Site 2 in Baikonur
Founded in 1955, the original facilities of the NIIP-5 test range included an assembly building for the R-7 rocket, located at Site 2. A number of support structures, military barracks and a hotel for visiting engineers were erected near the assembly building at Site 2, forming a small residential area.
Aerial view of Site 2 at the end of the 1950s or the beginning of the 1960s.
R-7/Soyuz rocket infrastructure overview:
Site 2 construction
By the end of April of 1956, when the problems with the construction of the launch pad at Site 1 had been solved and it was certain that the facility would be located where it was originally planned, the rest of the infrastructure for the R-7 launch complex could be developed. Until then, construction activities at Site 2 had been practically frozen.
On April 20, 1956, military engineering units resumed their work at all major sites of the R-7 launch complex. The unit led by manager Captain U. Baranov began erecting the first assembly building, MIK 2-1, for the R-7 missile; unit of Major V. Akinfiev founded the command post, Captain Grigoriev's soldiers were building access channels, and finally, soldiers from Durov's brigade began laying out a railway linking assembly building and the launch pad.
The assembly building at Site 2 and the command post were ready by April 25, 1957. On May 11, 1957, the contractor and a client put their signatures on documents inaugurating the new facility.
In proximity to the assembly building workers also erected barracks, which would house personnel of the Military Test Detachment, OIICh, No. 25741, responsible for testing of the R-7 missile. Later, a hotel for visiting civilian engineers was also completed at Site 2. Finally, three country-style houses were built at Site 2 to accommodate top managers and officials, overseeing the R-7 project. One of these houses, originally assigned to Sergei Korolev, was turned into an official landmark of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, after world's first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, spent a night here before his historic flight in April 1961.
In May 1957, the brigades led by Alekseenko, U. Ruzaev and N. Chekin started the construction of the new new assembly and processing building at Site 2A, just south of MIK 2-1. The new site also included a water-treatment and boiler complex and a special storage building to house nuclear warheads for the R-7 and follow-on missiles. The complex at Site 2A was completed in July 1958.
Site 2 processing complex
The Site 2 processing facility for the R-7 missile and its derivatives includes the original processing building, known as MIK 2-1. It was used to assemble the stages of the rocket, after they had been delivered into the building by rail. (The original R-7 rocket consisted of four strap-on boosters and the core stage made of two separate segments.)
The warhead section for the R-7 missile would be processed in MIK 2A and later transported to MIK 2-1 for integration with its missile. The facilities at Site 2A remained operational at the turn of the 21st century, housing dummy warheads for the latest generation of liquid-propellant ballistic missiles in the Russian arsenal.
When the R-7 missile became a space launcher in 1957, most of its payloads, beginning with "Sputniks" and all the way to Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, would be prepared for flight in MIK 2-1.
In the first half of the 1970s, a special extension, known as 1A was attached to MIK 2-1. Along with its usual processing functions, the facility was used by Soviet cosmonauts to suit up and go through final checks, shortly before departing to the launch pad and boarding their spacecraft. Traditionally, several hours before launch, cosmonauts in their pressure suits and with their individual life support systems in hand would walk out of the MIK-2-1 building and deliver a ceremonial report about their readiness for the flight to the Chairman of the State Commission.
In mid-1990s, the processing of the Soyuz spacecraft and Progress cargo ships was moved to the orbiter processing building, MIK OK, built for the Energia-Buran program at Site-254. Around the same time, the MIK 2-1 was abandoned.
Until the end of 1966, the fueling of the Vostok and first Zenit satellites was conducted outside of the MIK building at Site 2.
In the second half of 1960s, the manned lunar program brought a new wave of construction to the original facilities of Baikonur.
The second processing building, known as MIK 2B or MIK KO, was completed at Site 2 around 1971. (A portion of the building was operational as early as 1967.) The original purpose of this facility was to prepare the manned lunar spacecraft; however with the demise of the program, the building was used to prepare other payloads.
From the mid-1970s, the building also housed the processing of military spacecraft, such as Neman reconnaissance satellites, and their Soyuz rockets, which then would fly from the launch pad at Site 1.
After the original MIK 2-1 building was abandoned in the mid-1990s, the operations to prepare the Soyuz rockets for manned space flight were also moved to MIK 2B. The Soyuz and the Progress spacecraft hidden under their payload firings arrive to MIK 2B for integration with their launchers.
Sometimes, after 2001, Russia hoped to move the processing of the Soyuz rockets and their integration with the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to Site 112, however the roof collapse at the latter facility in May 2002 delayed these plans. Eventually, these operations had been moved to Site 112.
An unused processing and test site for the reconnaissance satellites inside MIK 2B had been disassembled in August 2004 and moved to Site 112, where it was reassembled. Plans were made to use this hardware for pre-launch processing of the Foton spacecraft, whose launches were moved from Plesetsk.
VIDEO: The rollout of the Soyuz rocket from MIK 2B assembly building. Copyright: Anatoly Zak
A deceptive marker "Baikonur," standing at the boundary of Site 2. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The assembly building MIK 2-1 at Site 2 under construction in 1956. Copyright © RussianSpaceWeb.com
The assembly building MIK-2-1 at Site 2 under construction in 1956. Copyright © RussianSpaceWeb.com
The assembly building MIK 2A at Site 2A. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The assembly building MIK 2B-1 (foreground) and MIK 2-1 with 1A extension (background). Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The assembly building MIK 2B houses a processing and test facility (seen on the background) for the unmanned spacecraft, such as imaging surveillance satellites, launched onboard the R-7-based boosters. Since mid-1990s, the manned Soyuz spacecraft had been also transported to the MIK 2B building from Site 254 for the installation of the emergency escape system (shown) and the integration with the launch vehicle. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
Traditionally, at dawn, the R-7-based rocket leaves the assembly building at Site 2 on its way to the launch pad. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
Chief Designers' houses at Site 2. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
A monument to Yuri Gagarin faces the rising Moon over the Baikonur Cosmodrome's Site 2, where the first cosmonaut of the planet spent his last night before the historic flight in April 1961. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak