To launch spacecraft into space, in addition to the launch pad, a complex of structures is needed where pre-launch activities are carried out: final assembly and docking of the launch vehicle and the spacecraft, pre-launch testing and diagnostics, refueling with fuel and an oxidizer.
Usually, spaceports occupy a large area and are located at a considerable distance from densely populated places, in order to avoid damage in case of accidents and falls, separated during the flight of stages.
Cosmodromes of the world
The closer the launch point is to the equator, the less energy is required to launch the payload into space. When launched from the equator, it can save about 10% of fuel compared to a rocket launched from a cosmodrome located in mid-latitudes. Since there are not many states on the equator capable of launching rockets into space, projects of sea-based cosmodromes have appeared.
The Russian Federation, being a pioneer in space exploration, currently holds the lead in the number of launches. In 2012, our country carried out 24 launches of carrier rockets, unfortunately, not all of them were successful.
The largest "space harbor" in Russia is the Baikonur cosmodrome leased from Kazakhstan. It is located on the territory of Kazakhstan, in the Kyzylorda region between the city of Kazalinsk and the village of Dzhusaly, near the village of Tyuratam. Cosmodrome area: 6717 km². The construction of the cosmodrome began in 1955. On August 21, 1957, the first successful launch of the R-7 rocket took place.
Scheme of the Baikonur cosmodrome
In Soviet times, a huge unparalleled infrastructure was created in the Baikonur area, including, in addition to starting, preparatory and control and measuring complexes, airfields, access roads, office buildings and residential towns. All this after the collapse of the USSR went to independent Kazakhstan.
According to official data, the operation of the cosmodrome in 2012 cost about 5 billion rubles a year (the cost of renting the Baikonur complex is 115 million dollars - about 3.5 billion rubles a year, and Russia spends about 1.5 billion rubles a year on maintenance of the cosmodrome facilities), which was 4.2% of the total budget of Roscosmos for 2012. In addition, from the federal budget of Russia to the budget of the city of Baikonur, a gratuitous receipt in the amount of 1, 16 billion rubles is annually carried out (as of 2012). In total, the cosmodrome and the city cost the Russian budget 6, 16 billion rubles a year.
At the moment "Baikonur", after its transfer by the military in 2005, is under the jurisdiction of Roscosmos. By the end of 2007, most of the military space units left the cosmodrome, and about 500 Russian servicemen remained at the cosmodrome.
Satellite image of Google Earth: launch pad # 250
The cosmodrome has infrastructure and launch facilities that allow launching carrier rockets:
- medium-sized carriers of the Soyuz family, launch weight up to 313,000 kg (based on R-7) - site No. 1 (Gagarin launch), No. 31.
- light launch vehicles "Kosmos", launch weight up to 109,000 kg - site number 41.
- medium-sized carriers of the Zenit family, launch weight up to 462200 kg - site number 45.
- heavy carriers "Proton", launch weight up to 705,000 kg - platforms No. 81, No. 200.
- light carriers of the Cyclone family, launch weight up to 193,000 kg (based on R-36 ICBMs) - site number 90.
- light launch vehicles "Dnepr" ", launch weight up to 211000 kg (joint Russian-Ukrainian development based on the R-36M ICBM) - site No. 175
- light launch vehicles "Rokot" and "Strela", launch weight up to 107,500 kg (based on ICBM UR-100N) - site number 175.
- heavy carriers "Energia", launch weight up to 2,400,000 kg (currently not used) - platforms No. 110, No. 250.
Satellite image of Google Earth: "Gagarin's start"
Despite the regularly received payments for the lease of the cosmodrome and interstate agreements, Kazakhstan periodically interferes with the normal operation of the cosmodrome. So, in 2012, the launches of the European meteorological spacecraft MetOp-B (the launch was planned for May 23), the Russian satellites Kanopus-V and MKA-PN1, the Belarusian spacecraft, the Canadian ADS-1B and the German TET-1 (group launch these five devices were scheduled for June 7), the Russian device "Resurs-P" (planned for August).
The reason was the long-term agreement by the Kazakh side of the use of the fall field of the first stage of carrier rockets in the Kustanai and Aktobe regions (used in the launching of satellites into the sun-synchronous orbit by the Soyuz carrier rocket).
Due to the position of the Kazakh side, the project of creating a joint Russian-Kazakh rocket and space complex "Baiterek" (based on the new carrier rocket "Angara") was not implemented. It was not possible to reach a compromise on the financing of the project. Probably, Russia will build a launch complex for Angara at the new Vostochny cosmodrome.
Proton-K launches Zvezda module for ISS into orbit
The northernmost cosmodrome in the world is Plesetsk, also known as the 1st State Testing Cosmodrome. It is located 180 kilometers south of Arkhangelsk, not far from the Plesetskaya railway station of the Northern Railway. The cosmodrome covers an area of 176,200 hectares. The cosmodrome dates back to January 11, 1957, when the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR on the creation of a military facility with the code name "Angara" was adopted. The cosmodrome was created as the first military missile formation in the USSR, armed with R-7 and R-7A intercontinental ballistic missiles.
R-7 carrier family
From the 70s to the early 90s, the Plesetsk cosmodrome held the world leadership in the number of rocket launches into space (from 1957 to 1993, 1,372 launches were made from here, while only 917 from Baikonur, which is in second place).
However, since the 1990s, the annual number of launches from Plesetsk has become less than from Baikonur. The cosmodrome is run by the military, in addition to launching an artificial satellite into orbit, test launches of ICBMs are periodically carried out from it.
The cosmodrome has stationary technical and launch complexes for domestic light and medium-class launch vehicles: Rokot, Cyclone-3, Kosmos-3M and Soyuz.
Satellite image of Google Earth: launch pad of Soyuz carriers
Also at the cosmodrome there is a test complex designed for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles with a silo-type launcher.
The construction of launch and technical complexes for the "Angara" carrier rockets on the basis of the SC "Zenith" is underway.
Launch of the Cyclone-3 rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome
The cosmodrome provides a significant part of Russian space programs related to defense, as well as scientific and commercial launches of unmanned spacecraft.
In addition to the main cosmodromes "Baikonur" and "Plesetsk", launch vehicle rockets and launch spacecraft into near-earth orbit are periodically carried out from other cosmodromes.
The most famous of them is the Svobodny cosmodrome. The main reason for the creation of this cosmodrome was the fact that as a result of the collapse of the USSR, the Baikonur cosmodrome was outside the territory of Russia and the impossibility of launching heavy "Protons" from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. It was decided to create a new cosmodrome on the basis of the disbanded 27th Red Banner Far Eastern division of the Strategic Missile Forces, which was previously armed with the UR-100 BR. In 1993, its facilities were transferred to the military space forces. On March 1, 1996, by presidential decree, the 2nd State Test Cosmodrome of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation was established here. The total area of this facility is about 700 km2.
The first launch of the Start 1.2 carrier rocket based on the Topol ballistic missile with the Zeya spacecraft took place on March 4, 1997. During the entire existence of the cosmodrome, five rockets have been launched here.
In 1999, a decision was made to build a rocket and launch complex for the Strela launch vehicle at the cosmodrome. However, the "Strela" complex did not pass the state ecological expertise due to the high toxicity of the rocket fuel used in it - heptyl. In June 2005, at a meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, it was decided, within the framework of the reduction of the armed forces, to liquidate the Svobodny cosmodrome due to the low intensity of launches and insufficient funding. However, already in 2007, it was decided to create an infrastructure here for launching medium-class launch vehicles. The future cosmodrome was named Vostochny. It is assumed that commercial and scientific launches will be carried out here, and all military launches are planned to be carried out from Plesetsk.
Light carrier rockets of the Cosmos and Dnepr series were also launched from the Kapustin Yar test site and the Yasny launch pad.
At the Kapustin Yar training ground in the Astrakhan region, promising air defense systems are currently being tested. In addition, the Kosmos series launch vehicles with military satellites are periodically launched.
The Yasny complex is located on the territory of the Dombarovsky positional area of the Strategic Missile Forces in the Yasnensky District of the Orenburg Region of Russia. It is used to launch spacecraft using Dnepr launch vehicles. From July 2006 to August 2013, there were six successful commercial launches.
Also in Russia, spacecraft were launched from strategic submarine missile carriers.
On July 7, 1998, two German commercial micro-satellites Tubsat-N were launched into low-earth orbit from the Novomoskovsk SSBN of the project 667BDRM Dolphin, being submerged in the Barents Sea water area. This is the first in the history of space exploration to launch satellites into near-earth orbit with a rocket launch from under water.
On May 26, 2006, the "Compass 2" satellite was successfully launched from the Yekaterinburg SSBN, project 667BDRM "Dolphin".
The most famous US spaceport is by far the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Space Center. Located on Merritt Island in Florida, the center of the spaceport is located near Cape Canaveral, midway between Miami and Jacksonville. The Kennedy Space Center is a complex of spacecraft launch and mission control facilities (cosmodrome) owned by NASA. The cosmodrome is 55 km long and about 10 km wide, with an area of 567 km².
The cosmodrome was originally founded in 1950 as a test site for missiles. The location of the test site was one of the most convenient in the United States, since spent rocket stages fall into the Atlantic Ocean. However, the location of the cosmodrome is associated with significant natural and meteorological risks. The buildings and structures of the space center were repeatedly seriously damaged by hurricanes, and the planned launches had to be postponed. So in September 2004, part of the Kennedy Space Center facilities were damaged by Hurricane Francis. The vertically assembled building has lost a thousand external panels with approximate dimensions of 1, 2 × 3.0 m each. The outer cladding of 3,700 m² was destroyed. The roof was partially torn off and the interior was extensively water damaged.
Top view of the area of the launch complex number 39
All space shuttle launches were carried out by the Kennedy Space Center from Launch Complex 39. The center is served by approximately 15,000 civil servants and specialists.
The history of this cosmodrome is inextricably linked with the American manned space exploration program. Until July 2011, the Kennedy Space Center was the launch site for Space Shuttle vehicles using Complex 39 with the Apollo infrastructure. The first launch was the Columbia spacecraft on April 12, 1981. The center is also a landing site for orbital shuttles - there is a 4.6 km long landing strip.
Space shuttle "Atlantis"
The last launch of the space shuttle Atlantis took place on May 16, 2011. Then the American reusable spacecraft delivered a cargo of logistics, as well as a magnetic alpha spectrometer, aboard the International Space Station.
Part of the cosmodrome territory is open to the public, there are several museums and cinemas and exhibition grounds. Bus excursion routes are organized on the territory closed for free visits. The bus tour costs $ 38. It includes: a visit to the launch sites of complex 39 and a trip to the Apollo-Saturn V center, an overview of the tracking stations.
The Apollo-Saturn V Center is a huge museum built around the most valuable piece of the exhibition, the reconstructed Saturn V launch vehicle and other space-related artifacts such as the Apollo capsule.
Unmanned spacecraft are launched from launch sites along the coast, they are operated by the United States Air Force and are part of the United States Air Force Base at Cape Canaveral. This base is part of the United States Air Force Space Command. There are 38 launch sites at Cape Canaveral, of which only 4 are operational today. Currently, Delta II and IV, Falcon 9 and Atlas V rockets are launched from the cosmodrome.
Satellite image of Google Earth: launch pad at Cape Canaveral
From here, on April 22, 2010, the successful launch of the Boeing X-37 unmanned reusable spacecraft took place for the first time. It was launched into low-earth orbit using an Atlas V launch vehicle.
On March 5, 2011, the device was launched into orbit by an Atlas V launch vehicle, launched from Cape Canaveral. According to the US Air Force, the second X-37B will test sensor devices and satellite systems. On June 16, 2012, the aircraft landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, having spent 468 days and 13 hours in orbit, circling the Earth more than seven thousand times.
On December 11, 2012, an apparatus of this type was launched into space for the third time, where it remains to this day.
The X-37 is designed to operate at altitudes of 200-750 km, is capable of quickly changing orbits, maneuvering, performing reconnaissance missions, delivering and returning small loads.
The second largest and most important US space infrastructure facility is Vandenberg Air Force Base. The joint space command center is located here. This is the residence of the 14th Aviation Regiment, the 30th Space Wing, the 381st Training Group and the Western Launch and Test Range, where satellite launches for military and commercial organizations are carried out, as well as tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the Minuteman - 3 ".
Control and training firing of combat missiles, is carried out mainly in the south-western direction towards the atolls of Kwajalein and Canton. The total length of the equipped route reaches 10 thousand km. Missiles are launched in a southerly direction. Due to the geographical location of the base, the entire route of their flight passes over the uninhabited regions of the Pacific Ocean.
On December 16, 1958, the first Thor ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg Base. On February 28, 1959, the world's first polar-orbiting satellite Discoverer-1 was launched from Vandenberg on the Tor-Agena carrier rocket. Vandenberg was selected as the launch and landing site for the Space Shuttle on the west coast of the United States.
To launch the shuttles, technical facilities, an assembly building were built and launch complex No. 6 was rebuilt. In addition, the base's existing 2,590-meter runway has been lengthened to 4,580 meters to facilitate shuttle landing. Full maintenance and restoration of the orbiter was carried out using the equipment located here. However, the Challenger explosion caused the cancellation of all shuttle flights from the West Coast.
After the shuttle program was frozen at Vandenberg, Launch Complex 6 was once again redesigned to launch Delta IV launch vehicles. The first of the spacecraft of the Delta IV series, launched from pad 6, was a rocket launched on June 27, 2006, it launched the NROL-22 reconnaissance satellite into orbit.
Launch of the Delta IV carrier rocket from the Vandenberg cosmodrome
Currently, the Vandenberg base facilities are used to launch military satellites, some of them, such as the NROL-28 apparatus, are used to "fight terrorism." NROL-28 launched into highly elliptical orbit to collect intelligence information on terrorist groups in the Middle East; for example, sensors on board such satellites can track the movement of military vehicles on the Earth's surface. The launch of this satellite into space was carried out by the Atlas V launch vehicle, which used Russian RD-180 engines.
For tests within the framework of the missile defense program, the Reagan Proving Grounds are used. Launch sites are located in Kwajelin Atoll and Wake Island. It has existed since 1959. In 1999, the landfill was named after former US President Ronald Reagan.
Since 2004, Omelek Island, part of the test site, has hosted the launch pad for SpaceX's Falcon 1 launch vehicle. In total, 4 orbital launch attempts were made from Omelek Island.
The first three ended unsuccessfully, the fourth rocket launched a mass-dimensional satellite mock-up into orbit. The first commercial launch took place on July 13, 2009. The delay was caused by compatibility issues between the rocket and the Malaysian RazakSat satellite.
The Falcon 1 light launch vehicle is partially reusable, the first stage after separation is splashed down and can be reused.
The Wallops Cosmodrome is located on NASA-owned territory and consists of three separate sites with a total area of 25 km²: the main base, the center on the mainland and Wallops Island, where the launch site is located. The main base is located on the east coast of Virginia. It was founded in 1945, the first successful launch was made on February 16, 1961, when the research satellite Explorer-9 was launched into low-earth orbit using the Scout X-1 launch vehicle. Has several launch sites.
In 1986, NASA deployed a control and measuring complex on the territory of the test site for tracking and controlling the spacecraft flight. Several radars with antenna diameters of 2, 4-26 m provide reception and high-speed transmission of information coming from objects directly to their owners. The technical capabilities of the complex make it possible to carry out trajectory measurements of objects located at a distance of 60 thousand km, with an accuracy of 3 m in range and up to 9 cm / s in speed.
Over the years of its existence, more than 15 thousand launches of various types of rockets have been made from the station's territory; recently, about 30 launches have been made per year.
Since 2006, part of the test site has been leased by a private aerospace corporation and used for commercial launches under the name Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. In 2013, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer probe was launched to the Moon from the Wallops Cosmodrome by a Minotaur-V launch vehicle.
The Antares LV is also launched here, in their first stage two oxygen-kerosene rocket engines AJ-26 are installed - a modification of the NK-33 engine developed by Aerojet and licensed in the USA for use on American launch vehicles.
Launch vehicle "Antares"
As of March 31, 2010, Aerodget Rocketdine purchased from SNTK im. Kuznetsov, about 40 NK-33 engines at a price of 1 million US dollars.
Another commercial spaceport is the Kodiak Launch Complex, located on the island of the same name off the coast of Alaska. It is designed to launch light rockets along a suborbital trajectory and launch small spacecraft into polar orbit.
The first experimental rocket launch from the cosmodrome took place on November 5, 1998. The first orbital launch took place on September 29, 2001, when the Athena-1 launch vehicle launched 4 small satellites into orbit.
Launch of the Athena-1 LV from the launch pad on Kadyak Island. September 30, 2001
Despite the "commercial" purpose of the cosmodrome, the Minotaur launch vehicles are regularly launched from it. The Minotaur family of American fully solid-propellant launch vehicles was developed by the Orbital Science Corporation, commissioned by the US Air Force, based on the Minuteman and Piskiper ICBM march stages.
Launch vehicle "Minotaur"
Due to US laws prohibiting the sale of government equipment, the Minotaur launch vehicle can only be used to launch government satellites and is not available for commercial orders. Minotaur V's last successful launch took place on September 6, 2013.
In addition to launching cargo into space using carrier rockets, other programs are being implemented in the United States. In particular, objects were launched into orbit using rockets of the Pegasus series launched from the Stargazer aircraft, a modified Lockheed L-1011.
The system was developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which specializes in providing commercial services for the delivery of objects into space.
Another example of a private initiative is the reusable Space Ship One developed by Scaled Composites LLC.
Takeoff is carried out using a special aircraft White Knight (White Knight). Then undocking takes place and Space Ship One rises to an altitude of about 50 km. Space Ship One is in space for about three minutes. Flights are carried out from the private aerospace center "Mojave" in the interests of "space tourism".
In 2012, the United States carried out 13 launches of carrier rockets. Yielding in this indicator to Russia, the United States is actively working on the creation of promising launch vehicles and reusable spacecraft.