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İbrahim Sünnetçi

Turkish Space Agency President YILDIRIM: “Those not having any trace in space have no say in the world!”

Issue 9 - 2021
Turkish Space Agency President YILDIRIM: “Those not having any trace in space have no say in the world!”

In his speech dated May 29 delivered at the 1st Space Economy, Space Law and Space Sciences Symposium held on 29-30 May 2021 with the cooperation of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Economics, Faculty of Law and Observatory Application and Research Center, Turkish Space Agency’s (TUA) President Serdar Hüseyin YILDIRIM touched upon the economic and legal aspects of space studies. YILDIRIM also stressed the importance of discussing space-related economic and legal developments and stated that the countries that are not active in space would become poorer and have no say in the world. Underlining their wish to have a say in the production activities to be conducted in space, YILDIRIM noted that those not having any trace in the space would fail to have a say in the world.

In the first part of his speech, TUA President YILDIRIM commented on the Space Economy and emphasized the space-related economic activities’ impacts over the world and space. Mentioning that they conducted a detailed analysis of the space economy in their activities designed as part of the National Space Program, YILDIRIM said, “According to the latest figures of the pre-pandemic process, the total amount of the countries’ space-based expenses is around US$ 80 billion in terms of investment. The total size of the space economy of the same period amounts to approximately US$ 480 billion. Considering the trends, the conservative projections suggest this figure would reach US$ 800 billion by 2030 while the realistic forecasts estimate it as US$ 1 trillion… Surely, one cannot expect Turkey to fall outside such sector.” 

YILDIRIM mentioned that not long ago, one of the official channels of the Chinese government declared that the Chinese Space Agency’s Global Positioning System (GPS) comprising of 30 satellites and titled as BeiDou (the North Star) that was globally launched in 2020 generated revenue of US$ 62.5 billion and underlined that this was a quite remarkable figure. YILDIRIM continued: “There are 4 Global and 2 Regional Positioning Systems in the world. First is the GPS used by the USA, second is the Galileo System utilized by the Europeans. Russia’s GLONASS System is the third system and finally, there is the BeiDou Global Positioning System recently completed by the Chinese. BeiDou System reached 30 satellites. Yet, the revenue it accomplished is US$ 62.5 billion. Our National Space Program targets a Regional Positioning and Timing System (BKZS), not a Global one. From a realistic perspective, a Global system is beyond our league at this stage, but why do we refrain from building a Regional one? Are there any similar systems in the world? There are two; one is in Japan and the other is in India. Both countries have already built regional Global Positioning Systems. Why shouldn’t Turkey become the 7th country with a Global/Regional Positioning System? This would bring economic advantages to our country and as you would appreciate to the entire region. This system can be positioned to cover the entire Balkans, Caucasia and the Middle East and it can be rendered as a system that can be utilized by all countries in the neighbor regions. It is not hard at all. Besides, such a system would remarkably contribute to our country. Even when we ignore its contributions regarding the security and independence aspects and tackle the issue from an economic perspective, this BKZS Project will bring crucial advantages to our country. If it is utilized correctly, the system will easily compensate for the investment made with proper technologies and bring much more.” 

Turkish Space Agency’s President YILDIRIM warned that Turkey may lag behind in the space race as it did during the Industrial Revolution if it fails to invest in the space now and said, “Our youngsters would rightfully blame us in the next decades.” YILDIRIM underlined the significant advantages of the investments to be made in the space and added that the three main activities are “production in space (made in Space), space mining and space tourism.”

Touching upon the hot topics regarding the production activities in space, YILDIRIM stated that particularly the production of crystallized structures (microgravity in other words is developed in gravity-free environments and more valuable products can be achieved compared to the ones produced in the earth) and production in biotechnology areas were planned to be launched in the first stage. According to YILDIRIM’s statement, the production activities will be conducted by building seven platforms in the earth’s closest axis and the production will be carried out for the utilization in the earth (the products will be brought to earth). YILDIRIM told that these seven platforms were gradually being built by different countries and companies and added, “At least two platform manufacturers contacted our Agency. They asked whether Turkey was interested in these projects or not. Needless to say, we declared our wish to take part in the projects and told them that we aimed to be involved as a shareholder rather than a user, from the very beginning. Before accepting, they will wish to see if we can handle such partnership or shareholder position in terms of technical and budgetary aspects. I believe that we can achieve it…We intend to become a partner of at least one of these platforms in time. We also wish to have a say in the production activities to be performed there.” 

Reminding that the U.S. aims to found a “Moon Colony” with the Artemis Program, YILDIRIM told that the Moon will become the earth’s door to space and so to speak a launcher and added, “Therefore, we will exist on the Moon as Turkey and we will remain there as our Agency!” Relaying information that as Turkey’s authority, they have been following the space-related developments quite closely, YILDIRIM continued, “Our country has to benefit from this economic revolution. We should not lag behind the developments. We need to adopt the necessary measures.” To underline why Turkey’s Moon Program was so critical, YILDIRIM said, “If we fail to exist on the Moon then we will not be able to protect our rights and interests there. Those, who do not have a trace in space, do not have a say in the world!” and continued, “There are major differences between the launch from Moon and the launch from Earth such as the gravity factor, the lack of atmosphere and environmental parameters. More complicated space missions can be executed with the launches from the Moon by using far less power.” 

TUA President YILDIRIM pointed out that though precious metals were the first things to spring to mind when speaking of mining, the primary product of space mining was water and stressed that water was the most critical and precious metal on the Moon and in space. YILDIRIM: “For the continuation of life when electrolyzed, water is oxygen (for respiration) and it is fuel as the hydrogen comes out. Therefore it becomes the most valuable product for the existence of human beings in space.  Even the possibility of building colonies on the Moon and on Mars is based on the fact that water bodies remain there in the form of ice masses. A severe amount of ice was discovered on the south pole of the Moon. Similarly, such masses exist on Mars.” 

YILDIRIM once again emphasized that the countries failing to be active in space would become poorer and would not have a say in the world and added that they wished to increase the number of Turkey’s experts in space to 10.000 in a decade, by the end of 2030. 

“Göktürk Satellite System’s Renewal Project is at the Signing Stage!”

Temel KOTİL, Turkish Aerospace Industries’ (TUSAŞ) President & CEO, made a presentation titled “Turkey’s Satellite and Space Projects’ Past and Present” on May 29, at the first session of the 1st Space Economy, Space Law and Space Sciences Symposium and reminded that Turkey’s first communication satellite TürkSat 1B had been launched in 1994, TürkSat 1C in 1996 and TürkSat 2A in 2001. Our other communication satellites, TürkSat 3A was launched in 2008, TürkSat 4A in 2013, TürkSat 4B in 2014 and TürkSat 5A was launched to space in January 2021. TürkSat 5B Communication Satellite is planned to be launched in the last quarter of 2021. Mentioning that the teams TUSAŞ Space with nearly 250 staff and TÜBİTAK Space with nearly 300 people were working on the TürkSat 6A National Communication Satellite, KOTİL added that activities regarding Observation Satellites were being conducted in addition to communication satellites.

KOTİL noted that BİLSAT, the first Observation Satellite was launched into space in 2003, RASAT in 2011 and GökTürk-II developed by TUSAŞ-TÜBİTAK Space cooperation in 2012 and added that developed by Thales, GökTürk-I Earth Observation satellite capable of capturing sub-meter resolution imagery was placed into the orbit in 2016 (final acceptance was accomplished on 4 December 2018) due to the delays caused by license issues. KOTİL said, “GökTürk Satellite Renewal Project is our most critical project in Observation Satellite area. This satellite will be replacing GökTürk-I and TUSAŞ is about to sign this satellite’s contract with our government. Hopefully, we will build a better version than the one built by Thales.” 

KOTİL pointed that after GökTürk-I Renewal Satellite (GökTürk-1Y), they will be developing the GökTürk-III Satellite with SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) disposable load also for observation purposes and that they will be exporting the HTS Communication Satellite technologies with high-output for Argentine’s national telecommunication company ARSAT S.A. Within this scope, a joint venture company titled GSATCOM Uzay Teknolojileri A.Ş. has been established at ODTU Teknokent in Ankara by TUSAŞ and Argentine-based INVAP S.E. A Small-GEO type communication satellite, namely ARSAT-SG1, is aimed to be developed in three years and completed in 2024 under GSATCOM license by the engineers of TUSAŞ, GSATCOM and INVAP. Twenty-four transponders will be installed to the Small-GEO type ARSAT Communication Satellite. The satellite will be weighing 1-1.5 tons as it will require fewer fuel thanks to its electrical drive. TürkSat 6A Satellite, on the other hand, is planned to be launched in 2022 and weighs 4.250 kg (nearly 1.800 kg of this figure is the satellite’s weight and the rest is the fuel’s weight). GökTürk-I Renewal Satellite (GökTürk-1Y) is expected to be launched in 2026 and GökTürk-III Satellite in 2028. İMECE Earth Observation Satellite with EO camera with sub-meter (70 cm) resolution is aimed to be launched in 2022. 

BeiDou Global Positioning System Program and QZSS and NavIC Regional Positioning Systems 

As mentioned by TUA President YILDIRIM, presently there are 4 global (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou) and 2 regional (QZSS [Japan] and NavIC [India]) positioning systems. Some of them are operated in full capacity and some are being installed. These systems comprise three main components that are space, control and user segments. Position identification through satellites is being conducted by measuring the transmission duration of the position signals transmitted by the satellite. For 3D precise positioning, the receiver has to receive signals from a minimum of 4 signals, simultaneously. MEO satellite is used in global systems and the GEO and IGSO satellites are preferred by regional systems. 

The main components of the positioning satellites are the atomic clock and radio navigation payload. L-Band is mostly used in positioning signals. GPS and Galileo’s ground stations have a global span while other systems’ stations are usually limited with the borders of their countries.  All systems provide services for civilian and military users. Satellite-based positioning applications have become quite diversified in time, paving the way to a large commercial market. 

BeiDou (North Star) Global Positioning (Navigation) System 

BeiDou (North Star) is a Global Positioning (Navigation) System that has been developed by China and activated in three stages. Completed in 2007, BeiDou-1 System presently out of use was composed of 3 main satellites and a backup satellite (BD-1D was launched on 2 February 2007). Upon the launch of the satellite (BD-1A) on 30 October 2000, the BeiDou-1 System started to serve Chinese customers and China’s Armed Forces in a limited area. The second stage, also known as BeiDou-2 (COMPASS), was completed in 2021. In the beginning, BeiDou-2 System was planned to contain 10 satellites. Five satellites would be placed to GeoSynchronous Orbit (GEO) and five to Inclined GroundSynchronous Orbit. However, five more satellites were included in the package in time and one of these satellites was placed in GEO orbit while the other four were placed in the Middle Earth Orbit (MEO). BeiDou Navigation System reached a capacity that enables worldwide active utilization upon the completion of the final stage of the program, the BeidDou-3 System, in June 2020. A total of fifty-five launches were accomplished as part of the BeiDou Program and the final launch was conducted on 23 June 2020. The precision of the BeiDou Satellite-Based Navigation System is given as 10 m for commercial utilization and 0.1 m for military utilization (encrypted). Similar to Russia’s GLONASS Satellite-Based Navigation System, the main objective of the BeiDou Navigation System developed by China is completely linked with independence as the U.S. uses the GPS Navigation System and this enables the U.S. the option to block the access to the system for its political and military interests. 

QZSS Regional Positioning System

Due to the country’s intense utilization of GPS, Japan has been carrying out activities to build a Regional Positioning System named as Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) to overcome the problems experienced during the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) usage and to create its satellite-based positioning capability. Japan’s primary objective in launching the QZSS Project is to reduce the errors caused by signal shadows and bounces faced during the utilization of GPS, particularly in the cities. Naming the system, the Quasi-Zenith orbit set ensures that a minimum of one satellite is (elevation 60° or more) over Japan at all times. 

Japan’s regional satellite navigation system QZSS currently features a total of four satellites (3 satellites with Quasi-Zenith orbit [QZO/IGSO, inclined semi-synchronous orbit] satellite and one Geostationary Orbit/GroundSynchronous [GEO] satellite) and delivers GPS integration, GNSS support and message services. QZSS Regional Positioning System’s first satellite (QZS-1 “Michibiki-1”) was launched on 11 September 2010. The tests started as of 12 January 2018 with the four satellites and the system was officially launched to service on 1 November 2018. The second satellite of the QZSS satellite set was launched in June 2017, the third in August 2017 and the fourth satellite was launched in October 2017. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (MELCO) is in charge of QZSS satellites’ production. Developed by Japan, QZSS is the sole positioning system that can operate integrated into the GPS developed by the U.S. This characteristic renders QZSS superior to other positioning systems. Since they are able to transmit GPS signals, QZSS and GPS can be utilized as a single satellite group. 

In line with a decision adopted in 2015, the Japanese government planned to increase the number of QZSS systems comprising four satellites to seven satellites around 2023. Increasing the number of satellites to seven will enable continuous and sustainable delivery of positioning services. One of the satellites to be added to the satellite set is planned to be placed in the quasi-zenith orbit and the remaining two satellites will have geostationary orbits. When completed, the QZSS Satellite Set will feature 2 GEO (QZS-3 and 6), 4 QZO/IGSO (QZS-1, QZS-2/4/5) and 1 QGEO (QZS-7) Satellites. The QXS-1R Satellite to replace the QZS-1 “Michibiki-1” Satellite was planned to be launched in 2021. 

NavIC (IRNSS) Regional Positioning System

Formerly named as the IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System), NavIC is India’s satellite-based regional positioning system. The seventh and final satellite of the system developed by ISRO was launched into space in 2016. During the launch of the final satellite, the IRNSS-1G, India’s former President Narendra Modi changed the system’s name to NavIC. NavIC is the abbreviation for “Navigation with Indian Constellation” and means sailor/navigator in Sanskrit. 

NavIC is an independent system designed to provide accurate position data services to the users of its primary service area. The primary service area covers India and the zone extending to 1.500 km out of India’s borders. NavIC Satellite Set features seven satellites; three satellites orbit at the geostationary orbits and four orbits around a semi-simultaneous inclined orbit 

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