This former soviet city is still so important to the Russian military and space complex that Russia rents the entire town from Kazakhstan and administers the city. Baikonur (Kazakh: Байқоңыр; Russian: Байконур), formerly known as Leninsk, is a city in Kyzylorda Province of Kazakhstan and was constructed to service the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was officially renamed Baikonur by Boris Yeltsin on December 20, 1995. The railway station there, however, predates the base and keeps the old name - Tyuratam.
Above: The Soyuz TMA-3 spacecraft and its booster rocket, transported by rail to the launch pad to be raised to a vertical launch position at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on October 16, 2003, in preparation for liftoff October 18 to carry C. Michael Foale, Expedition 8 commander and NASA science officer; Alexander Kaleri, Soyuz Commander and flight engineer; and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Pedro Duque of Spain to the International Space Station.
Vostok 1, the first manned spacecraft in human history, was launched from one of Baikonur's launch pads, which is presently known as the Gagarin's Start.
This town was specifically chosen because the flight path of the rockets that launched many Soviet satellites, including the first Sputnik, passed over its vicinity. The name Baikonur is Kazakh for "wealthy brown", i.e. "fertile land with many herbs."
The Soviets chose the name to confuse the West as to the location of the launch site.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the launch complex where Sputnik 1, Earth's first artificial satellite, was launched. The rocket that lifted Yuri Gagarin, the first human in orbit, was also launched from Baikonur. In fact, all Russian crewed missions are launched from Baikonur, as well as all geostationary, lunar, planetary and ocean surveillance missions.
All space station flights using Russian launch vehicles are launched from Baikonur. Baikonur is also the only Russian launch site capable of launching the Proton launch vehicle, which was used for Zarya, the first element launch of the space station.