Defense priorities boost Gulf states’ space programs | Opinion

Space technology is emerging as a cornerstone of the modernization strategies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in terms of both economic development and national prestige. In a region plagued by conflict, however, both space programs also serve clear military and security purposes, including countering Iran’s advances in space technology.

The UAE, which has invested US$6 billion in space technology according to 2018 data, launched the Arab Space Cooperation Group (ASCG) during the Global Space Congress held in Dubai in March. The group includes 11 Arab countries in a crucial step toward ensuring that Arab states have a seat at the global table on space norms and policy.

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz appointed his eldest son, Prince Sultan, the first Arab and Muslim astronaut to venture into space in 1985, as president of the kingdom’s new space agency in December last year. Since the prince’s appointment, Saudi Arabia

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