Saudi Arabia has launched Arabsat 6A telecommunications satellite on April 12, 2019. The satellite was launched on board a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in Florida.
The Lockheed Martin-built Arabsat 6A Satellite is a high-capacity telecommunications satellite that will deliver television, radio, Internet, and mobile communications to customers in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
Saudi Arabia has boosted efforts to expand its space program through the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). Riyadh has long-term space ambitions and relies on the support of the United States, France, China, and Russia.
The first Saudi satellite for communications (SGS-1) was launched On February 5, 2019. The operation was carried out by Arianespace.The satellite was launched from the Guiana Space Center on an Ariane 5 rocket, which also carried into orbit the GSAT-31 satellite for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), as well as the Hellas Sat 4 (HS-4). GSAT-31 and SGS-1-HS-4 are designed to operate for at least 15 years, Arianespace representatives said.
A team from the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology developed the satellite in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. The SGS-1, which is the first satellite of its kind to be owned by the Kingdom, was developed to provide secure communications, internet connectivity and television signal across the region.
The Saudi communications satellite employs hybrid (electric and chemical) propelling systems which have helped to reduce the satellite’s weight while increasing its life expectancy. It weighs 6.5 tons and has a life expectancy of over 20 years. It also uses advanced technologies enabling it to provide highly secured and anti-interference telecommunications.
Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin International, Richard Edwards, lauded his company’s strategic partnership with Riyadh, saying: “The successful launch is a first step in our unique partnership with KACST and Saudi Arabia, which is established on innovation, science, technology and human resources development.”
Sat 5A and Sat 5B
On December 7, 2018, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology announced the successful launch of the Saudi Sat 5A and Saudi Sat 5B satellites on board the Long March 2D space rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center of the People’s Republic of China.
The two satellites provide government agencies with high-resolution satellite images similar to those in developed countries for use in various fields. The two satellites are managed and operated from an advanced control station located at the KACST headquarters.
Saudi expertise and competencies working in the field of satellite industry and development manufactured and tested the two high-accuracy remote-sensing reconnaissance satellites in accordance with the international standards in KACST laboratories.
The launch of the new satellite comes as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 aiming to localize strategic technologies. The Kingdom seeks, through the space and aeronautical technology program, to achieve regional leadership in this vital sector relying on its preeminent position and vital capabilities that will allow the country to obtain its objective.
The Saudi Arabian Vision 2030 is the roadmap for this effort, and creating a high-technology research and industrial sector – such as space and satellite programs – is an important priority for Riyadh.
King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology has already launched 16 Saudi satellites between 2000 and 2019. It also participated in the implementation of scientific experiments in outer space in cooperation with the US space agency (NASA) and Stanford University on board the satellite Saudi Sat 4 in 2014. KACST also participated in the exploration mission of “Changi 4” Satellite with China.
[Sources: Arab News, The National, Space.com, Asharq Al Awsat, Al Arabiya]