Plesetsk Cosmodrome

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Last Updated: May 23, 2014
Other Name: Космодром «Плесецк», First State Testing Cosmodrome, 1-й Государственный испытательный космодром, 3rd Training Artillery Range
Location: Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russian Federation
Subordinate To: Russian Aerospace Defense Forces
Size: 1,760 square km
Facility Status: Operational

History:

In 1957 Plesetsk was chosen as the site for the first operational Soviet ICBM base. [1] Its location in a remote part of the Northern Russian forest was necessary because it was then one of the few parts of the Soviet Union where the world’s first ICBM, the R-7, could be based to hit targets in the United States. [2] A total of 4 R-7A ICBM launch sites were built, but these missiles required expensive launch pads and took hours to prepare for launch, so they quickly fell out of favor as new missiles were introduced. When their role as ICBM launchers ended, these R-7 launch pads began a second life as a launch complex for Soyuz rockets, a role they continue to serve today.

A 1963 decree from the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union rededicated Plesetsk as Russia’s first solid-fueled ballistic missile testing ground, and in 1967 the site became the hub for Russia’s efforts to develop solid-fueled mobile ICBMs. [3] Although operational ICBM deployments at Plesetsk ended in 1968, Plesetsk continued to be the Soviet Union’s primary launch area for polar satellites, as well as the primary facility for both developing and testing road- and rail-mobile ICBMs, and training the Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) to operate the missiles [4]

Current Status:

Today, the Plesetsk Cosmodrome is Russia’s largest operational missile testing and space launch facility and is a critical part of Russia’s ICBM modernization and recapitalization program. [5] Plesetsk consists of three major areas:, a space launch facility with nine launch pads, a missile test range withtest silos,mobile  missile testing areas, and a training area for the Strategic Missile Troops and road mobile missiles. As part of the START process, Russia confirmed the three areas, declaring Plesetsk as a Missile Test Range, a Mobile ICBM Training Facility, and a Space Launch Facility. [6]

 In September 2011, Russian Aerospace Defense Forces spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin announced that Russia would be investing $170 million to update the infrastructure at Plesetsk, signaling  its intention to keep it in operation for the foreseeable future. [7]

Sources:

[1] Anatoly Zak, “Centers: Plesetsk,” Russian Space Web, 17 June 2013. www.russianspaceweb.com.
[2] Pavel Podvig, ed., Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001), Pg.122.
[3] National Security Agency, “The Soviet Land-Based Ballistic Missile Program, 1945-1972.” www.archives.gov.
[4] Anatoly Zak, “Centers: Plesetsk,” Russian Space Web, 17 June 2013. www.russianspaceweb.com.
[5] “A Guided Tour of Plesetsk, Russia’s Only Space Center,” RIA Novosti, 30 August 2011. http://en.ria.ru.
[6] Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton, “The New Start Treaty: Hearings Before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Responses of Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton to Questions Submitted by Senator Lugar,” Submitted to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 29 April 2010. www.gpo.gov.
[7] “Russia to Sink $170 Mln into Plesetsk Space Center,” RIA Novosti, 7 September 2011. http://en.ria.ru

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