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Turkey space programme to launch from Somalia to cost over $1bn

February 19, 2021 at 12:39 pm

New Turkish satellite “Turksat 5A” carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US on 7 January 2021 [Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s plans for its own space programme will cost over $1 billion and will begin with a rocket being launched from a site in Somalia, it has been revealed. It is hoped that it will culminate in a shuttle craft being used to conduct scientific research.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a timetable for the country’s recently-announced space programme last week. A hard landing on the moon is planned for 2023 using a locally-produced hybrid rocket on the anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. By 2028, it is hoped to be able to make a soft moon landing.

The official Turkish Space Agency (TUA) has an annual budget of just over $40 million, which Turkey’s opposition pointed out was insufficient for the ambitious project. According to Middle East Eye, which cited a Turkish source close to the government, the entire programme is to be coordinated by the TUA, hence the low budget. The expected cost of at least $1 billion will be funded “through different government entities, such as state-owned major defence industry companies.” The anonymous source added that, “The defence ministry itself will also make [funding] allocations.”

Although Libya was considered for a launch site, the government in Ankara has settled on Somalia as the place where it will be built. Somalia was reportedly chosen for scientific reasons, such as its proximity to the equator, as well as for security reasons. The Horn of Africa nation has been a key security partner with Turkey over the past decade and it hosts Ankara’s largest military training base in the world.

READ: What drives Turkey’s growing influence in Africa?

To build and maintain the launch site alone will cost over $350 million. Grants of around $150 million will also be provided to Turkish doctoral students to help them study astrophysics abroad.

The source pointed out that the plans may be altered. “The 2023 and 2028 targets are pretty aggressive and there are many variables that could change. Yet, having such a target will help Turkey to finally concentrate on the mission that is space.”

Over the past few years, Turkey has been working on its space plans, particularly in competition with geopolitical rivals such as the UAE. On 8 January, it launched its TURKSAT 5A satellite with the assistance of the American aerospace company SpaceX.

SpaceX’s owner Elon Musk is also an integral asset to Turkey’s space ambitions overall. He met with President Erdogan in 2017 to discuss the satellite programme. In January, the two had a phone conversation to discuss SpaceX’s cooperation with Turkey, leading some to speculate that Musk’s company could facilitate Turkey’s proposed moon landing in 2023.

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