Saudi space strategy takes shape with signing of Artemis Accords

Kingdom becomes fourth Middle Eastern nation to join international agreement outlining responsible and peaceful space exploration

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Saudi Arabia has become the latest Middle East nation to sign the US-led Artemis Accords, an agreement that outlines peaceful exploration of the Moon and beyond.

The kingdom has become the 21st country — and fourth in the Middle East — to join the Accords, after the UAE, Bahrain and Israel.

The deal was signed last week by Mohammed Saud Al Tamimi, chief executive of the Saudi Space Commission, during a virtual ceremony, also attended by Nasa administrator Bill Nelson.

It was among a number of agreements signed between the US and Saudi Arabia during Joe Biden’s first Middle East trip as US President last week.

10-year space plan

The Accords set international standards of how the Moon should be explored and lists guidelines on activities such as mining on the Moon, releasing scientific data publicly, transparency with the public on policies and providing emergency assistance.

Membership of the treaty is the latest step in a long-term strategy aimed at bolstering the kingdom's status in the global space sector.

In 2020, Saudi Arabia allocated $2.1 billion for its space programme under its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.

Saudi Arabia has increased its investment in space over the past three years, with plans to explore the Moon and Mars.

The Saudi Space Commission was established in 2018 with the aim of driving growth in the sector.

The commission has held meetings with a number of space agency partners to increase co-operation, including the US, China and the UK.

Saudi Arabia has a rich history in space exploration, with Prince Sultan bin Salman becoming the first Arab in space in 1985.

He was part of a seven-member international crew aboard Nasa's Discovery space shuttle.

Prince Sultan was named as the first chairman of the commission and served for three years before being appointed special adviser to the king.

He has stated his belief that space exploration will play a vital role in the country's ambitions.

Signing the Artemis Accords paves the way for the kingdom to become part of Nasa’s Artemis programme, which aims to build a sustainable human presence on the Moon and then launch to Mars from there.

The US State Department issued a press release on the signing, which said “Artemis relies on a broad and diverse international coalition”.

“As Accords signatories, state actors advance responsible behaviour in outer space, including through the registration of space objects, deconfliction of activities, release of scientific data, and provision of emergency assistance,” the release said.

“Together, signatories will reduce uncertainty and increase the safety of space operations to facilitate the sustainable use of space to the benefit of all humankind.”

Other signatories include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Ukraine and the US.

Updated: July 18, 2022, 2:28 PM