Every action causes reaction – new agreement between China and Saudi Arabia

 

Russian space industry is seeking new markets. Just like Chinese-the question is which will win in Saudi Arabia.

On 22 January 2016, during The International Conference on Remote Sensing in Riyadh, King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping sign agreement for launching new Saudi Arabian satellite, Saudisat-5B. Under this agreement, Saudisat-5B remote sensing satellite will be launched on atop of Long March 2D rocket. In spite of this mission cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in space industry will be developed and will be extended also on common efforts to develop reception system in Saudi Arabia for new Chinese navigation system called Beidou. Under this agreement,  King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), main scientific organization is Saudi Arabia, will be responsible to create common reception system for Beidou and GPS. Of course part of system which will be utilized for receiving Beidou signal will be designed and developed in the close cooperation with China. Agreement with China was signed six months after King Salman signed similar but more general agreement with Roscosmos. It will be first Saudi research satellite launched by Chinese company and proof of strong position of China in Arab countries (all previous were lifted on atop Dnepr rockets).

Saudisat-5B is next generation remote sensing satellite designed, manufactured and assembled fully in Saudi Arabia. It is also seventh research satellite developed in Saudi Arabia. Saudisat-5B is part of part of a 12 year space program announced by Prince Turki Bin Saud Bin Mohammed, president of KACST. One of crucial element of the program is launching small satellites every two or three years; satellites will be developed and manufactured in KACST. It is obviously that such statement requires launch service provider. Chinese grabbed first contract and if everything will go according the plan and Long March 2D will not fail it is highly probable that Chinese will start longer-than-one-mission cooperation with Saudi Arabia. It will be also beneficial for China to participate in long term venture which will not be supported by any of Chinese banks, like significant part of new contracts for launch services signed by China. Successful venture with Saudi Arabia will also authenticate China as proven partner in other Arab countries, in spite of fact that China presence in Arab space industry is noticeable since at least early nineties. Not without reason, Xi Jinping visit in Saudi Arabia is first phase of longer travel on Middle East with Egypt and Iran as following countries. The National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS), which is Egyptian space agency, is cooperating with China National Space Administration (CNSA) since 18 December 2014 when both organizations signed agreement about cooperation in satellite manufacturing, developing ground facilities, factories and ground stations for data processing and transmitting. Iran is important Chinese partner since visit Prime Minister Li Peng in 1991 and signing agreement for launching Iranian broadcasting satellite and joining Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (established by China) in 2005. Time will show if Saudi Arabia would be interested in extending cooperation with China for something more than launching satellites or their cooperation will stay at present level. Now it seems that CNSA is keeping strong position in Arab countries and for sure will play with Roscosmos hard.

Sources:
http://www.cnsa.gov.cn/n1081/n7529/n7935/808361.html