The attempted coup by elements of the Turkish military on Friday, 15 July 2016, in an attempt to depose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP Party, included an attack against the main campus of TÜRKSAT located in Gölbaşı, just outside of the Turkish capital of Ankara.
The TÜRKSAT headquarters were allegedly struck by Turkish military attack helicopters, killing two TÜRKSAT employees and injuring three others. A statement issued by TÜRKSAT echoes the accusations made by President Erdogan by blaming the movement of Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish cleric with a substantial Turkish and Central Asian following, currently living in exile in the United States.
President Erdogan has called for Washington, DC, to extradite Gülen back to Turkey, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has publicly said that any decision to extradite the prominent cleric will be subject to substantive evidence of Gülen’s culpability provided by the Turkish government.
The fallout of the coup attempt is also impacting the Turkish space sector in a number of ways.
First, the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup has resulted in the cancellation of the biannual Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), due to be held on 30 July 2016 in Istanbul. The President of COSPAR, Lennard A. Fisk, said in a statement on the 41st Scientific Assembly website,
The most recent events in Istanbul, involving a coup from a faction of the national army against the Turkish government on 15 July, require us to cancel the 41st COSPAR Assembly. This is a difficult and sad decision, taken in consultation with the Executive Director of the COSPAR Secretariat and in consideration of the advice spontaneously expressed by several Bureau and Council members as well as COSPAR officers and Main Scientific event Organizers. It also reflects the sense of responsibilities of the President, Bureau and Secretariat of COSPAR.
Second, and more of a long-term issue, it appears that a sizeable number of senior officers of the Turkish Air Force were involved in the attempted coup, and now that military service is reportedly in disarray. This has potentially severe implications for Turkey’s satellite plans and ambitions since the Turkish Air Force is the primary military service responsible for space issues.
Third, and lastly, the Turkish government was imminently due to establish its Turkish Space Agency, but given the political reverberations of the attempted coup and President Erdogan’s obvious priority of not only reestablishing political control of the government but also further consolidating his power base, it is possible that the formation of the Turkish Space Agency will be delayed indefinitely.