Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Stellar Ascent: A Brief Glance at Space Achievements in 2023

In the realm of space exploration, Saudi Arabia has soared to new heights in 2023, marking a transformative year for the Kingdom’s cosmic endeavors. From historic space missions that included the inaugural Saudi female astronaut to strategic investments propelling private space stations, the nation has positioned itself as a formidable player in the global space arena. This review delves into the significant achievements of Saudi Arabia in 2023, ranging from groundbreaking space missions and strategic investments to visionary partnerships with countries such as India, the United States, South Korea and Egypt.

Space Missions

Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali al-Qarni ready, excited for space journey | Al Arabiya English

In April KAUST and Spire Global successfully launched a Cubesat satellite on SpaceX Transporter-7 from Vandenberg Space Force Base. The satellite, equipped with a hyperspectral camera and Spire’s GNSS-R sensor, aims to gather high-quality data on global terrestrial, coastal, and ocean ecosystems to aid Saudi Arabia in monitoring and characterizing its natural resources.

In May 2023, Saudi Arabia achieved a historic milestone with the successful arrival of two astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali al-Qarni, at the International Space Station (ISS). Notably, Rayyanah Barnawi became the first Saudi female astronaut to venture into space. Launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft as part of the Axiom 2 space mission, the Saudi astronauts conducted 14 scientific and research experiments during their ISS mission. Covering human research, cell sciences, and cloud seeding experiments in microgravity, these experiments not only advanced global scientific knowledge but also positioned Saudi Arabia as a leader in space exploration.

Space Investments

Saudi Arabia demonstrated its commitment to space exploration through substantial investments. Axiom Space, collaborating with NASA to develop a private space station, raised an impressive $350 million in a funding round led by Saudi Arabia’s Aljazira Capital and Korean healthcare firm Boryung. This funding elevated Axiom Space’s total raise to $505 million, establishing it as a major player in the space industry.

Additionally, ASPACE, a Hong Kong-based satellite manufacturer, received a significant investment of 1 billion Saudi riyals ($266.6 million) to develop advanced satellite technology domestically. This investment aimed to position Saudi Arabia as a regional hub for space investments and cutting-edge technologies.

Space Partnerships

As Saudi Arabia propels itself into the forefront of space exploration, the collaborative spirit echoes both within government initiatives and private enterprises.

March 2023: Saudi-Indian Collaboration Takes Flight

Saudi Space Commission CEO Meets Indian Space Research Organization Officials | Al DefaiyaПерейти

In a bid to foster international collaborations, Dr. Mohammed Al-Tamimi, CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, visited India’s space agency and research centers in March 2023. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced new space collaborations with Saudi Arabia, focusing on downstream applications and satellite manufacturing. This development is part of the ongoing cooperation initiated in 2010 under an agreement with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. The visit signals a growing interest in expanding joint efforts, with Indian startups in the space sector expressing enthusiasm for potential partnerships with Saudi companies.

October 2023: Saudi-Korean Partnership Soars to New Heights

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and the Saudi Space Agency joined forces to strengthen their collaboration in the space sector. A memorandum of understanding was signed in Riyadh, solidifying the partnership during President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to Saudi Arabia. The agreement reflects joint efforts to lead the expanding space industry in the Middle East. This collaborative venture enhances technological exchange and mutual development in space-related fields, showcasing the commitment of both nations to advancing their capabilities in the dynamic realm of space exploration.

December 2023: Saudi-Egyptian Collaboration Enhances Peaceful Space Activities

Saudi and Egyptian Space Agencies Sign MoU for Cooperation in Peaceful Space Activities

The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) and the Egyptian Space Agency signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in space activities for peaceful purposes. This framework aims to enhance cooperation in space activities, promote mutual interests in the peaceful uses of space, and facilitate the exchange of information and technologies. The collaboration extends to research and development, contributing to further achievements and expanding the agencies’ joint efforts in space and related technologies. This collaboration aligns with SSA’s goal to enhance international partnerships and contribute to the localization of technologies and industries.

December 2023: MoU between Saudi Space Agency and Axiom Space

The Saudi Space Agency and Axiom Space signed an MoU to collaborate on space technology, with a focus on microgravity research. The agreement included plans to explore the establishment of a space mission control center in Saudi Arabia. The signing took place during the official visit of Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Eng. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha to the United States, aimed at strengthening partnerships in technology, space, and innovation.

December 2023: Saudi Space Agency and Sierra Space Forge Global Ties

The Saudi Space Agency (SSA) marked another milestone in its global partnerships by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sierra Space, a leading U.S. company in space technologies. The agreement aims to exchange knowledge, skills, and experiences, with a focus on developing national capabilities and competencies in various fields related to the space sector and its technologies. This collaboration underscores the SSA’s commitment to expanding its global footprint and fostering mutually beneficial relationships in the realm of space exploration and technology.

Private Sector Collaborations

In February, stc Group and Omnispace have signed an MoU to develop space-based 5G mobile communications in the Middle East and Africa. Leveraging Omnispace’s NTN, stc aims to provide cost-effective global connectivity beyond its terrestrial network, expanding coverage to underserved areas in Saudi Arabia with seamless direct-to-device 5G mobile communications.

OQ Technology signs MoU with iot squared

In May, iot squared and OQ Technology have signed MoU to expand satellite IoT connectivity in Saudi Arabia. OQ Technology, claiming to be the first global satellite telecom operator for IoT connectivity using 5G protocol, will provide iot squared with satellite IoT connectivity services and products. This collaboration extends to supporting technical development and identifying target markets, verticals, and applications that require satellite IoT services in the Kingdom.

In July, Aramco and OQ Technology, a global satellite 5G IoT operator, have signed a new MoU to enhance their collaboration. The focus is on automating and providing satellite IoT connectivity for Aramco’s remote site infrastructures, with OQ Technology expanding services for connecting Aramco’s Intelligent Integrated Node (IIN) technology.

In October, Neom’s tech subsidiary Tonomus partnered with stc group to secure a multi-year agreement for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite connectivity in Saudi Arabia. The collaboration enables stc group to offer high-speed internet, data services, and business continuity solutions to various sectors, including oil and gas, mining, agritech, health, education, and finance. stc group will provide fiber-like internet access to rural and remote areas, enhancing online experiences for residents.

In September 2023, First Tech Web Company Limited, a joint venture between OneWeb and TONOMUS, chose Albabtain LeBlanc to construct a satellite station in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. This station, part of the ground infrastructure, aims to bridge the digital divide in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region by providing high-speed, low-latency internet connectivity to remote areas. Completion is expected by the end of 2023, expanding Albabtain LeBlanc’s partnership with OneWeb.

Space Education Programs

Recognizing the importance of nurturing interest in space science, the Saudi Ministry of Education approved the teaching of earth and space sciences in the secondary school system starting the academic year 2023-24. This initiative aimed to develop positive attitudes toward space science among students, aligning with international best practices and scientific standards.

Another great example is Serco, with its newly launched Saudi Space Division in Riyadh, initiated the Graduate Space Programme, aiming to recruit and develop young national engineers. This program aligned with Vision 2030’s commitment to nurturing local talent in the developing space sector.

In December, Saudi Space Agency launched the Saudi Space Accelerator Program that aims to enhance the national space sector by developing infrastructure and empowering local entrepreneurs to drive innovative space solutions. It addressed existing challenges, ignited the local ecosystem, and assessed its maturity level.

In summary, Saudi Arabia’s space achievements in 2023 showcased a nation at the forefront of space exploration, emphasizing scientific research, strategic investments, collaborative partnerships, and educational initiatives. These milestones underscored Saudi Arabia’s commitment to making a lasting impact in the field of space exploration and technology on both national and international fronts.

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