ANKARA — After having spent more than $1 billion on satellite programs, the Turks have decided that it is time to spend their resources on local industrial efforts.
They will, however, be prepared to buy foreign know-how in order to build the country’s first indigenous satellite. One senior procurement official said the target date to launch the first Turkish satellite is 2019.
“There may be delays … but the idea to build an overall Turkish satellite will not be reviewed,” the procurement official said.
He said that for the Turkish government the critical criteria to make the satellite was “software, design and platform.”
“Foreign players will be expected to cooperate with local contractors, prime and sub,” he said.
Key local players in the ambitious satellite program will be military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey’s biggest defense firm; Tubitak Uzay, the state scientific research Tubitak’s space department; Tusas Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI); and CTech, a software concern.
The indigenous satellite will be 6A. Ensar Gul, general manager for Turksat, Turkey’s satellite operator, said his company aims to build and launch 7A and 7B after 6A.
“We want be operating a fleet of 10 satellites by 2023,” Gul said.
Last October, Turkey launched 4B. Gul said the country spent $550 million for both 4A and 4B, including launching. Those satellites were foreign-made.
Turkey plans to spend $500 million for 5A and 5B, which will have “some” local content. For those two satellites, the local contractors are Aselsan and TAI.
The local satellite, 6B, will cost Turkey 545 million liras (US $ $185 million), according to officials.
Gul said the average cost of every satellite Turkey has acquired is $145 million. “We want to spend that money on local efforts,” he said.
Last year, TAI launched a $112 million Space Systems Integration and Test Center (USET in its Turkish acronym) where more than one satellite of up to 5 tons could be assembled, integrated and tested.
TAI said the company hopes the new center will cater to international space programs in addition to Turkey's national programs. All satellites or space-bound payload/systems to be developed by Turkish industry will be tested and integrated at USET, ending Turkey's dependence on foreign facilities.
Currently, the military's space-based assets are geared more toward ISR missions, but Turkey has been dependent on other nations to launch its satellites.
In addition to the Turksat-I, II and III series that were launched in 1990s and 2000s, Turksat signed a contract with Japan's Mitsubishi for the Turksat 4 series communication satellites, the first of which was placed in orbit early in 2014.
Last May, prime contractor Telespazio and partner Thales Alenia Space shipped the Gokturk-1 observation satellite to Turkey. The program's designated end-user is the Turkish Defense Ministry.
Although the satellite was built by a European partnership, Turkish industry was involved in the system design and development and supplied components. TAI provided parts for the payload structure; Aselsan was tasked with ground segment components, image data reception and processing; and Tubitak developed telecommand and telemetry ciphering devices.