Enlarge / A Soyuz rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2012. (credit: NASA)
Site no. 1 in dusty Baikonur, Kazakhstan, is where it all began. In October 1957, an R-7 missile launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into space. Less than four years later, Yuri Gagarin reached orbit from this launch pad, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, followed two years later.
Even today, all Russian, American, Canadian, European, and Japanese astronauts launch into space from Site no. 1—which is also known as Gagarin's Start—as it has been reconfigured for launches of the Soyuz FG rocket. But soon, that will change.
Russia has already moved its Progress cargo launches to the new Soyuz 2 rocket, and now, according to reports in that country, it will move crew launches as well to the newer rocket. In its most powerful configuration, the Soyuz 2.1b has a payload capacity of 8.2 tons to low-Earth orbit, in comparison to 6.9 tons with the Soyuz FG booster.
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