The cosmodrome is the territory on which there are structures intended for launching spacecraft into space. These objects occupy a considerable area and they are trying to be located as far as possible from dwellings.
But the most important requirement for spaceports is proximity to the equator. Indeed, thanks to this arrangement, the carrier can use the energy of the Earth's rotation, which helps to save fuel.
However, there are not so many developed states on the equator, which led to the appearance of mobile and sea-based cosmodromes. The largest cosmodromes of mankind, operating today, will be discussed.
Baikonur, Kazakhstan. This cosmodrome is the largest and most actively used in the world. Despite the fact that the main history of Russian cosmonautics is associated with it, it is located in Kazakhstan. The cosmodrome was officially founded on June 2, 1955. Then the commission was looking for a sparsely populated region, whose land is not used in agriculture. The Soviet authorities decided to create a test site for missiles that could deliver nuclear charges over long distances. The first rocket, the R-7, was launched from Baikonur on May 15, 1957. It was she who from this cosmodrome was able to launch the first artificial satellite into the planet's orbit on October 4, 1957, marking the beginning of the space era. One of the biggest accidents in the history of space launches is also associated with Baikonur - during the test of the R-16 rocket, a fire occurred that killed 76 people. And on April 12, 1961, the first man, Yuri Gagarin, went into space from Baikonur. Since then, more than 1,500 spacecraft launches have been carried out from the cosmodrome, and ballistic missiles have also been tested. In 1994, the facility, together with the adjacent city, was leased to Russia. Kazakhstan will receive $ 115 million annually until 2050. Rocket launches at Baikonur were carried out from 16 different launchers.
Cape Canaveral, USA. This cape was named after Kennedy in 1964-1973. This place is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida. The headland is home to a US Air Force facility that is essentially operated by NASA. Interestingly, the Kennedy Space Center is located on the neighboring island, from which spacecraft are also launched. As a result, Cape Canaveral combines two launch complexes at once. This object received a unique telephone code 321, in honor of its contribution to space exploration. After all, these numbers mark the countdown. Since 1949, the military base has been used to test missiles, allowing them to be launched across the entire Atlantic. From here, since 1956, the Americans began to carry out early suborbital missile launches. And the launch of an artificial satellite after the USSR in December 1957 failed. In 1958, NASA was founded, for which the launches were carried out from Cape Canaveral. Many rocket sites have also been created here. On September 13, 1961, the Americans were able to carry out the first orbital flight from this cosmodrome, and in February 1962, the first US citizen also ascended into space. In 2012, 10 spacecraft launches were made from Cape Canaveral.
Kuru, French Guiana. This spaceport is located in the northeast of South America, on the Atlantic coast. In 1964, the French government decided to join the space program and chose Kourou out of 14 competitors. Construction began in 1965, and the first rocket launch from here took place on April 9, 1968. In 1975, with the formation of the European Space Agency, it was decided to make Kuru the main launch site for space programs. Europe has modernized the cosmodrome for its Arian program. And in 2003 Russia also signed an agreement with the French, which made it possible to launch Russian missiles from Kuru. In October 2011, the first Soyuz took off from the French cosmodrome. The advantage of Kuru is that it is only 500 kilometers from the equator, which saves fuel. The location of the cosmodrome is such that it allows for all possible missions. The high level of efficiency, reliability and safety attracts clients from other countries to Kuru. And from here in 2012, 10 rocket launches were carried out.
Xichang, China. In the 1970s, China also joined the space race. According to the plans of Mao Zedong, an astronaut from this country was supposed to appear in orbit already in 1973. Especially for the implementation of this project in the Sichuan province, near the city of Sichang, the construction of a cosmodrome has begun. It was built in the strictest secrecy, and the place was chosen not only because of its proximity to the equator, but also as far as possible from the border with the Soviet Union. But during the Cultural Revolution, leading scholars were repressed and funding curtailed. The project was closed and relaunched only in 1984. Then the first launches took place here, and in 1988 foreign specialists were admitted to Sichan. Since 1990, the cosmodrome has offered its services to other countries; commercial launches are carried out using the national launch vehicle CZ-3. The cosmodrome has two launch complexes at a distance of a kilometer from each other. The cosmodrome could theoretically produce about 10-12 launches every year. Interestingly, during launches, the population of nearby settlements is evacuated. And in the event of non-standard situations, the carrier rocket is undermined so that its debris falls in sparsely populated areas.
Taiyuan, China. The cosmodrome began launching rockets back in 1966, but then it was about military ballistic carriers. Only in 1988, the first launch of the spacecraft took place here. The cosmodrome was previously called Wuzhai and is located much north of Xichang, near the city of Taiyuan. It was built 2500 years ago and was the birthplace of many Chinese emperors. This is how the past merged with the future, which tourists are certainly told about. The area of the cosmodrome is 375 square kilometers, and its launch sites are at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level. In addition to the missile launch facilities themselves, the facility also has a maintenance tower and two storage facilities for liquid fuel. The main satellite launches from here are meteorological, reconnaissance and remote sensing. In 2012, 5 spacecraft launches were carried out from here.
Jiuquan, China. This is the first cosmodrome for China and until 1984 it was the only one. Jiuquan is also called the Chinese Baikonur, also because of its size - 2800 square kilometers. Originally, the Shuanchenzi test site was built in the Gobi Desert. And the first launch into space from here was carried out in 1970 - the Chinese satellite "Dongfanhong-1" rose into the sky. And in October 2003, the first Chinese cosmonaut (taikonaut) was launched from this cosmodrome. So China became the third country in history with a manned space flight. And in 2005, the second manned flight took place - two taikonauts made 30 orbits around the Earth. In total, from 1970 to 1996, 26 launches were carried out from here. In the 1990s, China began to offer other countries the possibility of commercial use of spaceports, but Jiuquan was not in great demand due to its geographical location. Then it was decided to make this center the main base for the implementation of the national manned spacecraft project. For this purpose, a modern control kit was created, which simply has no equal in the world.
Plesetsk, Russia. The most important cosmodrome in Russia is located 180 kilometers south of Arkhangelsk. This is the northernmost site of its kind with a long history. From the 1970s to the 1990s, it was Plesetsk that was the leader in the number of launches of space rockets, from 1957 to 1993 they were carried out in 1372, which is one and a half times more than Baikonur. The history of the cosmodrome began on January 11, 1957, when the Council of Ministers decided to create a military facility "Angara". It was supposed to house the first military unit in the USSR with ballistic missiles. The site was chosen taking into account the reach of the territory of the alleged enemy and so that test launches in the Kamchatka region could be made. But in the summer of 1963 it was decided to convert the military facility into a test facility. The test site began to develop in two directions: rocket and space. The first launch of the spacecraft took place here in 1966. Since 1968, Plesetsk began to carry out international space programs. Already in 1972, the French vehicle MAC-1 was sent into space from here. With the creation of the military space forces in Russia in 1992, it was Plesetsk that became the First State Cosmodrome. Currently, the cosmodrome has launch sites for all modern domestic carriers of light and medium class, a launch complex is being created for the latest launch vehicles, including heavy ones.
Sea launch. It is quite obvious that if it is not possible to launch rockets from the territory of equatorial states, then a sea floating cosmodrome should be adapted for these purposes. This is exactly what Sea Launch is. This method was used in 1964-1988 on the offshore fixed platform "San Marco" in Kenyan equatorial waters. However, the payload when launched from there was only 200 kilograms. After it became known that a powerful launch vehicle would not be launched from there, Russia, the United States and Ukraine in 1995 created the Sea Launch international consortium. The project cost was $ 3.5 billion. However, in 2009 the company filed for bankruptcy. And the first successful commercial launch took place in 1999. In total, by February 1, 2013, 35 launches were carried out, of which three were unsuccessful. The starting point is a place in the Pacific Ocean, not far from Christmas Island and exactly at the equator. And although this place is considered calm and remote from sea routes, launches had to be postponed several times due to bad weather.
Sriharikota, India. This cosmodrome is part of the Satish Dhwan Space Center. It is located on the island of Sriharikota in the Bay of Bengal. The obvious advantage of this spaceport is its proximity to the equator. The cosmodrome began operating in 1980, although the foundation date is October 1, 1970. Today meteorological satellites are launched from here, and space technology is being tested. On average, India makes two launches from here every year. The cosmodrome has not only launch complexes, but also a tracking station, stands for testing rocket engines. A plant for the production of fuel for carriers was also built here. A lunar mission was launched from the Sriharikot cosmodrome in 2008, and an interplanetary Mars station was launched in 2013.
Vandenberg, USA. Canaveral is considered the main American spaceport. However, this air force base, operated by NASA, is an important place in the history of astronautics. In 1957, the infantry training center was transferred to the Air Force, becoming a center for testing space and ballistic missiles. By 1968, through the acquisition of farm land, the spaceport area was increased to the present 400 square kilometers. In 1958, the first ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg, and the next year, a polar-orbiting satellite was launched. In 1972, the spaceport was selected as the site for the launch and landing of the Space Shuttle on the west coast of the United States. The base was significantly modified, however, after the crash of Challenger in 1986, the shuttle program was frozen. The launch complex was again reoriented to launch polar-orbiting satellites, mainly for military purposes. Also next to the launch site is the Rocket and Space Heritage Center, which shows how the base and its technologies have evolved.