership has authorized the preparation of manned space flight.
April 12, 1961 from the Baikonur launched rocket «Vostok-1» — the spacecraft, delivered the world’s first man into orbit. Is located in the spacecraft Yuri Gagarin made one orbit around the Earth for 1 hour 48 minutes. Then the «Vostok-1» successfully landed in the Saratov region. Since then, the controlled flight with a man on board are commonplace.
Since the beginning of the 1970s, testing military missiles stopped at Baikonur, the launch site and was used exclusively for the needs of «civic space».
In February 1986, it was launched on the base unit of orbital station «Mir», which later docked six modules. The station «Mir» has become a kind of cosmic hotel: it visited 104 astronauts from twelve countries, including 44 American astronauts.
May 15, 1987 in Baikonur, the first launch of the carrier rocket superheavy «Energy». A year later — the launch of reusable transport system «Energia» — «Buran». At the end of the flight orbiter «Buran» made automatic landing at the airport «Jubilee», located in the northern part of the spaceport.
Total Baikonur during the Soviet period was launched more than 1200 satellites for various purposes, and more than 100 combat ballistic missiles, tested 38 types of military missiles, more than 80 types of civilian spacecraft and their modifications. It is connected with Baikonur real golden age of Soviet military and civil space.