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New Space – A Saudi Vision

New Space – A Saudi Vision

Monday, 8 March, 2021 - 14:15

For the past decade, the aerospace industry has been gradually changing by the introduction of private companies with big ambitions. Their goals range from providing launch service at a fraction of existing costs, space tourism, asteroid and lunar mining, to space fuel depots. Initially, when they began, there were many skeptics who said: “These people are crazy! They will never launch. Do they not know how pricy it is to get to space?”

Most of these skeptics did not realize that these companies were hard set to revolutionize an industry that has had very little competition and no drive to bring prices down. They did not see the change that was afoot. Today, launch prices have drastically gone down from about half a billion dollars per launch where the cost per kilogram was on average $20,000 to less than a hundred million per launch and $2,700 per kilogram. This is a testament to a strong shift from “Old Space” to “New Space” globally that has been catalyzed by a space race that began within the US. Consequently, more countries and private companies have become inspired to achieve in space.

Why is this important to us? Saudi, is well aware that space is the future and has taken active steps to establish itself as a space faring nation. Its interest in space began back in 1985 when His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman launched on STS-51-G and spent 7 day 1 hour and 38 minutes in space. His achievements there inspired many including myself. Today, Saudi Arabia is well positioned to develop its space industry locally given the advantage it has in the lessons learned from “Old Space” and “New Space.”

To that end, what is the best way to initiate a great space industry today? What do we have to do to compete globally and push the envelope in space achievement? We begin a space industry built on competition and massively infuse space education. We scrutinize both old and new space to arrive at the best of both worlds and implement it from the start. We implement a space industry that is fast paced, efficient, and cost friendly that utilizes the business structure and model of New Space with a focus on growing our human resources within the sector.

While arduous, establishing a space industry infrastructure from scratch can be done intelligently and expeditiously with government to government and private company collaborations. In doing so, one can bridge the learning curve and focus on strategic pilot projects with clear milestones that include education and human resource development. As seen in New Space, it is critical to ensure that the space industry infrastructure supports and embraces entrepreneurship in aerospace within Saudi. This will enable a lean aerospace and space industry in Saudi from the start. This gradual and collaborative process will ensure success of building a foundation that can sustain future growth of a Saudi space industry that will enable launch of Saudi probes, satellites, payloads and even humans from Saudi soil using Saudi made rockets.

* Aerospace Engineer and Founder of MISHAAL Aerospace

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