Baikonur or Baykonur Cosmodrome (both: bĪˌkənōrˈ) [key], formerly secret aerospace launch complex, Qyzylorda prov., S central Kazakhstan, near Baikonur (originally, 1958–95, Leninsk) but c.200 mi (320 km) SW of the mining town of Baikonur, whose name it was given to mislead the curious. The first facilities were built in the mid-1950s and served as the center for the Soviet space program. In Aug., 1957, the site was used to test an intercontinental ballistic missile; less than two months later Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite, was launched from Baikonur. In 1961 human spaceflight began there when the Vostok piloted by Yuri Gagarin was launched and orbited the earth, and all subsequent Soviet missions originated there. After the breakup of the USSR, the Cosmodrome reverted to Kazakhstan, but since the early 1990s it has been leased by Russia for its space program. It also is used for missions to the International Space Station.
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