Saudi Arabia’s ambitious space program provides foretaste of exciting collaborations to come

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious space program provides foretaste of exciting collaborations to come
Col. Chris Hadfield believes investment in space technologies also provides societies with a sense of optimism and raises public aspirations. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious space program provides foretaste of exciting collaborations to come

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious space program provides foretaste of exciting collaborations to come
  • The Saudi Space Commission was launched in Dec. 2018 under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda
  • The state-funded body has struck cooperation agreements with the European Space Agency, UK, France and Hungary

JEDDAH: More than half a century ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the surface of the moon. Since this historic milestone, governments, scientists and now entrepreneurs have set their sights on more distant and ambitious goals.

From Jeff Bezos’ forays into space tourism with Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s dream of establishing colonies on Mars to NASA’s launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and the UAE’s Hope probe mission to Mars, space, it seems, is once again all the rage.

The Apollo astronauts’ momentous moonwalk of July 20, 1969, marked the culmination of more than a decade of breakneck scientific advance, fueled by the fierce Cold War-era contest between the US and the Soviet Union known as the “space race.”

Decades later, and with the benefits of vastly superior technologies, private sector finance, and a global profusion of scientific and engineering talent, a new space race led by the world’s emerging economies and wealthiest individuals is now underway.
 




Saudi Arabia is well placed to capitalize on falling costs of launching rockets, advances in technology, and a growing public interest in space exploration. (Supplied)

A recent entrant in this new space race is the Saudi Space Commission, or SSC, launched three years ago by royal decree — its mission: To accelerate economic diversification, enhance research and development, and raise private sector participation in the global space industry.

Since its launch in December 2018, the Kingdom’s state-funded space program has struck deals with the European Space Agency, the UK, France, and Hungary to further cooperation.

The agency has also signed agreements with aerospace giant Airbus, joined the International Astronautical Federation, and launched illustrious scholarship programs to allow Saudi students to attend the world’s best universities offering courses in space sciences and aerospace engineering.

Although its space agency is relatively new, the Kingdom has a long history of involvement in satellite technology, much of it emanating from the King Abdul Aziz City of Science and Technology in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia also played a key role in the Arab League’s formation of Arabsat, a satellite communications company, which launched its first satellite in 1985.

“The beauty is that you’re not starting from zero,” Col. Chris Hadfield, retired Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

“Even NASA, when they were formed in the late 1950s, they weren’t starting from zero. NACA, which was the predecessor to NASA, had been around since the 1920s, when the government recognized that aeronautics was coming.”
 




In Col. Chris Hadfield’s view, the SSC should now set out to clearly define its goals for the future of Saudi space exploration. (SPA)

Hadfield is well known for his hugely popular video segments depicting life aboard the ISS, which famously included a zero-gravity guitar rendition of David Bowie’s "Space Oddity."

A heavily decorated astronaut, engineer and pilot, his many awards include the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He was also named the top test pilot in both the US Air Force and the US Navy, and was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Hadfield has flown three space missions, building two space stations, performing two spacewalks, crewing the Shuttle and Soyuz, and commanding the ISS.

Now retired, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, an adviser to SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, board chair of the Open Lunar Foundation, and the author of three international bestsellers. His TED talk on fear has been watched 11 million times.

In Hadfield’s view, the SSC should now set out to clearly define its goals for the future of Saudi space exploration.

“The real key is to have a clear purpose for what the space agency is trying to accomplish, aims that are in line with serving the people of Saudi in the short and long term,” he said.

The ISS remains a potent symbol of human fraternity as well as the huge technological and scientific possibilities on offer when societies work toward a common end.

The space station’s history began on July 17, 1975, when Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov and American astronaut Deke Slayton shook hands in microgravity, having docked their spacecraft high above the French city of Metz.
 




Col. Chris Hadfield said it is this kind of human fraternity, together with an enduring sense of duty, that will empower further innovations and new milestones in space exploration. (Supplied)

The handshake was the byproduct of a 1972 agreement between the two nations to cooperate on the Apollo-Soyuz Test project. The US built a docking module for the Apollo shuttle that was compatible with the Soviet docking system to allow a flawless rendezvous.

Their meeting became a powerful symbol of unity, which paved the way for the joint Shuttle-Mir program and later the ISS itself.

Building a space agency is no easy feat. As a multidisciplinary domain, the industry demands a wide range of skills and expertise. Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in the sector and already has several achievements to its name.

In February 2019, the Kingdom launched its first domestically developed communications satellite — SGS-1 — from the Guiana Space Center. The launch was the result of a partnership between KACST and US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

In 2020, Saudi Arabia announced plans to invest $2.1 billion in the space program as part of its Vision 2030 reform agenda, the Kingdom’s long-term plan to diversify its economy away from oil and embrace a wide array of next-generation industries.
 




Prince Sultan bin Salman (closest to the camera) is the first Arab, Muslim and royal in space. (Supplied)

“In the time we live in now, space is becoming a fundamental sector of the global economy, touching every aspect of our lives on Earth,” Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Arab, Muslim and royal in space, said at the time.

“Space business and the space economy are expected to grow into the trillions of riyals as we go forward. We believe there are a lot of opportunities that exist in the space sector and we, in Saudi Arabia, intend to tap these opportunities at all levels.”

In order to excel in space, the Kingdom will need an army of technical specialists in areas as diverse as cybersecurity, avionics and robotics, together with experts in propulsion, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“If you look right across the world’s governments, there’s some subset that is working in the areas that are naturally space related, like telecommunications, atmospheric physics, weather forecasting or the military side of threats; there’s always the high ground advantage,” Hadfield told Arab News, highlighting the benefits of building a domestic space industry.

“It’s scientific in just trying to understand the Earth better. If you can go around (Earth) 16 times a day, if you can set a geostationary satellite that is looking at the whole (Arabian) peninsula, that whole part of the world, there is a huge amount of information to be gathered that is really difficult to gather from the surface.

“Then there is the technological development side. If you’re going to challenge yourself to build a satellite or build rocket ships or train people to fly to space or be part of the space station, start setting up a permanent human habitation on the moon, that’s a big technological challenge and that is good for the country from the academic side right through to the manufacturing side.”

But more than the obvious economic, scientific and strategic benefits, Hadfield believes investment in space technologies also provides societies with a sense of optimism and raises public aspirations.
 




Hadfield believes investment in space technologies also provides societies with a sense of optimism and raises public aspirations. (Supplied)

“Apart from the scientific research and the technical development, it is raising people’s eyes beyond the horizon,” he said.

“Space exploration has a significant role in inspiring people to visualize a different future, to attempt things with their own lives, to train themselves to gain a new set of skills and turn themselves into somebody different in pursuit of being an astronaut that otherwise they might never have done with themselves. That, to me, that’s an important component.”

Saudi Arabia is well placed to capitalize on falling costs of launching rockets, advances in technology, and a growing public interest in space exploration. Its willingness to work with other space agencies is also a foretaste of exciting collaborations to come.

Reflecting on his own career in space, Hadfield said it is this kind of human fraternity, together with an enduring sense of duty, that will empower further innovations and new milestones in space exploration.

“It’s a life of service,” he said. “Service to agency, service to country and service to others.”

 

When a Saudi went to space
Prince Sultan bin Salman speaks exclusively to Arab News about his 1985 NASA mission and how he became the first Arab, Muslim and royal in space

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Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2022

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A number of young Japanese diplomats completed a training program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies and Jouf University.

The program was part of an initiative aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan and included field visits, educational lectures, and tours in Riyadh and Jouf.

The Japanese diplomats visited a large number of public and private agencies including the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Culture, the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman University and the headquarters of Arab News.

They also attended lectures on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its most important achievements since its launching.

The diplomats learned about Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and its future prospects, as well as the Kingdom’s efforts in combatting terrorism, and combatting financing extremism.

Jouf University organized lectures on pre-Islamic Arabic literature, and organized a distinguished touristic program to present the civilizational heritage of the region.

At the end of the training program, the Japanese delegation praised the economic, social and cultural achievements of Vision 2030, which has opened new horizons for economic diversification and income diversity, and rendered the Saudi economy a role model to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

They also praised the beauty of the Jouf region and the touristic, archeological and historical landmarks that it includes.

The program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies to train Japanese diplomats was launched in 2015 based on a joint statement by Japan and Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Japan in 2014.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
  • Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday

RIYADH: Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister, on Monday met the commander of the US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, to discuss developments in the Middle East.

“We discussed our joint defense coordination, addressing regional challenges, and stressed the need to work together on preserving regional and global stability,” Prince Khalid said on Twitter.

Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday.

The CentCom’s area of responsibility covers the Middle East, including Egypt in Africa, and Central Asia and parts of South Asia.

On Sunday, Prince Khalid met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington during which they affirmed their countries’ common vision to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region.

They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, with Prince Khalid reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s aspirations for the Yemenis “to reach a comprehensive political solution that would move Yemen to peace and development.”

He said the UN and world organizations need “to put pressure on Houthi militias to open Taiz roads, deposit the revenues of Hodeidah port and engage seriously in peace efforts to move Yemen to security, stability, construction and prosperity.”
 


Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
  • Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman congratulated Anthony Albanese on his being sworn in as the new prime minister of Australia, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday.

In a cable, the king wished the prime minister success and the Australian people further progress and prosperity.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to Albanese.

Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden while vote counting continued to determine whether he will control a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change.

“I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that I think defines the Australian people,” Albanese said in his hometown of Sydney before flying to the national capital Canberra to be sworn in.

Albanese and Malaysian-born Penny Wong, Australia’s first foreign minister to be born overseas, were sworn into office by Governor-General David Hurley before the pair flew to Tokyo for a security summit on Tuesday with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We will return (from Japan) on Wednesday and set about implementing our agenda, our agenda that received the endorsement of the Australian people,” Albanese said, highlighting items such as climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.

(With AP)


Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited the Youth Council pavilion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
Prince Faisal also the Saudi Tourism Authority booth, during his participation in the World Economic Forum (Davos), in Switzerland.
The foreign minister was briefed on the youth dialogue sessions, with the aim of developing young people and enabling them to find creative solutions that seek to address future challenges facing the world.
He also toured the “Saudi Cafe” managed by the Saudi Tourism Authority, represented by the national tourism promotion of “Spirit of Saudi Arabia,” where Saudi coffee is served.
The initiative also includes presenting integrated information about tourism in the Kingdom, to raise awareness about the Kingdom as a tourist destination, for the participants in the Davos forum.


Saudi aid agency signs medical campaign agreement

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood in Riyadh. (SPA)
The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi aid agency signs medical campaign agreement

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • Around 9,600 surgeries for phacoemulsification and minor procedures will be carried out during the campaigns and 24,000 pairs of glasses and medical drops will be distributed, helping 120,000 people

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center on Sunday signed a joint agreement with Al-Basar International Foundation to carry out medical campaigns in eight countries to combat blindness and its causes, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi, the center's assistant supervisor-general director for planning and development, and Adel bin Abdulaziz Al-Rushood, the foundation’s secretary-general, in Riyadh.

Al-Ghamdi said the agreement stipulated the implementation of 24 medical projects, with the participation of Saudi volunteers and doctors in Cameroon, Niger, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, and Morocco.

Around 9,600 surgeries for phacoemulsification and minor procedures will be carried out during the campaigns and 24,000 pairs of glasses and medical drops will be distributed, helping 120,000 people.

The center has carried out 132 campaigns in 16 countries to combat blindness and the diseases that cause it, helping 421,806 people over the past three years.