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Turkey claims it is ready to launch space agency, but seems no further than where it was five months ago

Ahmet Arslan, Turkey's Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communication. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.
Ahmet Arslan, Turkey’s Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs, and Communication. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Turkish Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister, Ahmet Arslan, told Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak Online on 23 September 2016 that the government in Ankara is ready to establish the Turkish Space Agency once parliament has debated and approved the draft bill authorising its creation.

Mr. Arslan said, “We continue our efforts for the realization of this significant project under the prime ministry of Binali Yildirim. This space agency will pave the way for the development of existing infrastructure and capabilities in the space field.”

“We are examining the space agencies of different countries such as the American Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Japan’s Aerospace Research Agency (JAXA), the German Aerospace Research Centre (DLR) and the France Space Studies Centre (CNES), which became the base for the formation of the draft bill,” Mr. Arslan added.

On 15 April 2016 SpaceWatch Middle East reported that the Turkish government was on the verge of creating a Turkish Space Agency and that a draft bill was on its way to parliament in Ankara for debate and approval. In the intervening period there has been a change of Prime Minister and the attempted coup, allegedly by followers of the exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen, on 15 July 2016. Such major political disruptions would understandably delay the passage of legislation establishing a space agency.

That said, the process of establishing a Turkish Space Agency seems to be no nearer than it was in April 2016, and as a result the timing of its creation is deeply uncertain. Apart from the resignation of former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in May 2016, and the attempted coup in July 2016, there may also be some turmoil among the stake holders in the putative Turkish Space Agency, especially given the recent purge of actual and suspected Gülen followers across the government and public institutions.

The Turkish Air Force, a major stakeholder in the future space agency, has reportedly been particularly badly damaged by this political witch hunt.

The continued delay in the establishment of a Turkish Space Agency aside, the Turkish government has continued cooperative discussions with the German and Japanese space agencies over the past several months, signaling at least a determination by Ankara to maintain some momentum towards establishing a space agency.

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