China Eyes Partnership With Gulf Countries For Space Exploration | Space


In the push to embrace emerging technologies and harness their potential commercial opportunities, Gulf countries are launching new initiatives to bolster their domestic space industries.

In June Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers approved the transformation of the Saudi Space Commission, which was launched in 2018, into a full government agency known as the Saudi Space Agency (SSA), underscoring the Kingdom’s commitment to the space sector and exploration activities.

The move followed the successful launch of Saudi Arabia’s first space mission in May to the International Space Station (ISS). The trip was sponsored by the Saudi government and included two Saudi astronauts, one of whom – a stem cell researcher – was the Arab world’s first female Arab astronaut. The trip was overseen by Houston-based Axiom Space, which is seeking to build the first commercial space station after detaching from the ISS.

The UAE has also forged major inroads in space. Since releasing its National Space Strategy 2030 in 2019, it has opened four space research and development centres, established national space laws and regulations, and launched its own Hope Probe, which orbited Mars in 2021, making the UAE the sixth country globally and the first in the Arab world to reach the planet.

Cross-sector diversification

Developing the space sector and engaging in ambitious exploration plans requires massive upfront capital expenditure for projects that may not pay off for several years. These are investment time horizons with which Gulf countries not only have significant experience from oil and gas, but also match their long-term strategies to diversify their economies.

The expansion of space activities is accelerating across the region thanks to advances in the technologies that constitute the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – blockchain, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, materials science, nanotechnology and biotechnology – that have decreased satellite…

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