Middle East’s space economy could surge to $75 billion by 2032

Muscat forum told region has potential to take 8.5 per cent share of global space economy by start of next decade

The UAE is currently leading the way in the region, having sent two astronauts to the International Space Station. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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The Middle East’s space sector could be worth $75 billion by 2032, helping to play a crucial role in the global space economy in the coming decade, research has found.

Released on Monday at the Middle East Space Conference in Muscat, Oman, a 16-page document lists the rapid growth in the region, including investment in satellites, services and exploration missions.

The white paper, titled Beyond the Stars: Middle East’s Space Ecosystem on the Move, said the region’s space economy tripled over the past decade to an estimated value of $25 billion last year and would take a share of 8.5 per cent in the global space economy by the start of the next decade.

The UAE is currently leading the way in the region, having sent two astronauts to the International Space Station, developing the region’s most advanced satellites and recently announced it would provide an airlock module to Nasa’s planned Moon-orbiting station.

The UAE to send its first astronaut to the Moon's orbit

The UAE to send its first astronaut to the Moon's orbit

Steve Bochinger of Euroconsult, the organiser of the conference, said the rise was due to a “shifting power balance” in the global space arena.

“If you look back 25 years ago, space was essentially reserved and concentrated in terms of investment and capabilities into a few historical space nations that were dominating the landscape,” he said.

“This landscape has diversified massively and we are truly not a multipolar environment.

"More than 80 countries invest in space and that's because space has proved to be a valuable investment for countries to support their social economic development, but also to address strategic challenges in a very complex geopolitical environment.

“And in this context, I think the Middle East is actually a one of the most, if not the most, dynamic region, in terms of acceleration of government strategies and ambitions."

Several officials from space agencies in the region spoke about their projects at the conference.

Mohammed Algassim, sector head of planning and development at the Saudi Space Agency, said his government's focus would be on space exploration and science, and to develop the kingdom's private sector.

Saudi Arabia sent two astronauts – Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Arab woman to embark on a space mission, and Ali Al Qarni – to the International Space Station last year.

They carried out an eight-day mission on the floating laboratory and had joined Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, bringing the Arab population in space to a record number of three.

Mr Algassim added: "New space activities, those that have potential to be viable, the government will step in and work on those – for example space debris removal, the International Space Station and sector enablement.

"So, the focus of the government would be on the non-commercial activities - 70 per cent of the budget will go there and the focus of the private sector will be on the downstream value added services."

Omani officials also shared their plans, including the construction of a commercial spaceport and a research centre for simulation missions and experiments.

A contract with spaceflight consultant UK Launch Services was awarded last year to help develop the spaceport in Duqm, a port town in Oman.

The spaceport would be able to support small and big launch vehicles, which could help Oman and neighbouring countries gain easier access to space.

The country is also working with universities to launch space engineering labs for students.

"One thing that we are also focusing on is to develop start-ups in the space sector," said Dr Ali Al Shidhani, undersecretary of the Ministry, Communications and Information Technology in Oman.

"The ministry is working on launching a space accelerator to help."

Updated: January 08, 2024, 12:44 PM