In the politically tumultuous aftermath of the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, as well as delays in tabling a legislative proposal for a space agency and disagreements over the role of the military in that agency, Turkey seems to be eventually making some progress towards achieving its goal of becoming a regional space power and satellite exporter.
The Turkish government finally submitted its draft bill for the creation and establishment of a Turkish Space Agency to the parliament in Ankara in early March 2017. The draft bill sets out the role and organisation of the proposed Turkish Space Agency, placing it under civilian control and providing it with the goals of creating and implementing space and aerospace policies and strategies, and reducing Turkish dependence on foreign technologies and companies in the space arena.
The Turkish Space Agency, according to the draft bill, will also be in charge of coordinating, managing, and operating all satellite requirements, design, manufacture, launch, and operations in Turkey, as well as coordinating private Turkish industries towards those goals. Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that the draft bill for the Turkish Space Agency has previously been held up for years due to a dispute between the Turkish military and several Turkish administrations as to who should be the lead within the agency. The draft bill in front of parliament suggests that the military have lost that argument, doubtless because of the aftermath of the July 2016 attempted coup, and instead it will take the lead on technical issues rather than policy and strategy.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, another draft bill was submitted to parliament in early March seeking the establishment of a High Technologies Research Center and Science, Technology, and Industry Executive Board (YUTAM). Any institute or research centre affiliated to the Turkish Scientific and Research Board (TUBITAK) – responsible for commissioning space projects – will fall under the authority of YUTAM, who will ensure that there is no duplication of effort and the planning and implementation of space projects.
While the Turkish opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), welcomes the creation of a Turkish Space Agency, it is concerned that the proposed agency will report directly to the office of the Turkish Prime Minister and that it will be subject to political cronyism. Instead, the CHP would prefer to see a politically autonomous space agency that is staffed purely on technical and expert merit rather than through political loyalty. Furthermore, the Turkish government’s goal of capturing U.S.$5 billion of the global space market by 2023 is paltry, according to the CHP, as this only amounts to one percent of the estimated U.S.$530 billion global market.
Despite these concerns, it is widely expected that the draft bill establishing the Turkish Space Agency will pass through the parliamentary process with little trouble.
This is the first of three reports on developments in Turkish space activity. A report on Turkish space launch plans will be published tomorrow, and another report on Turkish military space ambitions will be published on Thursday.