Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy expects to complete a new turnkey satellite integration and test center for the Turkish military this fall, with final acceptance of the new facility, including all test systems, slated for May 2014.

Capable of processing satellites weighing up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lb.), the plant’s construction was one of the terms of a 2009 contract between Turkey’s defense ministry and prime contractor Telespazio that will furnish Ankara with the Thales-built Gokturk 1, the highest-resolution optical-imaging spacecraft ever approved for export.

Turkey for more than a decade has been investing heavily in developing a national space program, one that already boasts several telecommunications satellites and two Earth-observation spacecraft, with plans to produce more.

In a July 12 news release, Thales said the new Class 100,000 clean room will be air and water tight, and will allow integration of several telecommunications or observation satellites simultaneously. Spanning more than 3,000 square meters, it will house cutting-edge equipment, including a mechanical vibration test bench, a 950-cubic-meter acoustic test chamber, a thermal-vacuum chamber measuring more than 350 cubic meters, a compact antenna test range and supports for the deployment of solar panels and antennas.

Other features include a system to test the physical properties of satellites, including weight, center of gravity and inertia, as well as electromagnetic compatibility test systems.

Thales says Turkish industry is heavily involved in the construction of the facility, and that a local company was chosen as the contracting authority for all civil engineering, with responsibility for design studies and construction of the building under Thales Alenia Space.

Turkish Aerospace Industries is expected to complete final integration of the 1,000-kg Gokturk 1 satellite at the new facility in preparation for launch atop a Vega light launcher in 2015. Gokturk 1 will deliver 50-cm (20-in.) resolution at nadir in black and white, a capability similar to France’s sophisticated twin Pleiades Earth-observation spacecraft.

Under the terms of the contract, Turkey has the option to purchase a follow-on spacecraft that would undergo complete assembly, integration and test in Turkey, according to industry sources. The center also is expected to enable Turkish industry to begin work on the country’s first synthetic-aperture-radar imaging spacecraft, approved in January.

In December, Ankara launched the mostly Turkish-built Gokturk 2 Earth observation satellite atop a Chinese Long March 2D. The 400-kg (882-lb.) satellite incorporates a German solar-generation system and Korean-built optical instrument capable of 2.5-meter (8.2-ft.) panchromatic resolution with a 20-km (12-mi.+) swath.

On July 11 Turkey announced an agreement with missile-maker Roketsan to begin the pre-conceptual design phase of a new launcher, according to Turkey’s defense ministry.

The agreement’s value was not disclosed, but a video posted on the Facebook page of Turkey’s Undersecretariat for Defense Industries illustrates the new concept, showing a three-stage launch vehicle with the name “Gokturk” emblazoned across the payload shroud as it blasts into space. The launcher drops its first and second stages successively before jettisoning the fairing and releasing a satellite equipped with an apogee kick motor, two solar arrays and five reflector antennas.