Presidential Decree numbered 23 on Turkish Space Agency
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Presidential Decree numbered 23 on Turkish Space Agency

Turkey’s first and own space agency has been finally launched!

The long-awaited space agency of Turkey (the “Agency”) has finally been established in Ankara by the Presidential Decree numbered 23 which has been published on December 13, 2018 (the “Decree”). According to the Decree, the Agency which is composed of two main bodies (i.e. the Board of Directors and the Presidency) will have financial and administrative autonomy as well as a special budget.

Although there is no specific law regulating space activities in Turkey at present, Article 4 of the Decree provides broad responsibilities and authorities to the Agency.

Accordingly, the Agency, which is to cooperate with the International Telecommunications Union, will take overall responsibility for national space activities and is expected to help Turkey to become more competitive in the global space economy. To that end, the Agency will prepare the National Space Program and will make regulations and strategic plans in order to make such program effective. 

Meanwhile, we would like to mention the broad brush strokes of the said Decree.

Duties of the Agency:

I. Record Keeping:

Most importantly, the Agency will be responsible to maintain records of the objects that have been launched into outer space in accordance with international treaties and to proceed with the registration of such objects before the United Nations. Although the Decree has not explicitly referred to the establishment of a national registry for space objects, this attempt can still be considered as a significant leap given Article II of the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (1975) - to which Turkey is also a party – which requires launching States to establish a national registry.

II. Authorization:

Article VI of Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (1967) states that:

“States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty.”

As we all are aware, this Article holds States responsible for their national activities in outer space regardless of whether these activities are conducted by private or public entities. States are thus required to provide authorization and continuing supervision for the activities carried out by private companies as well.

Accordingly, another prominent contribution of the Decree is that the Agency is held entitled to provide relevant permissions to both public and private entities to launch satellites and space vehicles from Turkey into outer space, to place them into orbit and to bring them back to Earth.

III. National Space Law:

That being said, as previously mentioned, Turkey has no specific law regulating space activities and licensing requirements. The existence of national space laws establishing the conditions precedent to obtain a license as well as a punishment mechanism for entities which do not comply with the licensing requirements is of crucial importance.

The Agency is expected to carry out studies on space law consistent with international legislation and to cooperate with foreign space agencies. 

Since the space sector is still in its budding stages in Turkey, it remains to be seen how the said Decree and the Agency would affect the industry. With the ever-increasing request in exploration and accessibility of outer space, it is promising and exciting to see that Turkey has finally taken this step and established its first and own space agency.

Ad astra per aspera!