Hundreds gather at SpaceX headquarters to protest Turkish satellite launch: report

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Hundreds of activists gathered outside SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California on Thursday (Oct. 29) to protest an upcoming launch for the Turkish government, according to CBS Los Angeles.

The demonstrators gathered near the SpaceX facility, where the company builds its Falcon 9 rockets, lining up along Crenshaw Boulevard, CBS LA reported. Their aim: to stop the rocket company from launching Turkey's Turksat 5A communication satellite. SpaceX is expected to launch the mission Nov. 30 from Cape Canaveral, Florida using a Falcon 9, according to Spaceflight Now. (Some press and social media reports have referred to the satellite as Turksat 1A, but it is Turksat 5A that SpaceX will launch.)

The protesters gathered holding Armenian national flags and signs stating that the Turkish satellite will be used to "kill civilians" and target Armenians with UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft that don't require a human pilot), according to CBS Los Angeles. 

Turksat 5A is a communications satellite built for the satellite operator Turksat by Airbus Defense and Space. It is designed to offer Ku-band and Ka-band communications services for customers across Turkey, the Middle East and parts of Africa.  Airbus is also building a second satellite, Turksat 5B.

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This protest followed a series of demonstrations earlier in October by activists looking to draw attention to the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has also involved Turkey. This week, protesters conducted a mass email campaign to urge SpaceX to not launch Turksat 5A, stating that they would hold a protest Thursday if the company didn't publicly respond, which it did not. 

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment on the protests on Friday. 

Historically, Turkey and Armenia have had significant tensions; between 1914 and 1923 the Ottoman Empire carried out the systematic mass murder of approximately 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in Turkey and related regions as part of the Armenian Genocide. Since, Turkey has denied that these events qualify to be classified as "genocide," according to the New York Times

Now, the nations of Azerbaijan and Armenia have reignited their fight over the territory of Nagoro-Karabakh. So far, the reignited war has killed over 350 and, while the two nations have agreed to "a humanitarian cease-fire," fighting continues, according to the Washington Post.  

This conflict has opened old wounds between Turkey and Armenia as Turkey has completely and publicly backed Azerbaijan and is sending soldiers, weapons and training.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.