Göktürk-1 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Satellite Launched into the Orbit

A new era for Turkey’s military optical observation satellites

Göktürk-1 - Turkey’s surveillance satellite, with highest level of resolution, procured in order to fulfil the Turkish Armed Forces’ satellite image requirements towards target intelligence, was successfully launched to the target orbit with 689 km of ground clearance through the Vega launcher from the Korou launcher base in French Guyana in South America on Monday, 5 December 2016 at 16:51:44 Turkish time, under the responsibility of Italian Telespazio and French Thales Alenia, Ministry of National Defense and Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) and with the participation of TAI, Aselsan, TÜBİTAK, Roketsan, TR Technology companies.

The launching was watched live at the TAI facilities with the participation of President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Minister of National Defense Mr. Fikri Işık, Minister of Science, Industry and Technology Mr. Faruk Özlü, Commander of the Air Forces General Abidin Ünal and many invitees. Taking the floor at the opening of the ceremony, SSM’s Head of the Department of Air Defense and Space Mr. Serhat Gençoğlu made a presentation to the invitees. Stating that within the scope of the Göktürk-1 program, conducted by the Ministry of National Defense and the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries in line with the demands of the Air Forces Command, the procurement of the Reconnaissance Surveillance Satellite System, fixed and mobile ground stations and integration and test center was aimed, Mr. Gençoğlu continued: “Göktürk-1 satellite will provide the acquisition of over 250 high resolution images per day from all over the world without any limitations. Our satellite will be operated with the Göktürk-2 satellite without interruption 7 days and 24 hours at the Ahlatlıbel Reconnaissance Satellite Command by our Air Forces Command”. 

Stating that the first signal will be received from the ground station located at Antarctica 69 minutes after the launching, Mr. Gençoğlu added that the launching and start-up processes of the Göktürk-1 satellite would be starting within two weeks. “The operations will be transferred to the Ahlatlıbel station within two weeks and the orbit acceptance tests will be commenced. The first stage of the orbit acceptance tests will be completed in April 2017 and the high resolution image requirements of our Air Forces Command will be fulfilled by our Göktürk-1 satellite.” added Mr. Gençoğlu.

Göktürk-1 will be Fully Operational in September 2017

Project Management Department Head of the Air Forces Brigadier General İbrahim Dülger addressed the participants via video conference from the French Guyana from where the Göktürk-1 satellite would be launched. Brigadier General Dülger stated that they reached at the final stage of the Göktürk-1 satellite program that started in 2009 and continued: “Göktürk-1 satellite will execute its tasks at the Sun-synchronous orbit over 686 km altitude and will be able to capture the image of any point over the earth without any air space limitations. The high resolution images we will be acquiring via Göktürk-1, which is Turkey’s first high resolution reconnaissance and surveillance satellite, will not only be utilized for fulfilling the requirements of Turkish Armed Forces but also be used for the requirements other institutions and associations. Upon the orbit of the satellite, the duty station performance tests, full scope functional tests and fractional qualification tests will be conducted. Following the successful completion of the tests, the system’s final utilization is planned to take place in September 2017”.  

Commander of the Air Forces General Abidin Ünal mentioned that they launched a satellite which has the indigenous contributions in design, production, test and integration areas and said, “The Göktürk-1 satellite, which will start its journey into space today, will be capable of transferring over 250 high resolution, color images within a 24 hour cycle. With the help of the images it will transfer, we will be able to acquire highly sensitive intelligence and the precision guided smart ammunition will be able to hit their marks. By means of the satellite image which will be placed into the memory of the SOM (Stand-off Missile) that we developed indigenously, the precise hits could be conducted from hundreds of miles away. In addition to the Göktürk-1 and Göktürk-2 satellites, the complementary observation satellites, early warning satellites and communication satellites will take their places in space. With these satellites and our Air Space Group Command which will operate them from the ground, the Turkish Armed Forces will soon become powerful in space as well”.

Minister of National Defense Mr. Fikri Işık noted that they made very important progress during the process starting with Göktürk-2 and continuing with Göktürk-1 satellite and added that they will be reaching significant acquisitions in space technologies areas in the upcoming period with the Göktürk-3, and TÜRKSAT 6A projects.

Following Minister Işık’s speech, Göktürk-1 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Satellite was launched to space from the Korou launcher base at French Guyana at 16:51 Turkish time.

Addressing the invitees after the launch, President Mr. Erdoğan, wished that the Göktürk-1 satellite would bring good luck to Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces and thanked those who contributed to the production and launching of the satellite.

Reminding the audience that Turkey’s RASAT satellite was launched from Russia in 2011, and Göktürk-2 satellite was launched from China, President Mr. Erdoğan said, “Now by launching our Göktürk-1 satellite to space, we have taken a new step within the scope of our space activities. The Göktürk-1 satellite we launched to space today is a more developed satellite than the previously launched Göktürk-2. This satellite, which will be providing services to our Turkish Armed Forces with its high technology capabilities, will also be bringing many important advantages to our country in other areas”.

Noting that with the help of this satellite with precise imaging capability up to half a meter, many benefits will be available in a wide variety of areas from controlling the forests to sea pollution, from damage assessment to crop estimations, President Mr.Erdoğan stated that the capabilities of the Göktürk-1 satellite would be an expression of Turkey’s determination toward the target it wishes to reach in respect to space studies. President Mr.Erdoğan stated that through good planning in all areas, Turkey will achieve a self- sufficient defense industry and continued: “As all other demands of our Defense Industry requiring high technology, we have to develop and manufacture our own satellites. I know the activities being conducted to this end and I appreciate them but I especially underline that we need to accomplish more too. Our related institutions will have to execute all their activities through an understanding built on their own design and production instead of direct procurement”.

Mr. Erdoğan stated that the domestic participation ratio in Göktürk-1 satellite was 20% and added that the arms embargos and restrictions arising recently motivated and strengthened them to develop and improve the defense industry and continued, “The domestic participation rate in the satellite we launched today is 20 percent. We should be able to manufacture our next, more improved satellite at least with the reverse rate and launch it into space. We need to rapidly establish a self- sufficient defense industry through good planning in all required areas and with correct choices”.

Following the speeches, a small scaled mock-up of the Göktürk-1 satellite was presented to President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to commemorate the ceremony.

The First Signal was Received from the Satellite After 68 Minutes

4098 seconds after the firing of the primary engines of the Vega satellite launcher, Göktürk-1 orbited 681 km over the ground and the first signals were successfully received 68 minutes after the launch by the ground station rented for Göktürk-1 at Norway’s Troll town at the South Pole.

All environmental tests of the Göktürk-1 satellite with 7 years of duty term were conducted at the Space Systems Integration and Test Center (USET) at TAI facilities and the satellite will be completing its tour around the world in approximately 90 minutes. Göktürk-1 satellite has a mass of nearly 1070kgs without any fuel and will be performing its tasks in the solar simultaneous orbit with its high resolution optic camera. The full acceptance of the Göktürk-1 satellite will be taking place in April 2017 and the satellite is planned to become fully operational in September 2017. The satellite will be operated with the ground station located at the Reconnaissance Satellite Battalion Command’s facilities of the Air Forces Command in Ankara.

Göktürk-1 satellite is expected to start a new era for the following military optical observation satellites and the capabilities and know-how acquired in this project are expected to pave the way for new generation surveillance satellites.