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  4. Interview with Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

Interview with Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

Newly appointed president takes the helm of Turkey’s space plan.

In December, 2018, the Turkish government issued a presidential decree announcing the establishment of the Turkish Space Agency. In August, 2019, the president of Turkey, Mr. Erdoğan, appointed Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim, a former director general of Aeronautics and Space Technologies under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, as the president of this newly established space agency.

APRSAF Secretariat

Turkey has already built some satellites. Can you tell us the meaning or significance of having a space agency in your country?

Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

This was a long-awaited project for about 20 years. In the satellite industry in Turkey, there are manufacturing and test capabilities, also some software companies and some remote sensing companies. But they are not well-coordinated without a space agency. So, after the establishment of the Turkish Space Agency, the main benefit will be the coordination of all efforts and the control of all resources from one central point, one umbrella organization. That will bring efficiency for sure. This is maybe the primary benefit of having a space agency.

But not only that; the second benefit is having one space representative for international organizations and institutions. There were many other institutions acting as representatives, but now we have one official representative for all space activities all over the world. The Turkish Space Agency is representing the State of Turkey.

The third benefit will be on the education side because there will be an effective roadmap that we are preparing, and next year we will declare a 10-year roadmap for Turkey’s space activities. We call it the National Space Program. In that field, we will consider how universities, faculties, and other educational and training facilities will be coordinated and supported by the Turkish Space Agency.

In short, it was a long awaited event and, at the end of last year, it was established.

Secretariat

So, with the new space agency we can expect that within Turkey you can coordinate or optimize your various space activities?

Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

Yes, that is one of our main goals, coordination and supporting. Also, maybe for the time, as you know, we do not yet have national space laws for space policies. The United Nations is working on it and as Turkish side we are actively participating. Turkey will also make preparations regarding this topic, so we will contribute to these efforts.

Regarding satellite production, we are not yet satisfied with the local contribution. It is approximately 50% to 60% now, but we must improve it, so international cooperation is also important in that field. Turkey has the capability to build and assemble and test every kind of satellite. We want to improve the situation.

Also, another important goal maybe the main goal is access to space. Otherwise, as you know, we must wait a long time for a launch. And it is an expensive matter. However, we can also do it. We can facilitate our launching capability and improve it, again with international cooperation of course. And, I always underline it, on the civilian side, because as the Turkish Space Agency we are committed to UN goals. The peaceful use of outer space is very important for us. We do not deal with military issues. Of course, we are looking at what they are doing. We have the information, but we do not deal with it, we do not get involved with that. This is important. So on the civilian side, we must also have access. This is another goal of the Turkish Space Agency.

The third goal, I want to express another important issue. I am speaking with many space agencies all over the world and during these sessions we speak about producing space components in Turkey, and selling them to all parts of the global space sector.

Of course, Japanese technology is also very important for us. We have very good relations with JAXA. And this APRSAF community is really a ground to improve this sort of international cooperation and partnerships. So, we are supporting also APRSAF initiatives and actively participating in them. But I think, since the establishment of the Turkish Space Agency, that things will improve greatly. We will see in time.

Secretariat

Talking about your relation with APRSAF, do you have any expectations from them or some kind of support or activities related to them?

Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

We can cooperate, yes. I can give an example. Before coming here, we met in another meeting with Australian and New Zealand space agencies. The Australian Space Agency is also new. It was established last year. We both are new agencies, so let us come together and work together, cooperate. And New Zealand is, as we know, the neighbor of Australia and we also have good relations with them. It has some capabilities especially in terms of the availability of launching spaceports. Of course, this is a good example. We intend to build partnerships and cooperate with space agencies participating in APRSAF.

Also, we signed an agreement with Kazakhstan recently. I was in Nur-Sultan for Baikonur Space Days. It was a very successful event and we had many important meetings there. Things are really active now for the Turkish Space Agency, and interest is there.

I must underline another thing, which is important. I always say space activities are not just national activities, and they should not be. They are for all humanity. You enter into space. Space belongs to all humanity as planetary bodies. So the responsible institutions should not allow such a colonization process in space, as happened on some continents before.

The way to do it is by international cooperation, otherwise it will be only a space race. But a race does not always bring peace; it does not always mean happiness for humanity. So, I am very keen that we should communicate and cooperate strongly.

Secretariat

Thank you. And back to one of your purpose, the space industry. You have many competitors even within APRSAF countries. So, the competition will be hard for you.

Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

Yes, competition is hard, but good. Competition brings many things with it. We are not afraid of competition, but competition should be fair. Turkey of course has an economical level and the resources that can be used for space activities is, naturally, limited, not so big as the United States or other big space powers, China, Japan, etc. But I have no doubt we can also make progress and a contribution to the exploration of space by humanity. For this reason, there should be an agreement, maybe not written but an understanding by all states and all space agencies that lets us come together; and one part of the job, one part of the process, should be given to one particular country, to one particular agency. They can handle it. They could handle it, and they should handle it. Then, as we always say, a much more peaceful use of outer space will be realized in that way. Otherwise, I am sure the biggest space powers can do anything themselves, they do not need the support or held from other countries. But if they let other countries participate, I think it will bring a greater contribution and peace.

Secretariat

In that sense, are you coordinating within your country, with domestic partners or stakeholders, as well as with foreign stakeholders as your counterparts? As a politician, I imagine that you are very good at those activities.

Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

Yes, it is going really well. Domestically, we manage it much more easily. Internationally, our goal is forging strong partnerships with regional partners, our neighbors. There are many neighbors who are very interested in space activities and have some capabilities. So if we bring three or four countries together, we can manage projects such as manufacturing satellites much more reliable, for example. Everyone needs satellites nowadays, and the number is increasing and increasing. Why not let us come together and build one together for all of us?

Take GPS systems for example. Big space powers have always had their own global positioning systems, and it is understandable. But for a country like Turkey, it is maybe a very big project. But if we come together, we can do it. Or meteorological satellites, very important for agricultural issues, disaster management, etc. We all need them. Data sharing is another issue which can easily be managed with cooperation. We have some satellites and collect some data, another country is collecting another sort of data. So when we bring them together, it is more valuable. That is for sure. So, we should do it and we are ready for that. As the Turkish Space Agency, we are ready and open to all kinds of international cooperation, collaboration, and partnerships.

Secretariat

You announced your very ambitious plan for the future, and I hope you are ready to do or progress to that.

Mr. Serdar Huseyin Yildirim

Yes, of course ambitious goals need resources, that is for sure, human resources and financial resources, etc. I do not know yet in my country how much in the way of resources can be mobilized for that, but I am sure we will take it, step by step, forward. The goals may seem ambitious for now, but after five years we will think that they are very easy. The technological advance is really very fast and very fascinating. We should not limit our ideas and our imagination. This is very important. Everything begins with imagination.

Going to Mars or Jupiter is only the beginning. I am sure that humankind, maybe in this century, will go further to planetary systems, exoplanets. We are already finding them, but it takes a long time to go there. This is the biggest problem. But I am sure the technological advances will find a solution for that and it will open up huge opportunities—possibilities for all human beings. But that should be fairly distributed and all of humanity on this planet should benefit from space exploration. I hope for that.

We, as the Turkish Space Agency, will work on that role, always share our knowledge, our technology and try to come together to achieve more ambitious goals.

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