June 10, 2013
Credit: Turkish Aerospace Industries
Ten years ago Turkey pledged to invest more in space technology as a means to improve the nation's intelligence-gathering, military communications and early-warning capabilities. A decade on, Turkey is investing heavily in a burgeoning space program that boasts several telecommunications spacecraft and two Earth-observation satellites, with plans to build more.
In the coming years, Ankara expects to establish a national space agency and military space command to consolidate management of existing and planned assets, which in 2033 could include a space-launch capability and more than 20 operational satellites.
In January the government approved negotiations with Turkish weapons builder Roketsan Inc. to manage the early concept design phase for the national satellite launch system, which would be capable of delivering civil and military spacecraft to orbit, according to Turkish government officials.
Over the next two decades, Turkey plans to invest in more than two dozen civil and military telecom satellites, dual-use surveillance spacecraft, navigation-and-timing, early-warning and electronic-surveillance systems, in addition to the space-launch system.
Since December 2012, Turkey's air force has been operating the nation's first medium-resolution optical imaging spacecraft, Gokturk 2. The 400-kg (882-lb.) satellite, built mostly in Turkey and launched atop a Chinese Long March 2D rocket, incorporates a German solar-generation system and an optical instrument capable of 2.5-meter (8.2-ft.) ground resolution built by South Korea.
Next year Turkey plans to launch Gokturk 1, a larger and more powerful Earth-observation spacecraft capable of sub-meter resolution. Gokturk 1 is in development under an agreement with Telespazio of Italy and Thales Alenia Space of France that includes construction of a satellite assembly, integration and test facility in Turkey.
At about 1,000 kg, the Thales-built satellite will deliver 50-cm (20-in.) resolution at nadir in black and white, according to industry sources, a capability equal to France's new twin Pleiades Earth-observation spacecraft, which are designed to capture raw data with 70-cm resolution at nadir, but which can resample images to produce pictures of 50-cm-wide objects.