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Turkmenistan Declares Technical Requirements Agreed For First Earth Observation Satellite

The Caspian Sea, with Turkmenistan on its eastern shore, taken by the MODIS sensor in 2003. Image courtesy of NASA.

The government of the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan has announced that it has agreed to the technical requirements for the design, construction, and launch of its first Earth observation satellite, according to press reports in Turkmenistan.

Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Bayramgeldy Ovezov told an industrial and telecommunications workshop in Ashgabat on 20 November 2019 that the requirements for the Earth observation satellite had been finalised, although he did not reveal who will be designing, manufacturing, and launching the satellite.

Previous reporting by SpaceWatch.Global, however, suggests that the Earth observation satellite is likely being designed and manufactured by South Korean satellite manufacturer Satrec Initiative.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Turkmenistan in April 2019 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 an Ashgabat signing ceremony on 17 April 2019, 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 onboard 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 have been 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 opened the door for South Korean company the Satrec Initiative to share their expertise and sell their products and services in the Central Asian republic.

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.

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