Turkey signs deal with U.S.' Axiom Space to launch first Turkish astronaut in 2023

U.S.-based commercial aerospace company Axiom Space on Monday signed an agreement with Turkey to send the country’s first astronaut to space by 2023, pro-government Turkish Star newspaper reported on Monday.

Turkey is set to cooperate with Axiom Space for the selection of the astronaut, who will travel in the country’s centennial year, the country’s Industry and Technology Minister, Mustafa Varank said on Twitter.

Signed at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris, the agreement will see that Ankara cooperates with Axiom Space "for the training and flight service of the Turkish space traveller whose selection process is ongoing," Varank said.

The mission is a part of Turkey’s “ambitious 10-year space road map, which includes missions to the low-Earth orbit and the Moon as well as developing internationally viable satellite systems.” Star cited Serdar Hüseyin Yıldırım, President of Turkey's space agency (TUA), as saying.

Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unveiled the country's National Space Programme, which seeks to send an astronaut to space, in addition to launching a fully indigenous rocket to the Moon. Turkey’s Directorate of Communication in May of this year published a presidential circular on the “National Space Program Strategy Document,” which details an eight-year strategic plan by the Turkish Space Agency.

The agreement with Axiom Space follows a deal signed in June between, Sierra Space and the Turkish Space Agency and an affiliated  ESEN Sistem Entegrasyon that could lead to cooperation on human spaceflight and lunar missions, Space News website reported.

The selection process and astronaut training will be carried out in the coming days, Star said,  which will be followed by a timeline for the mission. 

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