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KSA as a neutral hub for space activity

Amid global geopolitical tensions and with the influx of CIS SpaceTech talent into the Gulf region, it’s an opportune time to establish Saudi Arabia as a neutral hub for international space collaboration, says ALEX CRESNIOV, Director of Deep Knowledge Analytics.


SpaceTech is one of the first sectors that comes to mind when we think of advanced technology and the tra-jectory of human progress. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) realised its poten-tial in this area in a very timely fashion and found something to offer the world, constantly contributing to the development of space and related technologies. The Saudi Space Commission (SSC), set up by royal decree in late 2018 to stimulate space-related research and indus- trial activities, has finalised a plan for the government, expected to be revealed later this year, under which the sector’s budget would receive an initial boost of SAR 2 billion. The program will develop in different directions, from launching satellites and creating new technologies in geospatial intelligence, to the creation of new R&D organisations.


Considering the complicated global geopolitical situation, we are witnessing a redistribution of the intercontinental order. In this context, KSA stands a good chance of becoming a neutral hub for global space activity, bringing together the West and the East. From a medium-term perspective, Arab countries may engage in rivalry over space specialists from Russia and the other 11 CIS countries who are fleeing the consequences of the war in

Ukraine. By winning the top CIS talent in the space industry, KSA and the entire Gulf region will gain a competitive advantage globally.


ACHIEVEMENTS


Since the year 2000, KSA has been actively engaged in the satellite industry, launching more than 10 satellites into orbit. Apart from that, KSA is also one of the Gulf countries with the greatest involve-ment in the industry. To date, there have been three astronauts of Arab origin, one of which came from Saudi Arabia. Prince Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia flew in the US Space Shuttle in 1985.


According to Prince Sultan bin Salman in the first meeting of the “Space Economy Leaders 20” within the program of international conferences held in parallel to the Kingdom's presidency of the G20 last year, the volume of the space economy in the world reached about $400 billion in 2019, of which the G20 countries accounted for 92 per cent.


As part of its Vision 2030 reform agenda, in 2020 the Kingdom announced plans to invest $2.1 billion in the space program. KSA is interested in developing low-cost satellites and manufacturing systems, which are conducive to the creation of a high-tech industrial and research sector that will contribute to the realisation of their Vision 2030.


KSA is well-positioned to leverage decreasing rocket launch costs, technological advancements, and increased public interest in space exploration. In the future, it may become the leading country in the regional SpaceTech industry.


GLOBAL COOPERATION


Aware of its enormous economic potential but also its shortcomings, Prince Sultan encourages global partnerships bringing together space agencies, the private sector, academia and R&D centres. The Kingdom’s state-funded space programme has struck deals with the European Space Agency (ESA), the UK, France, and Hungary to enhance cooperation. Deeper cooperation between ESA and the Swedish Space Cooperation (SSC) would prove beneficial as the two have common interests in numerous areas, including the following:


1. Exchanging practices on space regulation. The EU has adopted an extensive space regulation system that touches upon secure space-related data and services among other issues


2. Cooperating on safety and security. The EU and KSA share common goals for the peaceful exploration of outer space


3. Advancing educational exchanges and partnerships. Similar to KSA, the ESA focuses on educating younger generations in STEM subjects.


DEEPENING TIES WITH CHINA


Saudi Arabia and China have been strengthening their political ties and economic cooperation. We predict further mutually beneficial cooperation between the Middle East and South-East Asia. By pooling labour and financial capital, the two countries represent strong competition to the Western world through the development of cutting-edge technologies that will help humanity explore space.


JOINT GCC ALLIANCE


Within the framework of the aforementioned trends, the idea of a Joint GCC Space Agency is becoming more realistic. The potential in synergies of the GCC countries is massive, and is set to increase as these countries develop further.


We live in a time of great global change. A pandemic, war, inflation, and other fundamental issues have accelerated many of the processes that shape economic and social relationships. However, these challenges can be seen as opportunities for growth. I am confident that Saudi Arabia will take advantage of these opportunities and achieve a powerful position in the field of SpaceTech.



Alex Cresniov is director of Deep Knowledge Analytics Source: http://www.gulfindustryonline.com/source/31/07/digital/index.html#p=25

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