Ankara is planning development of a national satellite launch system capable of delivering military and civil spacecraft to orbit, according to Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz.

Following a Jan. 3 meeting of Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee, Yilmaz said the government will enter negotiations with Turkish weapons builder Roketsan Inc. for the early concept design phase of a new launch system “to ensure that military and civilian satellites can be sent into space,” according to a Jan. 3 statement.

During the meeting, attended by Yilmas and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the committee also approved the beginning of contract negotiations with Turkish Aerospace Industries for domestic development of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) spacecraft dubbed GokTurk-3, with support from defense electronics manufacturer Aselsan and state research institute Tubitak.

With a space segment comprised of a single satellite equipped with SAR payload and a fixed main ground terminal and mobile backup ground station, GokTurk-3 is to provide high-resolution radar images from anywhere in the world in day/night, all-weather conditions, according to defense ministry requirements.

The pending contract negotiations are part of Ankara’s broader effort to develop a national space program by the end of the decade that would include several civil and military telecom satellites and payloads in addition to dual-use surveillance spacecraft and the new launch system.

In December Turkey lofted its second domestically produced optical imaging satellite, GokTurk-2, a medium-resolution optical imager launched atop a Chinese Long March 2D rocket. GokTurk-2 incorporates a solar generation system developed in Germany and an optical instrument furnished by South Korea. The mission follows the August 2011 launch of a Turkish microsat equipped with an optical payload on a Dnepr rocket from Yasny Launch Base in Russia. 

Over the next year or so Turkey plans to launch GokTurk-1, a larger and more powerful optical imaging spacecraft capable of sub-meter resolution that is similar to the French Pleiades Earth observation satellites built by EADS-Astrium. GokTurk-1 is currently under construction under an agreement with Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space that includes construction of a satellite assembly, integration and test facility in Turkey.