Saudi Arabia’s Upcoming National Space Strategy a Blueprint for Growth

Written by staff writer.

Saudi Arabia is developing a national space strategy as part of the country’s goal to grab a bigger slice of the global space pie.

Abdullah Al-Swaha, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, recently told media in Riyadh that the space strategy would be a vehicle for increased government and private sector investment in the Saudi space economy.

He said the space strategy will detail Kingdom’s plans to play a more significant role in space exploration as well as downstream roles such as telecommunications, navigation, and Earth observation.

The Saudi space sector generated USD400 million in 2022. That figure is expected to reach USD2.2 billion by 2030. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy, a national blueprint for diversifying and growing the country’s economy, highlights the space sector’s role in growing the economy.

The Saudi Space Agency says there is a strong emphasis in the country on space research and innovation for peaceful purposes. There is also an eye on the commercial opportunities, including space tourism.

Spanish company Halo Space intends to conduct its next commercial stratospheric test flight from Saudi Arabia in June. The flight will send a real-size prototype capsule 32 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.

By 2026, the Saudi government and Halo Space hope to run regular space tourism flights from the country, charging USD164,000 per person for the privilege. Last week, the government called the announcement a significant development for Saudi Arabia’s growing space industry

“As part of its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to be an international hub for space activities and has been progressively investing in space technology,” a government statement reads. “The upcoming test flight of Halo Space aligns perfectly with Saudi Arabia’s ambitious vision and marks a significant step towards achieving it.”

While the Kingdom has the economic muscle to play a more significant role in the global space sector, it does face some challenges, including latitude limitations. The country’s southernmost point at approximately 17 degrees latitude requires a plane change, adding complexity and extra fuel requirements to launches. Additionally, given Saudi Arabia’s location and complex regional geopolitics, managing the trajectory of spent stages upon descent and where the stage overflies and lands is another challenge.

One possible solution for Saudi Arabia is to work more with neighbouring Oman, another emerging space player. With construction on the Etlaq Space Launch Complex in Duqm underway, Oman will soon be able to host orbital launches and serve as a useful facility for the Saudis. Oman is also slightly more removed from the region’s geopolitical issues and marginally better located from a launch perspective.

While the Saudi government is talking up the peaceful civilian uses of its space program, such as Earth observation and navigation data, there is also a national security and defence requirement for a robust space sector, particularly in satellite communications. Saudia Arabia has the biggest defence budget in the Middle East and the sixth biggest globally.

The Kingdom expects to release its national space strategy later this year.


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