The Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakh: Байқоңыр ғарыш айлағы, romanized: Baıqońyr ǵarysh aılaǵy; Russian: Космодро́м Байкону́р, romanized: Kosmodrom Baykonur) is a spaceport located in an area of southern Kazakhstan leased to Russia.
The Cosmodrome is the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility. The spaceport is located in the desert steppe of Baikonur, about 200 kilometres (124 mi) east of the Aral Sea and north of the river Syr Darya. It is near the Tyuratam railway station and is about 90 metres (300 ft) above sea level. Baikonur cosmodrome and the city of Baikonur celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the foundation on 2 June 2018.
The spaceport is currently leased by the Kazakh Government to Russia until 2050, and is managed jointly by the Roscosmos State Corporation and the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The shape of the area leased is an ellipse, measuring 90 kilometres (56 mi) east–west by 85 kilometres (53 mi) north–south, with the cosmodrome at the centre. It was originally built by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s as the base of operations for the Soviet space program. Under the current Russian space program, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military, and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian spaceflights are launched from Baikonur.
Both Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, and Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight, were launched from Baikonur. The launch pad used for both missions was renamed Gagarin’s Start in honor of Russian Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, pilot of Vostok 1 and first human in space.