The USSR’s first missile test range was established after WW-II at Kapustin Yar near Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. Throughout the 1950s this was used to test the early short and intermediate range Soviet rockets, and later for launching the smaller Cosmos satellites. As Korolev worked on his first ICBM design, the R-7, it became clear that a new launch site would be required to accommodate radio guidance and tracking stations along a much longer range within Soviet territory, and to move the work beyond range of US tracking stations in Turkey. Tyuratam in Kazakhstan was selected for the R-7 launch complex. The site was called Baikonur, after a railhead some 270 km to the northeast, in an attempt to deceive the Americans in targeting their missiles. Construction started in 1955, and over the years the site has become an immense facility some 85 km by 125 km in extent including dozens of assembly and launch complexes, numerous control centers and tracking stations, work areas for tens of thousands of workers, the town of Lcninsk to house them, and a 1,500 km test range.

The first launch complex to be built was the one for the R-7, and it is still in use today. It is part of the ‘Center’ or ‘Korolev’ area that includes the N-l assembly and launch complex that was later converted for Energiya and Buran. The ‘Left Flank’ or ‘Chelomey Arm’ to the northwest has assembly and launch complexes for the Proton, Tsiklon and Rokot. The ‘Right Flank’ or ‘Yangel Arm’ to the northeast has a backup R-7 pad and facilities for Zenit and Cosmos.