Turkish Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communication Minister Ahmet Arslan said Airbus Defence and Space had won the long drawn-out bidding to build the Turksat 5A and 5B telecommunications satellites — assuming the two sides agree on price. Credit: Anatolia News Agency

LOS ANGELES — The Turkish government has selected Airbus Defense and Space to build two telecommunications satellites after a long international bidding process, Turkish MInister for Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Ahmet Arslan said Oct. 6.

In most cases, the selection of a winning bid is all but certain to result in a signed contract shortly thereafter. But the Turkish government has a reputation to be a particularly demanding customer, and Arelan said negotiations on contract price had not yet been concluded.

The discussions are likely to be all the more complicated insofar as Turkey set a requirement that at least 25% of the value of Turksat 5B be given to Turkish industry.

But in a year that so far has witnessed only a handful of commercial geostationary-satellite contracts, the Turkish order stands out alongside the SES order for seven medium-orbit satellites from Boeing, and EchoStar/Hughes’s order of a Jupiter 3 consumer broadband satellite from SSL.

Turksat Chief Executive Cenk Sen told the World Satellite Business Conference on Sept. 11 that the Turksat 5B program is viewed as a warm-up exercise for the Turksat 6A, intended to be Turkey’s first domestically built telecommunications spacecraft.

Sen said the goal is to have all three satellites in orbit by 2020. Turkey’s rights some of the Ku-band spectrum the satellites will use end in mid-2021, he said, which is one reason Turksat authorities are in a hurry to launch.

Creating a domestic satellite industrial base

Turkish authorities view a domestic satellite industry — or at least an industry capable of manufacturing satellite components for other prime contractors — as a way of stimulating Turkey’s technology center.

Arslan said Turkey’s goal is to have 10 operational satellites in orbit by 2023, and to place Turkey among the world’s top-10 satellite fleet operators in terms of revenue. Sen said Turksat revenue, in what he conceded was a rough economic climate in the past year, nonetheless grew by 12% in 2016.

The Turkish government has budgeted about 600 million Turkish lira for the Turksat 6A program.

Turksat had a long relationship with Franco-Italian satellite builder Thales Alenia Space, and selected Mitsubishii Electric of Tokyo for the Turksat 4A and 4B satellites. It was a major win for Melco.

Once able to present itself to its neighbors as the sole nation capable of offering satellite connectivity, Turkey is now one of several nations in the region with its own spacecraft. Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan all placed satellites into orbit in recent years.

Sen said Turkey nonetheless hoped to position itself as a regional producer of satellite components for the major international prime contractors, much as it produces aircraft parts for Boeing.

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Peter B. de Selding
Peter B. de Selding
Peter de Selding is a Co-Founder and editor for SpaceIntelReport.com. He started SpaceIntelReport in 2017 after 26 years as the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews where he covered the commercial satellite, launch and the international space businesses. He is widely considered the preeminent reporter in the space industry and is a must read for space executives. Follow Peter @pbdes