Spaceports of the World

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Over 60 years ago, the Soviet Union used a derivative of its R-7 rocket—often called the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)—to launch an artificial satellite into orbit, marking the first orbital space launch from the spaceport now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Since then, launch vehicles have reached orbit from 27 spaceports around the world. With the rate of space launches projected to grow exponentially in the coming years, spaceports will become an increasingly important and potentially limiting factor in the global space industry. This report analyzes ground-based space launches from 1957 to 2018, including brief histories of all active and inactive orbital spaceports, 10-year launch records for the 22 spaceports still in use today, and the current status of several proposals to create new facilities capable of supporting orbital space launches.

Ground-based spaceports are typically built in geopolitically favorable locations. Many spaceports are located in the most physically optimal regions available to operators, with geographic characteristics that include close proximity to the equator, opportunities for eastward or near-eastward launch, and favorable environmental factors. Historically, orbital space launch operations have been closely tied with ballistic missile research, leading several ICBM development and testing centers to later become spaceports. Due to the political risk associated with both missile development and orbital space launch testing, several spaceports were originally created such that their precise positions could remain ambiguous. In at least one case, a spaceport was created with the intention of being entirely secret—with its operator denying its existence for more than 15 years.

This report is accompanied by an interactive data repository available at online at cs.is/spaceports.

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