Türksat is spending effort on developing satellite technologies in Türkiye in addition to be a satellite operator that competes in the international market. The next satellite of the company, Türksat 6A, is planned for a 2023 launch and will be a great leap forward for the complete independence in satellite technologies.
It is important for the equipment and systems used in space to have a “history”. This could be defined as the successful operations time of the equipment in space. For example, the satellite platform of Türksat 5B, E3000, has a total operational time of 1,000 years, and this is a good indicator how reliable the platform and its subsystems are.
The importance given for this “history” is caused by the inability to repair satellites serving in space, for now. To put it in another way, every system within the satellite must operate uninterrupted for the entire lifetime of the satellite. The “history” is then seen as primary proof of the equipment to serve without interruptions in the tough conditions of space.
Reliability is a must for international satellite operators that compete in a global scale such as Türksat. Every operational satellite in space is required to serve with its full capacity continuously, and this is achieved by using reliable equipment and satellites. Türksat does its part in a way by utilising indigenous technologies and equipment developed and produced in Türkiye in this regard. Türksat 6A operating successfully in its orbit will lead to its equipment having a “history” and thus Türkiye will be able to compete in the communications satellites field with its proven equipment.
In the 2nd Space Technologies Week, Türksat 6A was too in the limelight, for participants including Vice President Fuat Oktay and Adil Karaismailoğlu, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure. In a special session focusing on Türksat 6A held on the first day of the event, Tayfun Dar, Director of R&D and Satellite Design of Türksat, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mesut Gökten, Acting Director of TÜBİTAK Space Technologies Research Institute (TÜBİTAK Uzay), Dr. Selman Nas, Executive Vice President of Space Systems of Turkish Aerospace, and Dr. Cüneyd Fırat, General Manager of CTech informed the attendees on the efforts they spent within the satellite project.
Green Flag Raised in 2013, Chequered Flag Will Be Waved in 2023
Türksat 6A is supported by TÜBİTAK in its project. After Türksat applied to TÜBİTAK in 2013, the organisation made a public invitation for the project. With this invitation, certain organisations and institutions were selected to take part in the project, and the contract for the project was signed on 15 December 2014 with a ceremony that was graced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to TÜBİTAK’s grant nomenclature, Türksat is named as the client organisation, TÜBİTAK Uzay as the manager organisation of the project, and Turkish Aerospace, ASELSAN and CTech are named as the project contractors. Türksat 6A is planned to have a 2023 launch with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the same rocket used for the launches of Türksat 5A and 5B.
Technical specifications of Türksat 6A are as follows:
- Orbital Location: 42° East Geostationary
- Payload: 528 MHz (Ku-Band)
- Expected Lifetime: > 15 + 1 year (Electric propulsion system on the satellite will provide the added 1 year)
- Power: 6 kW
- Coverage Area: West and East Türkiye
Türksat 6A will expand the coverage area in addition to its technological contributions. India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia will be in the coverage area of Türksat’s satellite fleet.
Turkish Space Sector Enters a New Frontier
The development of National Satellite Platform for communications satellites is a target of Türksat 6A project as well. The platform will have a scalable architecture, high reliability, and national equipment. As such, it can be utilised in future satellite projects.
Türkiye, with its various satellite projects like RASAT and GÖKTÜRK 2, has the experience to develop indigenous satellites and subsystems that will serve in the low earth orbit. However, communications satellites and their geostationary orbits are much higher, and have vastly different environmental conditions. As such, Türksat 6A requires Turkish space sector to develop and acquire new capabilities. Domestic design and production activities are a part of this project for this reason. These activities lead to an expansion of qualified personnel numbers and acquisition of new infrastructure by the sector. Dr. Cüneyd Fırat, General Manager of CTech, expresses his views as the head of a SME in this regard as follows: “CTech is probably the organisation that learned the most in this project. Compared to the other organisations, our history is shorter and our experience perhaps a bit less… We also developed an important infrastructure, and we are now able to do space engineering. We became a part of Türkiye’s developing space ecosystem as CTech.”
The core of human resources working on Türksat 6A is ready, thanks to the past efforts of both Türksat and the sector as a whole. The experience of the sector is based on its past low earth orbit satellites. As for Türksat, the company made engineering teams undergo space and satellite training within Türksat 3A, 4A, 4B, 5A, and 5B satellite projects. These teams provide the primary human resources of the company on satellite technologies.
Within the Türksat 6A project, the developments and happenings of the project are being observed and reported upon with a team that includes university academics on behalf of TÜBİTAK. This also contributes to university-industry cooperation.
Integration Process Already Commenced for the Satellite
In the development processes of satellites, test activities are done on various models and the designs verified with these tests are then utilised in the final satellite design. As for Türksat 6A, the first communications satellite of Türkiye, four different models are being developed:
- Thermal Structural Qualification Model
- Electrical and Electronical Satellite Model
- Engineering Model
- Flight Model
During 2nd Space Technologies Week, the system-level tests of the Engineering Model and integration activities of the Flight Model of the satellite were ongoing.
Space Sector United for Türksat 6A
In the Türksat 6A project, division of responsibilities between the contractors were assigned as follows:
- TÜBİTAK Uzay: Project Management, Systems Engineering, Platform Subsystems, Integration, Ground Section
- Turkish Aerospace: Structural Subsystem, Thermal Control Subsystem, Wiring, Chemical Propulsion Subsystem, Running Operations of Space Systems Assembly Integration and Test (AIT) Centre
- ASELSAN: Payload Subsystem
- CTech: Telemetry, Telecommand and Distance Measurement System (TTM)
Türksat 6A will both actively serve and provide a “history” to indigenous equipment. As such, some critical satellite equipment, both developed indigenously and procured from abroad with their own “histories”, will serve together. Propulsion system is such a system, with the satellite having a chemical propulsion system and an indigenously developed electrical propulsion system. The electrical propulsion system will add one year to the expected lifetime of the satellite.
The integration and the tests of Türksat 6A’s Thermal Structural Qualification Model, Engineering Model, and Flight Model are being done on AIT Centre. The satellite will be launched from there as well.