The Artemis Accords have recently been signed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the most recent nation. The Accords, which establish best practices for safe and sustainable space exploration, were signed on July 14 during a virtual ceremony that included officials from NASA, the United States State Department, the Saudi Space Commission, and the embassies of both countries.

“Today, Saudi Arabia adds its voice to a diverse and growing set of nations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in an agency statement.

The US and Saudi Arabia collaborate more intensively in all aspects of space travel, including human-crewed spaceflight, earth observation, commercial and regulatory systems establishment, and responsible behavior in space, as the White House indicated in its press statement. “President Biden welcomed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, signing the Artemis Accords and reaffirming its commitment to the responsible, peaceful, and sustainable exploration and use of outer space,” he said.

The concepts of the Artemis Accords, which have their roots in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, progress the Artemis program, which NASA leads. This effort will put the “first woman” and the “first person of color” on the Moon and lay the groundwork for a human journey to Mars. Artemis depends on the involvement of a large and varied international coalition collaborating toward the fulfillment of a historically significant and bold goal for human space exploration.

By their status as signatories of the Accords, government entities work toward encouraging proper behavior in outer space, including registering space objects, de-conflicting operations, disseminating scientific information, and the access to emergency help. Signatory nations will work together to lessen the impact of risks associated with space activities and make them safer, ultimately making it easier for humanity to make sustainable use of space resources.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the 21st country in the world to sign the Accords, following in the footsteps of countries such as Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Since January 2022, Saudi Arabia has become the seventh nation to sign the Artemis Accords, and it is the fourth nation from the Middle Eastern region to do so.

Screen capture from the virtual meeting during which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became the 21st nation to sign the Artemis Accords on July 14, 2022. Clockwise from top left are US Chargé d’affaires to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Martina Strong; NASA Administrator Bill Nelson; Her Royal Highness Princess Reema, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn; Chairman of the Saudi Space Commission Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha, and CEO of the Saudi Space Commission Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi. (Source: NASA)

Saudi’s Space Aspirations

The Saudi Space Commission, also known as the SSC, is a relatively new player in this new space race. It was established three years ago by a royal decree. It had the following mission: to hasten the “economic diversification” process, improve research and innovation, and increase private sector presence in the global space sector.

Since it was first announced in December 2018, the publicly-funded space program of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has already reached collaboration agreements with the European Space Agency, the United Kingdom, France, and Hungary.

The King Abdul Aziz City of Science and Technology in Riyadh is mainly responsible for the Kingdom’s storied record of participation in space technology. Even though the Kingdom’s space agency is only a few decades old, the Empire has a long history of involvement in satellite technology.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia was instrumental in establishing the satellite communications corporation known as Arabsat, which was founded by the Arab League and delivered its first satellite in 1985.

As part of its Vision 2030 reform agenda, which is the Kingdom’s long-term plan to broaden its economic system away from oil and embrace a wide array of next-generation industry segments, Saudi Arabia announced in 2020 that it planned to invest $2.1 billion in the space program. This was done as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan.

Struggles of Vision2030

Saudi vision 2030. (Source: Saudi image 2030CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Prince Mohammed came up with the idea for Vision 2030 to bring forth other policy changes when Saudi Arabia interacts with record-low crude prices, unparalleled destabilization in the nation, and creeping systemic issues varying from social and economic problems to inept government at home. Vision 2030 was developed in response to these challenges. In addition, Saudi Arabia could fall under a massive burden if the Iranian economy expands significantly.

Critics have praised the Vision 2030 reforms for being fundamental and even way “overdue,” yet, they were also derided for being overly “ambitious” in such a short time. In addition, many people warn that the obstacles are also not “bureaucratic and economic” in nature. Still, deeply embedded cultural and social perceptions towards problems such as diplomacy, the social compact between the Saudi Royal Family and the Wahhabi clerical class, and the role of women in society will also need to be restructured for any likelihood of victory in addressing the problems. Will the recent signing of the Artemis Accords help Saudi with their vision and ambitions to uphold excellence in the space sector?