Saudi Arabia launches first telecoms satellite

08 February 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

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Saudi Arabia has launched its first communications satellite (SGS1) from the French Guiana Space Centre.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) the satellite was launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, belonging to ArianeGroup, a  joint venture between the European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran, with its three core businesses: aerospace, defence and security.

“This first mission of 2019 demonstrates once again our ability to adapt the launcher perfectly to meet the specific requirements of each customer. I extend my warmest thanks to the teams at ArianeGroup and Arianespace as well as to the entire industrial chain for this new shared success and the work accomplished, enabling high-precision satellite positioning by optimising the final orbit,” said ArianeGroup CEO André-Hubert Roussel.

The launch is part of what the Saudi government calls Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to develop local ecosystem of next-gen technologies and increase local content, encouraging work in the fields of satellite and manufacturing.

The satellite will use Ka-band capabilities to enable high-speed space communications; these include specific government communications requirements, as well as global commercial communications. It will also offer multiple applications that include broadband telecommunications, communications for remote locations and disaster-stricken areas. The Saudi government also hopes to facilitate job opportunities in the space industry.

The government partnered with Lockheed Martin International as its vendor of choice to build, manufacture and test SGS1.  

“The successful launch of this satellite is a first step in our unique partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is established on innovation, science, technology and HR development,” said Richard Edwards, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin International.

SGS1 will be managed and operated by Saudi national personnel; it also features a multibeam payload that delivers a total throughput of over 34Gbps, as well as solar panels that generate power with a total capacity of 20 Kw. In addition, it carries a communication Ku-band payload dedicated to Greek-Cypriot Hellas-sat, a subsidiary of the Riyadh-based Arabsat. Meaning that the satellite will serve both.