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A spaceport, astrodrome or cosmodrome (Russian: космодром) is a site for launching (or receiving) spacecraft, by analogy with seaport for ships or airport for aircraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories. However, rocket launch sites for purely sub-orbital flights are sometimes called spaceports. In recent years new and proposed sites for suborbital human flights have commonly been named spaceports. Space stations are sometimes called spaceports, in particular if intended as a base for further journeys.

The term rocket launch site is used for any facility from which rockets are launched. It may contain one or more launch pads or suitable sites to mount a transportable launch pad. It is surrounded with large safety area named rocket range or missile range. The range includes the area over which launched rockets are expected to fly, and within which some components of the rockets may land. Tracking stations, vessels, and aircraft are often located in the range to assess the progress of the launches.

Major spaceports often include more than one launch complex, which can be well-separated (for safety reasons) rocket launch sites adapted for different types of launch vehicles. For launch vehicles with liquid propellant, suitable storage facilities and, in some cases, production facilities are necessary. On-site processing facilities for solid propellants are also common.

A spaceport can also include runways for takeoff and landing of spacecraft equipped with wings.


The first rockets to reach space were V-2 rockets launched from Peenemündemarker in Germany during World War II. When launched vertically they could reach more than 200 km altitude. However, most V-2 rockets reached much lower altitudes on military sorties.

The world’s first spaceport for orbital and human launches, the Baikonur Cosmodromemarker in Kazakhstanmarker, started as a Soviet military rocket range in 1955. It achieved the first orbital flight (Sputnik 1) in October 1957. The exact location of the cosmodrome was initially held secret. Guesses to its location were misdirected by a name in common with a mining town 320 km away. The position became known outside the Soviet Union only after U-2 planes had identified the site by following railway lines in Kazakhstan.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome achieved the first launch of a human into space (Yuri Gagarin) in 1961. The launch complex used, Site 1, has reached a special symbolic significance and is commonly called Gagarin's Startmarker. Baikonur was the primary Soviet cosmodrome, and is still widely used by Russia under a lease arrangement with Kazakhstan.

In response to the early Soviet successes, the United States built up a major spaceport complex at Cape Canaveral in Florida. A large number of unmanned flights, as well as the early human flights, were carried out at Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker. For the Apollo programme, an adjacent spaceport, Kennedy Space Centermarker, was constructed, and achieved the first manned mission to the lunar surface (Apollo 11) in July 1969. It has been the base for all Space Shuttle launches and most of their runway landings. For details on the launch complexes of the two spaceports, see List of Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island launch sites.

The Guiana Space Centremarker in Kourou, French Guiana, is the major European spaceport, with satellite launches that benefit from the location 4 degrees north of the equator.

In October 2003 the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centermarker achieved the first Chinese human spaceflight.

Breaking with tradition, in June 2004 on a runway at Mojave Spaceportmarker, California, a human was for the first time launched to space in a privately funded, suborbital spaceflight, that was intended to pave the way for future commercial spaceflights. The spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, was launched by a carrier airplane taking off horizontally.

Placement considerations

Rockets can most easily reach satellite orbits if launched near the equator in an easterly direction, as this maximizes use of the Earth's rotational speed (465 m/s). Such launches also give a good orientation for arriving at a geostationary orbit. For polar orbits and Molniya orbits this does not apply.

Altitude of the launch site is not a driving factor because most of the delta-v for a satellite launch is spent on achieving the required horizontal orbital speed. The small gains from a few kilometers of extra altitude at the start does not usually off-set the ground transport problems in mountainous terrain.

Many spaceports have been placed at existing military installations, such as intercontinental ballistic missile ranges, which is not always ideal for satellite launches.

A rocket launch site is built as far as possible away from major population centers in order to mitigate risk to bystanders should a rocket experience a catastrophic failure. In many cases a launch site is built close to major bodies of water to ensure that no components are shed over populated areas. Typically a spaceport site is large enough that, should a vehicle explode, it will not endanger human lives or adjacent launch pads.

Planned sites of spaceports for sub-orbital tourist spaceflight often make use of existing ground infrastructure, including runways. The nature of the local view from 100 km altitude is also a factor to consider.

Space tourism

The space tourism industry (see List of private spaceflight companies) is being targeted by spaceports in numerous locations worldwide. The establishment of spaceports for tourist trips raises legal issues, which are only beginning to be addressed. In particular, the transition between airspace legislation and spaceflight legislation need to be clear, and such that space tourism is not unduly disadvantaged.

Spaceports with Achieved Launches of Humans

The following is a table of spaceports and launch complexes with a documented achieved launch of humans to space (more than 100 km altitude). Spaceports that have only achieved human sub-orbital flights are listed at the end. Otherwise the sorting order is spaceport by spaceport according to the time of the first human launch.

Spaceport Launch complex Launcher Spacecraft Flights Years Operation
Baikonur Cosmodromemarker, Kazakhstan Site 1marker Vostok Vostok 1-6 6 Orbital 1961-1963 Governmental
Site 1marker Voskhod Voskhod 1-2 2 Orbital 1964-1965 Governmental
Site 1marker, Site 31 Soyuz Soyuz 1-40 ex. 2, 20, 34 37 Orbital 1967-1981 Governmental
Site 1marker, Site 31 Soyuz Soyuz-T 2-15 14 Orbital 1980-1986 Governmental
Site 1marker Soyuz Soyuz-TM 2-34 33 Orbital 1987-2002 Governmental
Site 1marker Soyuz Soyuz-TMA 1-16 16 Orbital 2002- Governmental
Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker, USA LC5marker Redstone Mercury 3-4 2 Sub-O 1961-1961 Governmental
LC14marker Atlas Mercury 6-9 4 Orbital 1962-1963 Governmental
LC19marker Titan II Gemini 3-12 10 Orbital 1965-1966 Governmental
LC34marker Saturn IB Apollo 7 1 Orbital 1968-1968 Governmental
Kennedy Space Centermarker, USA LC39marker Saturn V Apollo 8-17 10 Lun/Or 1968-1970 Governmental
LC39marker Saturn IB Skylab 2-4 3 Orbital 1973-1974 Governmental
LC39marker Saturn IB Apollo-Soyuz 1 Orbital 1975-1975 Governmental
LC39marker STS 1-128 Space Shuttle 126 Orbital 1981- Governmental
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centermarker, China SLS Long March 2F Shenzhou 5-7 3 Orbital 2003- Governmental
Edwards Air Force Basemarker, USA Runway B52 X-15 90-91 2 Sub-O 1963-1963 Governmental
Mojave Spaceportmarker, USA Runway White Knight SpaceShipOne 15-17 3 Sub-O 2004-2004 Private

Spaceports with Achieved Satellite Launches

The following is a table of spaceports with a documented achieved launch to orbit. The table is sorted according to the time of the first launch that achieved satellite orbit insertion. The first column gives the geographical location. Operations from a different country are indicated in the last column. A launch is counted as one also in cases where the payload consists of multiple satellites.

Spaceport Years
to orbit
or inter-

Launch vehicles
Baikonur Cosmodromemarker, Baikonur/Tyuratam, Kazakhstan 1957- >1000   R-7/Soyuz, Kosmos, Proton, Zenit, Energia
Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker, Florida, USA 1958- >400   Delta, Scout, Atlas, Titan, Saturn, Athena
Vandenberg Air Force Basemarker, California, USA 1959- >500   Delta, Scout, Atlas, Titan, Taurus, Athena
Kapustin Yarmarker Cosmodrome, Astrakhan Oblast, Russia 1962- >100   Kosmos
Hammaguira French Special Weapons Test Centre, Hammaguirmarker, Algeria 1965-1967 4   Diamant A (France)
Plesetsk Cosmodromemarker, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia 1966- >1000   Soyuz, Kosmos
San Marco platformmarker, Broglio Space Centre, Malindi, Kenya 1967-1988 9   Scout (ASI and Sapienzamarker, Italy)
Kennedy Space Centermarker, Florida, USA 1967- 143   17 Saturn, 126 Space Shuttle
Uchinoura Space Centermarker (Kagoshima), Japan 1970-2006 27   Mu
Guiana Space Centremarker, Kourou, French Guiana 1970- >180   7 Diamant, Ariane (CNES, ESAmarker)
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centermarker, China 1970- >30   Long March
Woomera Launch Area 5marker, Woomera Prohibited Areamarker, South Australia 1971-1971 1   Black Arrow
Woomera Launch Area 8, Woomera Prohibited Areamarker, South Australia 1967 1   WRESAT
Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota), Andhra Pradesh, India 1980- 23   3 SLV, 2 ASLV, 14 PSLV, 4 GSLV
Xichang Satellite Launch Centermarker, China 1984- >40   Long March
Tanegashima Space Centermarker, Japan 1986- 28   9 H-I, 5 H-II, 14 H-IIA
Palmachim Air Force Basemarker, Israel 1988- 5   Shavit
Various airport runways 1990- 37   Pegasus (Orbital Sciences Corporation)
Svobodny Cosmodromemarker, Amur Oblast, Russia 1997-2006 5   Start-1
Delta class submarine, Barents Sea 1998- 2   Shtil' (Russia)
Ocean Odyssey mobile platform, Pacific Ocean 1999-2009 28   Zenit-3SL (Sea Launch)
Kodiak Launch Complexmarker, Alaska, USA 2001-2001 1   Athena
Yasny Cosmodromemarker (Dombarovsky), Orenburg Oblast, Russia 2006- 3   Dnepr-1
Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceportmarker (MARS), Virginia, USA 2006- 3   Minotaur I
Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centermarker, China 2007- 4   Long March
Omelek, Marshall Islands 2008- 2   Falcon 1
Semnan, Iran 2009- 1   Safir

The U.S. White Sands Missile Rangemarker has had over 7,000 high altitude and sub-orbital flights since 1946 when it sent its first rocket into space. White Sands launches military and civilian flights and serves as an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.

See also


  1. Baikonur –
  2. Cape Canaveral -
  3. Vandenberg –
  4. Kapustin Yar –
  5. Hammaguira –
  6. [1]
  7. San Marco –
  8. Uchinoura/Kagoshima –
  9. [2]
  10. Jiuquan –
  11. Woomera LA5B –
  12. Black Arrow –
  13. Sriharikota –
  14. Xichang –
  15. Tanegashima –
  16. Palmachim –
  17. Svobodniy –
  18. Kodiak –
  19. Dombarovskiy –
  20. Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport website
  21. Taiyuan –
  22. White Sands, Astronautix

External links

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