Turkey on Tuesday unveiled its ambitious 10-year space road map that includes missions to the moon, sending Turkish astronauts to a scientific mission in space and developing internationally viable satellite systems.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the National Space Program that includes 10 strategic goals, seen as part of his vision for placing Turkey in an expanded regional and global role, Daily Sabah reported.
Erdoğan said Turkey plans to establish “a first contact with the moon” in 2023 when the country marks the centennial of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.
“Our primary and most important goal for our national space program is the contact of the Republic, in its 100th year, with the moon,” Erdoğan noted. “God willing, we are going to the moon.”
Turkey aims to reach its strategic space goals in 10 years, Erdoğan said, adding that the country will improve work on satellite technologies and establish a spaceport with other ally countries.
He said the program was prepared and will be carried out by the Turkey Space Agency (TUA). Turkey established the TUA in 2018 with the aim of joining the handful of other countries with space programs.
The President did not elaborate further on the cooperation. Last month, Erdoğan spoke to Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk on possible cooperation in space technologies with Turkish companies.
Also last month, Turkey launched its new-generation communication satellite Türksat 5A into orbit from the U.S. in cooperation with SpaceX. The Türksat 5B satellite is planned to be launched in the second quarter of 2021.
Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said Wednesday the country signed agreements with three countries on space cooperation, without disclosing the names. He added that Turkey is at the signing stage of agreements with Pakistan and Azerbaijan on its space agency.
The TUA is also in talks with the U.S., Russia, Japan, India and China to set up international cooperation for the use of space for civilian purposes, he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Turkey’s mission to the moon will be completed in two stages, Erdoğan said. In the first stage, a rough landing will be made on the moon with a national and authentic hybrid rocket that will be launched into orbit at the end of 2023 through international cooperation. In the second stage in 2028, the initial launching, which carried Turkey’s probe to orbit, will be made with the country's own rockets, Erdoğan noted.
He also declared Turkey’s aim to send Turkish citizens into space with international cooperation, to work with other countries on building a spaceport and to create a “global brand” in satellite technology.
Turkey previously launched reconnaissance and communication satellites, set up a satellite systems integration and test center, and manufactured a domestic HD satellite called IMECE which is expected to be launched in 2022.
The program’s second goal is to create a trademark on the new-generation satellite development. Erdoğan said the country would gather satellite production activities under a single authority coordinated by the TUA. Turkey also aims to set up a regional positioning and timing system, Erdoğan noted.
“This will pave the way to develop our own precise navigation applications in defense, agriculture, urbanization and autonomous vehicles,” the President stressed.
Turkey is also planning to establish a spaceport while ensuring access to space, he added. Another goal of the program is to increase its competitiveness in space by investing in space meteorology, he said.
A Space Technology Development Region will be established to welcome domestic and foreign investors, the President also said.
Touching on the government’s efforts in the field of space, Erdoğan said TL 2.1 billion (nearly $300 million) had been provided for 56 projects on satellite, space, launching systems and space equipment in the last 18 years.
Under the program, Turkey will further develop the economy of its space industry, Erdoğan stressed.
The head of defense contractor Roketsan, Murat Ikinci, said the company was tasked with providing Turkey’s independent access to space.
Roketsan opened its Space Technologies and Advanced Technologies Research Center in August in the capital Ankara.
“With the technologies that we will develop in these facilities, I hope that we will provide our country with independent access to space,” Ikinci noted.
As the most important part of this mission, he said they will provide technologies that “will launch our own national satellite, a 100-kilogram (220-pounds) microsatellite, into space with our own rockets and place it in orbit.”
“We successfully launched our probe rockets into space, the first step of this. I think that our success here will make a great contribution to our country,” Ikinci said
Aselsan General Manager Haluk Görgün said the vision set out in the program is exciting, saying they are happy to be part of the studies.
“As Aselsan, we work on satellite systems with useful payloads, receivers, transmitters and ground systems. We have a contribution to task loads in all existing programs,” said Görgün.
In this sense, he said, the company will continue to work on its effectiveness, its contribution to the program and the development of youth and human resources, together with stakeholder institutions and universities.