Turkey Aims for the Stars by Launching Its Own Satellite with SpaceX

Published September 10th, 2020 - 12:00 GMT
Turkey Aims for the Stars by Launching Its Own Satellite with SpaceX
As part of Ankara’s space program, RASAT and Gokturk 2 were launched in 2011 and 2012, sending the two Turkish-made satellites into orbit for earth observatory missions. (Shutterstock)
Turkey's satellite launch with SpaceX by year-end has put the country among the league of nations with a strong understanding about space missions.
The last decade has been a turning point for Turkey’s space ambitions as the country strengthened its indigenous space-related know-how, moving up as a competitive player in the global arena.

As part of Ankara’s space program, RASAT and Gokturk 2 was launched in 2011 and 2012, sending the two Turkish-made satellites into orbit for earth observatory missions.

To strengthen the country’s production output in the space industry, the government was quick to establish state-of-the-art space systems at the state-funded institution called Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) centre in Ankara, which has been operational since 2015. The AIT operates Turkey’s mid-size satellite projects.

The head of Turkey’s Presidential Digital Transformation Office, Ali Taha Koc, announced on Tuesday that SpaceX will launch the fourth Turkish satellite to orbit by the end of this year. It is being built by Germany-based Airbus Defence and Space, which is among the pioneers in aerospace technology.

"With Turksat 5A, Turkey will have a coverage area that encompasses the Middle East, Europe, North Africa and South Africa," said Koc.

The satellite will be carrying 42 transponders and will be located at a somewhat unused Turkish orbital slot at 31 degrees East.

Another satellite, Turksat 5B, is also under construction by Airbus and it will be ready for launch next year - again by SpaceX.

Ankara has also been working on building its own Turksat 6A craft which is expected to be launched in 2022.

Turksat AS began the project of Turksat 5A and 5B in 2011 but it was delayed until Airbus Defence and Space were selected as prime contractor in October 2017, with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) acting as the local industrial partner.

Turksat 5A, 5B and 6A

Turksat 5B is a geostationary high-throughput communications satellite built for Turksat AS by Airbus Defence and Space, but is being partially assembled and integrated (approximately 25 percent of the build) in Turkey.

Turksat 5B is also built on the all-electric Airbus Defence and Space Eurostar-3000EOR bus and will weigh about 4,500 kg and will feature Ku- and Ka-band high-throughput (HTS) payloads offering satellite broadband speeds of up to 50 Gbps.

With the aim of strengthening its arsenal of space capabilities, Turkey has also started building its own communications satellite called Turksat 6A, the culmination of local technology powerhouses Tubitak Space, Turkish Aerospace, Aselsan, and CTECH, as well as state-owned satellite operator Turksat. Turksat 6A is scheduled to be launched in 2022.

Turksat 6A is being developed by the Spacecraft Assembly, Integration and Test Centre located in Ankara which was ordered by Turksat AS in 2014 from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI). It is a domestic satellite project and will be the product of a collaboration between the ministry and organisations and companies such as defence firm, ASELSAN, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and CTech, along with Turksat and the country’s top scientific body, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).

The satellite will feature 16 Ku-band transponders for commercial and civil communications and two X-band transponders for military communications.

Talking about the importance of the Turksat 6A project, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in January said; “With this project, Turkey will become one of 10 countries in the world that produces its own telecommunication satellites.”

The project of Turksat 6A marks the biggest space-related milestone in the country’s history, and was the yield of the establishment of the Turkish Space Agency in 2018. The agency is responsible for the preparation and implementation of Turkey’s National Space Program and is to be the key catalyst in the growth of Turkey’s space capabilities and the coordination between institutions.

Earlier this summer, the CEO of Turksat AS, Cenk Sen, said that the reinforced positioning and a strengthened arsenal of capabilities are necessary to survive and thrive, especially since the global market is becoming an increasingly competitive landscape.

“Turkey is ambitiously moving forward to become a competitive space systems manufacturer and will become a stakeholder for manned and unmanned space missions in the near future. We expect the satellite market to become much more competitive in the coming years. But Turksat will be more than ready for any competition with its six satellites,” he explained.

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