Saudi Space Authority blasts off as Prince Sultan chairs first meeting

Prince Sultan bin Salman pointed out that the authority is building on more than three decades of major accomplishments by citizens in the space sector. (SPA)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Saudi Space Authority blasts off as Prince Sultan chairs first meeting

  • Prince Sultan said that the authority will serve as a vital platform to enable the Kingdom to take its rightful place in the global space community.
  • The prince said that there is an awareness of the importance of the space sector at an international level

RIYADH: Prince Sultan bin Salman on Monday chaired the first meeting of the Saudi Space Authority ’s board of directors.

“The Kingdom today, under the leadership of King Salman, is taking a steady step towards building a promising future for its people based on science, employing technology, stimulating creativity, and integration between state institutions and the participation of the private sector and citizens,” he said.

The prince added that there is an awareness of the importance of the space sector at an international level in the economic, scientific and strategic fields, and that there is a need for a strong national entity to regulate the sector in the Kingdom and enhance opportunities for growth.

“That is why the Saudi Space Authority will be the main organizing umbrella for everything related to the space sector,” he said.

“The Saudi Space Authority will apply the principle of partnerships with all state institutions, the private sector, research and academic centers in the Kingdom and related entities externally, and will not operate on its own. Moreover, the field of investment in the space industry is an opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises just as it is appropriate for large enterprises.”

Prince Sultan pointed out that the authority is building on more than three decades of major accomplishments by citizens in the space sector. It will work with international space institutions and agencies to train astronauts and specialist workers, expand in the fields of satellite manufacturing and operation, and provide the scientific, legislative and technical environment needed to ensure the maximum benefits are derived from the opportunities offered by space.

The board of directors approved the national space strategy, which was developed by board members, along with representatives of the Ministry of Defense, other government agencies and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. The aim was to create an ambitious but realistic national strategy to benefit the Kingdom and its citizens and the good of humanity. It was reviewed by international experts and will be submitted to the Saudi cabinet.

Prince Sultan said that the authority will serve as a vital platform to enable the Kingdom to take its rightful place in the global space community.


Traditional Saudi game jumps to the digital world

First prize winners of this year’s tournament came home with cash prize of SR750,000 and a BMW. (Photo/Social media)
Updated 24 min 57 sec ago

Traditional Saudi game jumps to the digital world

  • First prize winners of this year’s tournament, Fahad Al-Shibani and Saud Al-Shibani, came home with cash prize of SR750,000 and a BMW

RIYADH: Baloot, a card game similar to bridge, has developed from a traditional game — usually played at family gatherings — to an online game for your mobile phone.
The Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports launched in Riyadh the third baloot tournament, which has attracted more than 18,000 participants including 40 female teams. The total prize money is SR2 million ($533,234).
The third baloot tournament showed an unprecedented number of players this year, bolstered by the participation of female players.
First prize winners of this year’s tournament, Fahad Al-Shibani and Saud Al-Shibani, came home with cash prize of SR750,000 and a BMW. Second prize winners received cash prizes of SR500,000 and third place players won SR100,000.
The electronic version is now more popular among Saudis than the original, which requires at least four players.
“The main feature that these baloot apps provide is that I can play the game anytime and anywhere, I don’t need to wait until I find three more people to complete the team,” said Saad Al-Amri, an undergrad student from Abha. “I also don’t lose control as I sometimes do when I play it with my relatives,” he added.
However, Al-Amri admits that playing baloot online made him more addicted to the game, saying that some days he spends 3 hours playing.
Baloot apps are not new and the market continues to grow. Apple’s App Store boasts over 30 Baloot apps. In Android’s Google Play store, the number of apps is even higher, ranging from platforms for playing the game, to apps that teaches the rules, to calculators that help users track their scores in the traditional version.
On top of the list of apps are two famous versions called “Kammelna” and “Baloot VIP,” with both reaching over 1 million downloads.
There are other apps that are less popular but also have strong downloads figures. “Tarbeeat Baloot” and “iBaloot” have just over half a million and 100,000 downloads respectively.
According to the website of “Kammelna,” a Saudi app, they started working on it in 2008, and currently have more than 1 million subscribers, with an updated ranking list for the best 100 players published daily.
Baloot apps can charge paid subscriptions, ranging from monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually. Some apps sell points to customers who can replace them with special features in the game.
Subscriptions start from around SR30 per month, giving users additional features such as access to a special playing room and the ability to start private conversations with other players. Some apps have unique tournaments to encourage users to compete with each other and win points that they can use in future games.