US-based commercial aerospace company Axiom Space has signed an agreement with the Turkish government to send the country’s first astronaut into space. Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank announced that Turkey will work with Axiom Space to select the astronaut who will travel to the country’s 100th anniversary in 2023. The agreement was officially signed at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris on September 19th.
“We have signed a historic agreement on the first manned space mission to be carried out on the centenary of our republic,” the minister tweeted. “We will work with Axiom Space for the training and flight service of the Turkish astronaut whose selection process is ongoing.”
Cumhuriyetimizin 100. yılında gerçekleştireceğimiz insanlı ilk uzay görrevinde tarihi bir anlaşmaya imza attık.
– Mustafa Varank (@varank) September 19, 2022
The announcement comes just months after Sierra Space, another commercial company, signed a deal with Turkey’s space agency to send astronauts to the space station and future lunar missions.
As Axiom Space builds the world’s first commercial space station, the astronauts to be sent into space will also contribute to planned research experiments in low-Earth orbit. “This mission is part of Türkiye’s ambitious 10-year space roadmap, which includes missions to low Earth orbit and to the moon, as well as the development of internationally viable satellite systems,” said Serdar Hüseyin Yıldırım, President of the Turkish Space Agency (TUA).
In the coming days, the parties involved will conduct the selection process, followed by astronaut training before the mission schedule is finalized. Axiom Space says it offers a wide range of services, including training and flying private astronauts, access to training facilities and instructors, hardware and safety certification, and on-orbit operational management.
Turkey’s space program
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled the country’s National Space Program in 2021, which aims to send an astronaut into space and launch an all-native rocket to the moon. Earlier this May, Erdogan announced that the country had started preparations to send a citizen astronaut into low Earth orbit and that applications for the resident-to-astronaut conversion program were being accepted.
As part of the program, the Turkish Space Agency also signed a contract with Sierra Space for cargo and astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and the moon. Read more about it here.