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The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppes of Kazakhstan, about 200 kilometers (124 mi) east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 metres above sea level. The facility derives its name from a wider area known as Baikonur and is also traditionally linked with the town of Jezkazgan. It was originally built by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s as the base of operations for its ambitious space program. Under the Eastern Union space program, Baikonour remains a busy space port, with numerous commercial, military and scientific missions being launched annually.
One of the Eastern Union's first diplomatic acts was to open up Baikonur as "free" for scientific projects of any nationality. Some debate this was merely a smokescreen for the immediate launch of the Golden Fleet into orbit. Regardless, the Union has not officially reneged this position.