On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia launched its first telecommunications satellite which is said to provide high internet connectivity, secure communication network and better television signal across Middle East, North African and Europe. The Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 (SGS-1) was launched at 9 PM GMT, by the Guiana Space Centre, in French Guiana, South Africa located near the equator. The vehicle carried the satellite was the European Ariane 5.
The satellite SGS-1 was a collaborative work of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Lockheed Martin. KACST is a reputed Saudi Arabian institute that undertakes Kingdom’s satellite research. It has by far launched 15 satellites in low Earth Orbit. In December 2018, KACST also tied up with China’s Chang’e 4 mission to explore far side of the moon. Lockheed Martin, which is a global security and aerospace company, assembled SGS-1 and conducted its critical environmental testing. Its relationship with Saudi Arabia dates back to 1965.
In 2018, the kingdom’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Lockheed Martin’s San Francisco headquarters to supervise the satellite’s manufacturing process. During his visit he signed the final piece of the SGS-1 (that was to be placed on its top) before its launch. He wrote the words: “Above the highest clouds.”
Dr. Badr Al-Suwaidan, program director at KACST said that the launch of SGS-1 marks the beginning of a ‘new era’ in the Kingdom as it “provides secure satellite communication on the Ka-band (of 35 gigabits per second) for the government of Saudi Arabia.”
He added that there will be more “space achievements under the new Saudi space authorities,” and under “the leadership of the first Arab astronaut, Prince Sultan bin Salman.”
According to the Saudi Press Agency, “The satellite aims to improve local capabilities and to create more job opportunities in the space industry.” SGS-1 would be operated and controlled by ground stations located in the kingdom. It is said to provide multiple services including broadband and secure communications to disaster areas.
SGS-1 was part of Saudi Vision 2030 that aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil. Saudi Minister of Energy Khalid Al Falih said the satellite aims at empowering Saudi youth with the opportunity to work with the latest technologies in the fields of infrastructure, development and manufacturing