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Satellite centre marks Turkey's first step into space

Centre for testing satellites opens as Turkey branches into space industry
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) attends the ceremony of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) operated spacecraft assembly, integration and test centre in Ankara on 21 May, 2015 (AA)

ANKARA – Turkey’s president heralded the country’s "first step into space" as he opened a satellite test centre on Thursday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the new venture, run by defence contractor Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), as part of the company’s growth. It is now 80th in the ranking of top 100 defence companies.

"Today, Turkish Aerospace Industries has already become one of the world's largest companies in the aviation field," he said. "Our aim is to join the list of the top 20 companies."

The president added: "In 2002, this company, with $90 million in revenue and 2,000 workers, almost closed. But today, with revenue exceeding $1 billion and with 5,000 workers, it stands as the world's 80th largest company in its field."

Earlier, Erdogan told executives and guests: "This facility is, for us, in a real sense a first step into space."

Funded by the Defence Ministry and telecommunications firm Turksat, the centre is at the heart of Turkish efforts to break into the international space industry.

"These kind of facilities are found in a few countries that have expertise in space studies," Erdogan said. "We can say that, having this facility via TAI, Turkey ranks among these countries."

The test centre, located in Kazan, northwest of capital Ankara, will initially test the Gokturk-1 satellite, a civil and military observation satellite due to be launched in November.

The 3,800 square-metre centre, sited near a military air base, will be capable of testing satellites up to five tonnes in weight.

Among the tests to be conducted at the TAI-operated site will be vibration tests, acoustic tests and solar array deployment.

The production of Turkey's first native satellite Turksat 6A - a Turkish communications satellite currently under construction - will be conducted at the centre.