Site map






Sites 51, 52, 53, 70 and 75

In 1960, military construction crews started building the first launch facilities for the testing of the R-9 ICBM, developed at OKB-1 design bureau led by Korolev. The original infrastructure supporting the R-9 project involved three sites: a surface pad at Site 51, a radio-control station, RUP, at Site 52 and a support communication facility at Site 53.

The surface pad at Site 51, designated Launch Pad 5, was located just 400 meters north of Site 1 for the R-7 missile, in the central region of Baikonur Cosmodrome. Both facilities (Sites 1 and 51) were serviced by the personnel from the 1st Test Directorate, specialized in testing of the rocketry developed by Korolev's OKB-1. The existing assembly building, MIK-2, built for the R-7 was also used to prepare the R-9.

Site 52 was located one kilometer from Pad 5. Site 53 was located two kilometers from original ground control station at Site 18. (51)

The first launch of the R-9 missile was made from Site 51 on May 9, 1961, just days before man's first voyage into outer space, which originated from the nearby Pad 1.

In the later years, R-9 testing was transferred to the newly built surface and silo-based launch pads in Baikonur, while Site 51 infrastructure was meant for testing of the R-9-based Global Rocket 1 (GR-1). However, the GR-1 project had been curtailed before any launch attempt was made. (52)

From 1974 to 1977, tests of the emergency escape system for the TKS spacecraft were also conducted at Site 51.

The R-9 testing continued at the specifically built surface complex code-named Desna-N designed by GSKB Spetsmash led by Vladimir Barmin. The construction of the complex started in 1961 at Site 75. (111) It initially included two experimental launch pads and later a third pad for accelerated pre-launch processing was also built at the site.

Site 75 also featured a complex of support facilities, including two command posts and two protected processing buildings. Complex Desna-N proved to be too bulky and the new facility, known as Dolina ("Valley") was completed nearby in September 1962. A modified R-9A missile was launched from the Dolina complex on February 22, 1963.

In the next stage of the R-9 program, GSKB Spetsmash developed the underground complex for the missile. Code-named Desna-V it was founded at Site 70, east of the original surface pads. The Desna-V complex included three silos grouped in line along the access road. The first launch of the R-9A missile from the silo at Site 70 was conducted on Sept. 27, 1963.

On October 24, 1963, exactly three years after Nedelin's disaster, an accident in one of the silos at Site 70 claimed lives of eight people.


The original surface launch pad for the R-9 ICBM located at Site 51 in Baikonur. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak

Scale model of the surface launch complex for the R-9 rocket. Copyright © 2002 Anatoly Zak

Scale model of the silo launch complex for the R-9 ICBM. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak