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Turkey to build rocket launch site in Somalia to support its $ 1 billion lunar mission

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Turkey recently announced a space program, which aims to make a soft landing on the moon in 2028, will cost more than $ 1 billion and would require the construction of a rocket launch site in Somalia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week revealed an ambitious timeline that has two distinct stages for making contact with the moon on unmanned missions.

Ankara plans to make a hard landing on the moon with a locally produced hybrid rocket that would be launched into orbit in 2023, the centenary of the republics, thanks to international cooperation. The second stage aims for a soft landing on the Moon in 2028 with Turkey’s own capabilities, which would involve a shuttle that would carry out scientific research on Earth’s natural satellite. However, the government has so far avoided questions about the cost of the program and how it will run.

The first plans submitted to Erdogan a few years ago showed that the little-known branch of the Turkish presidency, Deltav (Space Technologies Incorporated Company), would be the recipient of the bulk of the spending, with a budget of over $ 600 million. Arif Karabeyoglu, chairman of Deltav, announced last year that the company had already produced a rocket engine using liquid oxygen and paraffin, a crucial capability of the space program.

The government plans to build a rocket launch site in Somalia, a key Turkish security partner since 2011, which also hosts Turkey’s largest training base in the world. Somalia is no stranger to space enthusiasts: France also considered using the country to host a spaceport in the 1960s due to its proximity to the equator, making it more suitable for rocket launches.

Serdar Huseyin Yildirim, the chairman of the Turkish Space Agency, declined to comment on Somalia in an interview with BBC Turkish on February 12, citing sensitive discussions with the host country, which he would not name.

The government’s draft calculations suggest that establishing and maintaining the spaceport in Somalia would cost more than $ 350 million. The government also aims to provide grants to Turkish doctoral students to study astrophysics and to fund research and development for Turkish universities, all for around $ 150 million.

Yildirim has told media in repeated interviews that the space program will help Turkey advance its technology and make crucial investments in sectors that will make the country more competitive in the long run. The government has yet to find a foreign entity capable of launching the Turkish rocket into space in 2023 where, after reaching lower Earth orbit, the rocket would be directed towards the moon.

Yildirim told a Turkish newspaper that funding for the project could be funded by international donors, as there are many parties interested in space projects. However, the MEE source said that since the program itself would require missiles, foreign investment would be unlikely. “The plans would most likely evolve since the 2023 and 2028 targets are quite aggressive and many variables could change,” the source added. “Yet having such a goal will help Turkey to focus on the mission which is finally space.”

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