Big Leap for Saudi Space Agency with $1 Billion for First Fiscal Year

Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz

As reported by the French online national security news publication, Intelligence Online, the recently created Saudi Space Agency is taking shape in its very first year, the budget for which is expected to exceed US $1 billion. The sustaining of this budget moving on, is however not determined.

The Saudi Space Agency is under the leadership of Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Saudi astronaut, also son of reigning King Salman and half-brother of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This agency was established by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in a Royal decree issued on December 27, 2018; as part of a leadership shakeup.

The same French publication reported that Sultan bin Salman will be visiting and holding meetings at Roscosmos in Russia; the Center National d’études spatiales (CNES) in France and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States. Saudi Arabia is inclined towards acquiring military reconnaissance satellites via French and American satellite manufacturers and is also under discussions with Roscosmos for training Saudi astronauts and about their visit to the International Space Station.

King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) has played an active role in emanating space and satellite activity and is likely to retain its central role for manufacturing, research and development of satellites, also for implementing and managing space science and exploration research missions.

The Saudi Space Agency is expected to produce coordinated space strategies and policies on the civil, commercial and military lines in coordination with respective Saudi ministries and agencies of the government. The Space Agency is also likely to play a key role related to all Saudi coordination on the international front.

Before holding office at the Saudi Space Agency, Sultan bin Salman was heading the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and has reportedly tagged along a number of advisors from SCTH over to the Space Agency. The names standing out are Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, who joined as managing director at the Space Agency, previously consultant to the Royal Saudi Air Force and has also rendered services at BAE Systems, the defense and aerospace giant. His now deputy is Tariq al Essa, previously CEO of Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau. Lastly Abdulaziz Al Ghorayyeb, previously heading international relations at SCTH, now holds the same office at the Saudi Space Agency.

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