Launch facility for Proton rocket
at Site 200

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One of the two launch pads for the Proton rocket at Site 200.

During the 1970's, as new variations of Proton appeared on the drawing board, the Soviet government approved the construction of a brand-new launch complex for the rocket with launch pads No. 39 and No. 40. The development of the facility started in 1970 and the actual construction was initiated in 1972. (70) The dual launch complex is also known as Facility No. 548. It is located at Site 200, east of Proton's original pads.

Pad No. 40 entered service in 1977 and Pad No. 39 became operational in 1980. In December 1984, Soviet television showed a footage of the Proton rocket lifting off from Site 200, as it was carrying Vega planetary probes toward Venus.

In 1998, both pads in Area 200 were transferred under civilian control of the Russian Space Agency. As of beginning of the year 2000, only Pad No. 39 remained operational at Site 200, while Pad No. 40 was officially under repair since 1991.

Pad No. 39 was modified to launch the Proton-M rocket, along with Pad No. 24 at Site 81, however Pad No. 39 was not expected to be compatible with payloads developed by ISS Reshetnev until at least 2014. The facility was reported to be under refurbishment in 2012.

Baiterek launch complex


Site 200 in November 1998.

During 2004, Russian and Kazakh officials discussed a possibility of building a launch complex for the Angara rocket in Baikonur. A formal agreement between two governments on the construction of the complex dubbed Baiterek was reached on December 22, 2004. According to one proposal, the complex would use Site 200's launch Pad No. 40 for the Proton rocket, which had stayed abandoned and decrepit at the turn of the 21st century.

A ceremonial marker, commemorating the foundation of the Baiterek complex was installed at Pad No. 40, however, the actual work had never commenced.

According to unofficial reports, in November 2006, representatives of Khrunichev enterprise and Kazakh officials were planning to conduct surveillance of a new flight path for the Angara-A5 launcher from Baikonur, which would enable it to reach orbits with an inclination 48 degrees toward the Equator. Such trajectory would be almost ideal in terms of delivering maximum cargo possible from Baikonur. This flight path was avoided in the previous half a century of Baikonur's existence, since it would take the rocket over the Chinese territory. It was unclear, if this political issue was resolved in case of the Baiterek project.

During his visit to Baikonur in May 2007, the head of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov told reporters that the Khrunichev enterprise had been directed to complete a general draft-schedule for the development of the Baiterek complex and to start its implementation in the second quarter of 2008.

On April 18, 2008, key contractors in the development of the Baiterek complex, including Khrunichev met with local community leaders and other officials in Kzyl Orda, a regional center near Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan Today news agency reported. Two sides discussed projected environmental impact of the Baiterek facility on the surrounding area and on drop zones downrange from the launch site. Space officials assured local representatives that replacement of the Proton rocket with the Angara launcher would improve the environmental situation in the region. They also promised to keep all activities at the site transparent to the general public. The head of the Baiterek joint venture, Aleksandr Taryanik, confirmed that the "real implementation" of the Baiterek project would start in 2008.

However by 2009, Kazakhstan made a decision to use former test facilities for the Energia rocket at Site 250 as a base for the Baiterek complex.

Upgrades for MLM Nauka launch

From the end of April 2021, specialists from Yuzhny infrastructure division worked on upgrading thermal-control and servicing hardware of the Proton launch facility at Site 200 to enable the ventilation and personnel access to the unique payload fairing of the MLM Nauka module during its preparations on the launch pad. Previously, the three-stage version of the Proton rocket, which was used to launch heavy space station modules, such as Zarya FGB and Zvezda Service Module, SM, was launched from Site 81. It was uniquely equipped for handling that type of payloads, however, by 2020, only Pad 39 at Site 200 remained available for the Proton rocket.

The contractors from the Test Center TsI-2, (which was responsible for Proton facilities in Baikonur), Branch of SPU-TsKB TM ground systems design bureau, the Titan special design bureau and VNIIKholodMash institute participated in the work. By May 13, 2021, the team updated technical documentation for the launch facility, developed the integrated testing program, manufactured and delivered additional hardware to the launch site, Roskosmos said. At the time of the announcement, the specialists were installing the new hardware, which would be followed by the activation and integrated tests of the launch complex.


Writing and photography by Anatoly Zak

Last update: May 17, 2021

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A scale model of the Proton launch complex at Site 200. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2002 Anatoly Zak


A Proton rocket with an unmanned version of the Almaz space station, which was announced as Kosmos-1870 after its launch on July 25, 1987, from Site 200.


From the end of April 2021, specialists were upgrading the mobile service tower of Pad 39 at Site 200 to accommodate the Proton-M rocket with the MLM Nauka module. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos