South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Turkmenistan last week as part of a tour of Central Asian republics, and pledged South Korean expertise in helping the country to develop its first remote sensing satellite.
At a signing ceremony on 17 April 2019 in Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, Yoo Young-min, the South Korean minister for Science and Information and Communications Technology, and Tahyrberdi Durhanov, the Turkmen minister for Industry and Communication, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering a number of projects including the sharing of 5G network technology and the development of a remote sensing satellite.
Turkmenistan already has a communications satellite, the TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSat that it shares with Monaco, launched on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 satellite launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2015.
In previous years it is understood that Japanese companies have tried to sell commercial Earth observation satellites to Turkmenistan, and more recently, French satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space is understood to be in discussions with the Central Asian republic to sell one of its high-resolution Earth observation satellites.
Thales Alenia Space is also thought to be in extensive discussions with Uzbekistan regarding the acquisition of a similar Earth observation satellite.
The MoU between South Korea and Turkmenistan could provide an opportunity for the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the Satrec Initiative to share their expertise and sell their products and services.
The Satrec Initiative already enjoys a track record of helping emerging spacepowers develop sophisticated Earth observation satellites, to include among other international contracts, RazakSat for Malaysia; the imaging payload for Turkey’s Göktürk-2; and was heavily involved in the development of the UAE’s DubaiSat-1 and -2, and provided components and technical advice for the building of the UAE’s KhalifaSat.