SpaceX began the global launch year with the flight of Türksat 5A, a Turkish communications satellite. Thursday’s mission placed a satellite in orbit that is Turkish-owned and was built by Airbus. It’s known as the Turksat 5 communications satellite.
Turksat awarded Airbus and SpaceX contracts to build and launch the Turksat 5A and Turksat 5B satellites in November 2017, following a meeting between SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk with Turkish President Erdoğan.
“Turksat 5A will become the most powerful satellite in Turksat’s fleet,” according to Hasan Huseyin Ertok, the company’s deputy general manager. “It will also help secure Turkish frequency rights at the 31 degrees east slot, where a Turkish-owned satellite has not operated since 2010.”
“Our main focus is Turkey, so it’s centered on Turkey but the whole (of) Europe, the most part of North Africa, and we go all the way to Kazakhstan going to the east. and in the African region, we have most of sub-Saharan Africa and also South Africa,” Ertok said of Turksat 5A’s coverage area.
“We can provide satellite service to anyone in that coverage area,” he said. “It can be a data service, which means bringing data from one point to another, or it can be a TV broadcasting service.”
While Turksat sells services to commercial customers, a major client for the company is the Turkish government. Turksat satellites have supported a range of Turkish civil and military operations. Ertok said Turksat 5A will provide a “better service with a better price for our customers, to our government.”
“So it’s going to be an important satellite for us, and for our future,” he said.
Turkish officials confirmed Thursday night that ground teams received the first radio signals from the Turksat 5A after launch, allowing controllers to begin health verifications and post-launch checkouts.
Turksat 5A, with a launch weight of around 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms) will deploy its power-generating solar panels and extend articulating pods holding plasma thrusters, which will slowly circularize the satellite’s orbit at geostationary altitude more than 22,000 miles over the equator. At that altitude, Turksat 5A will orbit Earth at the same rate the planet rotates.