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Baikonur Cosmodrome in the desert of Kazakhstan is the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility. Built in the 1950s by the Soviet Union, the spaceport is still used today as the sole launchsite of all Soyuz missions to the International Space Station. But some facilities at the spaceport now sit long-abandoned, relics of the Soviet space program.

When NASA began its Space Shuttle program in 1972, the Soviet Union was quick to follow with a reusable spacecraft program of its own. The Buran program began in 1972 and after the fall of the Soviet Union, was continued by Russia until 1993. In all that time, only one unmanned spaceflight was completed, when Orbiter K1 was launched and recovered in 1988. In 2002, Orbiter K1 was destroyed when the hangar it was stored in collapsed, killing seven workers at Baikonur.

Photographer Ralph Mirebs recently traveled to Baikonur where he was able to track down the remnants of two test vehicles. Both of these vehicles were used for various ground tests are the only two Buran shuttles remaining at Baikonur. For more great photos of the facility, check out Ralph Mirebs on Livejournal.

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