Yubileyny airfield, Baikonur Cosmodrome
Located 20 kilometers north of the central hub of the Baikonur Cosmodrome is Yubileiny, one of the largest airfields in the world. It's considered a universal airfield, capable of accommodating aircraft of all types, as its design originally catered to the landing of the Buran space shuttle, akin to the American shuttles.
Situated 40 kilometers from Baikonur, Yubileiny airfield is the northernmost installation of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, known internally as Site 251. Boasting a runway that extends 4,500 meters in length and 84 meters in width, it's constructed from high-strength concrete that's approximately 30 cm thick.
The genesis of the airfield coincided with the launch of the "Buran-Energia" project, which necessitated a vast and durable runway to facilitate the landing of the space shuttle. In October 1977, the USSR Government issued a directive for the construction of the complex to align with the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution, thus bestowing the name "Yubileiny" upon the soon-to-be airfield. Military builders commenced construction in 1979, with the first segment of the facilities and the runway handed over in November 1981.
On January 29, 1982, the first aircraft made its descent onto the airfield. Starting April 8 of the same year, the transport of modules for the Buran-Energia program was set in motion, which went on to facilitate 59 cargo delivery flights. Yubileiny airfield etched its place in history on November 15, 1988, when it became the site for the first and only landing of the Buran shuttle.
Regrettably, with the dissolution of the USSR, the Buran-Energia program was discontinued, and Yubileiny airfield shared a similar fate. It was shuttered in 1992 and fell into a state of decay, with parts of it vandalized and stolen. However, the renaissance of Russian space exploration began in 1995, necessitating the restoration of the airfield to enable the delivery of spacecraft to Baikonur. Thus, from 1997 onwards, Yubileiny resumed operations, receiving cargo planes loaded with rocket parts and satellites. Moreover, between 1997 and 2011, the airfield served passenger planes carrying the cosmodrome staff and aerospace industry specialists.
Today, while the Yubileiny airfield remains off-limits for tourists, it is operational for special flights tasked with the delivery of rocket modules and spacecraft.