Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia and two global aerospace giants, US-based Lockheed Martin and French satellite launch company Arianespace, announced on Tuesday they have signed deals to build and launch two new communications satellites and boost future Saudi satellite endeavors.
At a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Prince Dr. Turki Bin Saud Bin Mohammed, the President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), said investments of up to 650 million US dollars (2.4 billion Saudi riyals) would be made in order to build the new satellites, which will provide television, Internet, and telephone services for Riyadh-based satellite operator Arabsat.
The satellites will be built by Lockheed and then launched by Arianespace using its Ariane 5 rocket from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. The deals were signed on April 9 and construction will commence immediately. The satellites will be launched in 2018.
Khalid Balkheyour, the CEO of Arabsat, said the two new satellites—the Arabsat 6A and the Hellas-Sat-4/SaudiGeoSat-1—would be joining “a fleet of satellites that provides millions of people access to TV, radio and broadband services for mobile and landline communications.”
Arabsat has launched a total of 13 satellites, and this will be the 10th satellite the Riyadh-based operator will launch with Arianespace.
The operator hosts some of the Arab world’s most popular satellite television channels, including the MBC and Rotana family of channels, and the Abu Dhabi Sports channel.
The deals, signed between KACST, Arabsat, Lockheed, and Arianespace, also include agreements to boost future “design, manufacture, assembly and integration of satellites” in the Kingdom in coordination with the TAQNIA Space Company, a subsidiary of the Saudi Technology Investment and Development Company (TAQNIA), according to a Lockheed Martin press release.
Prince Turki said the deals were launched as part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic development plan, which aims to boost the Kingdom’s knowledge-based industries and technological capabilities by 2020. One trillion US dollars have been earmarked in spending between 2010–2020 to achieve this goal, according to the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.
A key component of the plan involves building dedicated “economic cities,” which go beyond the business model of “economic zones” and aim to be all-inclusive, comprehensive centers of activity for a particular industry. The KACST was one of the first of these.