The Turkish minister for Science, Industry, and Technology, Mustafa Varank, said on 7 August 2018 that the Turkish government will establish the Turkish Space Agency this year in order to coordinate the country’s space activities and manage international cooperation and relations.
“The Turkish Space Agency will be founded this year as set out in the 100-day action plan. Work to form its organization will be completed as soon as possible,” Varank said in a statement.
The establishment of a Turkish Space Agency has been on the cards for several years now, but has been constantly delayed – mostly due to political instability and the purges of space experts from Turkish government and academic ranks following the coup attempt in July 2016.
“Priority targets of the agency are to guide and coordinate the Turkish space sector, and manage international relations [concerning space] through a single desk,” Varank added, stating that the new agency will pave way for the establishment of a competitive indigenous space and satellite industry.
Varank also emphasised that Turkey has long participated in research and development activities in satellite technology since early 2000s, and has produced observation satellites such as BİLSAT, RASAT, and GÖKTÜRK-2, as well as larger scale satellite projects such as TÜRKSAT 6A and İMECE.
A research centre for optical systems for Earth observation satellites will start operating under the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), Varank added.
In a sign of the geopolitical times, Turkish media has sought commentary on Varank’s space agency announcement from Russian space experts. Turkey finds itself increasingly estranged from its NATO partners and the United States in particular, but has made serious efforts to improve its relations with Russia.
“Satellite systems play a significant role in providing security, communications, navigation, scientific researches. Many countries now use the satellite systems of other states, but this makes them vulnerable. Therefore, the decision to create a Turkish space agency is a strategic, aligned with the times and country’s national interests,” said Yuri Mavashev, head of political research at the Centre for Modern Turkish Studies in Moscow, in an interview with Anadolu Agency on 8 August 2018.
“For a country like Turkey — a state with a significant political and economic influence, supported by the power of one of the best armies in the world, — plunging into the space exploration is a logical step. Realization of space programs will increase Turkey’s possibilities and will strengthen its position as one of the global centers of influence,” added Mavashev.
Russian Cosmonaut Sergey Revin, also in an interview with Anadolu Agency, suggested that Turkey build its own module for the International Space Station (ISS).
Similarly, Cosmonaut training instructors Viktor Suvorov and Andrey Kuritsin from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre outside of Moscow told the Anadolu Agency that the centre was ready to prepare Turkish astronauts to go into outer space and to develop joint space programmes with Turkey.