Turkey’s objective to send an astronaut into space by 2023 will be a challenge, because the development of space technology is a strenuous and expensive process that is often snagged by failures, according to a Japanese aerospace official.
“It is not impossible. They might face trouble. It will be a challenge, but they should not hesitate to continue trying,” Kiyoshi Higuchi, vice president of Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News.
Higuchi, on a visit to Ankara as part of the planned cooperation with Japan for the development of space technology, stressed that Turkey’s booming economy could be an advantage in speeding up the process.
“Turkey’s economy has grown very dramatically. If the same rate of growth takes place with respect to technology, 12 years will not be impossible. Turkey has already reached some level of technology with a number of operational satellites in space,” he said.
Japan’s own development of an aerospace program was an uphill task that took several decades, Higuchi said, and his country was ready to share its experience.
“Japan had a very smooth start because we imported technology from the United States in 1970. After that we wanted to have our own domestic technology, which resulted in severe failures. It took us 10 years to understand and mature U.S. technology, and another 10 years to create our own. We want to share with Turkey how we conquered our struggles,” he said.
Drawing attention to the large resources that space technology requires, the Japanese official said the construction of a single large satellite, for instance, took several years of work by about 10,000 people.
“The technology imported must be at a level that can be understood by the country receiving it,” he said. “I don’t know if Turkey will acquire technology from Japan, but right now we have an agreement to cooperate and communicate.”
Second satellite will be built in Turkey
Several Turkish engineers are already in Japan as part of a deal with Japanese company Mitsubishi to manufacture the Türksat 4A satellite, which is set to launch next year. Under the deal, a second satellite will be built in Turkey by Turkish engineers, making the transfer of know-how crucial.
In 1999, the Turkish Air Force began work on the blueprints of a space program. In 2001, the government decided to set up an agency to establish the country’s space policy, but the plans were never materialized. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brought up the issue again this year during his election campaign.
“It is our recommendation and hope to have a counterpart in Turkey, a space implementation agency, to enhance our cooperation,” Higuchi said.
The would-be Turkish Space Agency (TUK) will determine the country’s space policy, with eventual objectives to protect Turkey’s rights in space, manufacture spacecraft and train astronauts. The Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) has set 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, as the target date for launching a Turkish astronaut into space.