On February 12, 1955 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of Ministers of the USSR passed the joint Resolution about the building of the number 5 scientific-research and testing area in the structure of the USSR Ministry of Defence (NIP-5), currently known as Baykonur Cosmodrome.
The testing area was to test both military rockets as well as to make researches in the field of space technology. The need for a new test range became evident after the Soviet Union began to develop its own intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Kapustin Yar test range near Astrakhan, southern Russia, was located in a more densely populated area and could not therefore be used for ICBM tests.
The new missile test range was located further south for the equatorial launch advantages. A space rocket lifting off near the Equator is subjected to lower gravity and can thus place in orbit larger and heavier payloads.
The Tyura-Tam settlement and the nearby railroad station matched the requirements better than other locations. Apart from purely technical standards, the new test range minimized possible economic losses.
The range was located in a sparsely-populated semi-desert area. However, the technical and economic advantages were offset by an adverse and purely continental climate notorious for its tremendous annual temperature fluctuations exceeding 80 degrees Celsius, with biting winds and extreme temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter, and 45-degree heat and sandstorms in summer.
Along with the building of the test range, the construction works began for the top-secret town of Leninsk, which was unofficially called Zarya (Dawn), though all mail was addressed to Kzyl-Orda-50, and later to Tashkent-90.
Leninsk was renamed Baykonur in 1995, four years after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Now Baykonur Cosmodrome is in the Kazakhstan's territory. Kazakhstan currently leases the Baykonur Space Center and the nearby town to Russia under a contract, which is due to expire in 2050. Moscow pays $115 million annually in rent to Kazakhstan.
Now the total area of the Baykonur Space Centre is 6 717 square kilometers. Its size is 85 kilometers from North to South and 125 kilometers from West to East.
At the Baykonur Space Centre there are:
9 types of launch sites consisted of 15 launchers to launch rocket-carriers;
4 launchers to test intercontinental ballistic rockets;
11 assembly and test buildings for preparing space vehicles and rockets to launch;
92 communication centers;
470 kilometers of railway;
1281 kilometers of roads;
6610 kilometers electric power lines.