The future of Turkey’s satellite industry

The future of Turkey’s satellite industry

Technological advancement is good for any country. But there are some technologies that set the countries that have them apart from those that don’t. 

Nuclear weapons capability is one of these thingsç If you have a nuclear weapon then you belong to a different league. 

The same can be said for satellites. If you have a satellite in orbit, you have a clear advantage over those countries that don’t. If you own a satellite, you have the advantage of better communication capabilities and military capabilities. 

That is why for years Turkey has sought to own a satellite. We were all very happy when we witnessed the launch of our first satellite, Turksat 1B, back in 1994. We would have had a satellite even earlier if Turksat 1A had not fallen out of the skies due to a technical malfunction a few months before. Since then we have launched six satellites. 

Over 70 countries currently own at least one payload out in space. Only 10 of them can make their own rockets to send the satellites out there, and the rest have had to buy rocket launchers. 

Turkey is one of the 20 countries that can design its own satellites. In recent years we have managed to come a long way. For example, Turkey’s first high-resolution electro-optical satellite, GÖKTÜRK-2, was indigenously designed by the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) and the TÜBİTAK space cooperation. 

In addition to meeting the Turkish Armed Forces’ high resolution image requirements, GÖKTÜRK-2 is utilized for civilian activities such as control of forestland, tracking illegal construction, rapid assessment of damage after natural disasters, determination of agricultural boundaries and geographical data gathering. The project has also furnished the country’s industry with the capability of developing spacecraft in Turkey, including design, integration and environmental test infrastructure.

This is all great for Turkey, but Telkoder’s president Yusuf Ata Arıak says we are on the verge of making big mistakes. In our meeting, Arıak said the satellite industry has grown by 5.5 percent since 2015. The total industry amounts to $127 billion globally but in Turkey it is only $152 million. Arıak noted that 80 percent of that revenue belongs to one company alone, TURKSAT, and he claims that government is trying to block private companies from doing business in Turkey in favor of TURKSAT. 

He said there is a need to sit down with government officials to discuss the issue. According to Arıak, the government is trying to pass a new law making it an obligation to have a land station in Turkish territory if you want to operate a satellite service in Turkey. Arıak believes such a law would hinder the industry, stating that Turkey must start closely cooperating with international governing bodies. 

Arıak stresses that the Turkish satellite industry can only prosper if we foster a free market in the sector, and it is hard to disagree with him. Let’s see if government officials take note of his warnings.