Turkey: Beyond Erdogan's Ambitious Space Plans

Turkey: Beyond Erdogan’s Ambitious Space Plans

aAppreciation, prestige and admiration. The United Arab Emirates reaped this recently when they sent a satellite around Mars, as the United States did when a vehicle landed on the planet.

The UAE has linked the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the state with a space mission. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also wants to use space travel as a coup. A Turkish unmanned probe is expected to hit the moon early in 2023. Just in time for the celebration of the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.

Erdoan has now announced a ten-year space program, which is very ambitious in terms of scope, technical challenges, and schedule. It also costs huge amounts of money.

A space port in Somalia?

The spectrum ranges from satellites to its navigation network, so that it is no longer dependent on the Global Positioning System and Galileo, and its own rockets to the spaceport.

Insiders suspect that the plant could be built in Somalia, east Africa. It would be ideally located near the equator, which would make launching rockets easier due to the orbital physics. Even manned space flight is on Erdogan’s wish-list.

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The Turkish president wants to throw his nation into the circle of large or at least ambitious space states with a ten-point program.

Existing countries include the USA, Russia, China, the European Union and India. The United Arab Emirates has just caused a sensation in the Islamic world. Iran, which allegedly sent a monkey briefly into space early in 2013, has gray zone space plans for military projects.

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Distracting attention from other government problems

Christian Brackel explains two main reasons for Erdogan’s space ambitions. He is an analyst at the German Foreign Policy Association and president of the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Istanbul.

First, the current economic situation in Turkey. The economy is recovering, but discontent among residents about the effects of the Corona pandemic, such as high unemployment rates and accelerating inflation, is evident.

Similar to the space power initiated by former US President Donald Trump, Brackel explains when asked: “The project is primarily aimed at diverting attention from the government’s ground problems.”

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The second reason is to demand Erdogan to help Turkey gain international recognition as one of the important powers in the future. “Desire to play on top of what is considered modern and technologically advanced.”

The moon landing will be evidence that “Turkey has made its way out of its decades-old position as an economic underdog.”

Erdogan and Elon Musk know each other personally

Turkey is not a newcomer to space travel, but it lacks experience. And so it became Turkish TUA Space Agency It was only founded in 2018. Critics of the plans point out that the agency has an annual budget of only $ 40 million – too little for the billions’ worth of ambitions.

After all, there are already many satellites created and launched with the participation of Turkey. It was only in January that the Elon Musk missiles sent the “Türksat 5A” communications satellite, largely made by Airbus, and the small research satellite “Alselsat” built by the Turks themselves into space.

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“Türksat 5B” is scheduled to be followed in June, once again by a missile from Elon Musk. The American billionaire and Erdogan know each other personally through meetings and phone calls.

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Before the prestigious large projects, the Turks had to gain more knowledge. With international assistance, a Turkish missile will initially fly towards the moon in 2023 – with strong impact from the satellite. The former Soviet Union also began its exploration of the moon using collision mode.

In 2028, an unmanned flight to the Moon, including a smooth landing of Turkish satellites, should operate without outside assistance. Even this is not a simple task, as the failed mission for Israel in 2019, which wanted to land gently as a fourth country, showed.

Work on an extraordinary rocket engine

Industry insiders are listening carefully to Turkey’s plans for missile engines. Missiles can be used for both peaceful and military purposes. Last year, there were reports that Turkey was working on an unusual engine, called a hybrid drive, through Delta V Space Technologies.

It works with liquid oxygen in addition to paraffin, i.e. waxed wax. German missile startup HyImpulse is also using this technology. It is not known exactly where Turkey stands in terms of building missiles and thrust. When presenting his space plans, Erdogan said, “We must bring our national and local missiles to transport heavy payloads into orbit.”

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But the details may not be that important. For the Turkish expert Brakil, Erdogan’s main goal is to demonstrate the prestigious successes in 2023, Turkey’s anniversary.

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The year 2023 “should be a milestone in his political success, so to speak, evidence that he took on or even surpassed the legacy of the founder of the republic, Ataturk,” explains Brakel. For years there has been a strategy to prepare, “bigger, wider and better are the key points”.

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This included Istanbul’s huge new airport, the artificial Bosphorus “Canal Istanbul” that was planned for years, and above all, the most important goal is to bring Turkey to the top ten of the richest economies in the world. Turkey is currently ranked 18th.

It is also about placing Turkey in the competition for the role of the dominant regional power in the Middle East, as the expert Barakil analyzes. Iran occupies a special place, it is half rival, half partner, depending on the topic. Brakel explains that the first competitor on various fronts is the Emiratis: “After the successful space flight of the Emirates, it is important for Ankara to follow suit.”

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