JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia launched its 16th satellite into orbit on Tuesday in a successful mission celebrated in both Riyadh and at the launch site in South America.
The rocket carrying the Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 (SGS-1) blasted into the skies above its launch pad in French Guiana on schedule at 9 p.m. GMT.
The satellite will provide telecommunications capabilities, stronger internet connectivity, TV and secure communications in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
The launch was carried out by Arianespace using the Ariane 5 rocket, which also carried an Indian satellite into orbit.
Shortly after take off, the rocket disappeared into the clouds. The booster consumed 240 tonnes of fuel in just over two minutes and was the first section to be jetisoned, falling 500 kilometers from the coast into a protected area.
The SGS-1 satellite separated about half an hour after launch.
Arianespace cheif executive Stephane Israel confirmed the launch had been a success. the mission lasted just 42 minutes in total.
“I want to express my gratitude to our friends and partners in Riyadh where I am sure this success is being celebrated,” Israel said.
The Saudi satellite was developed by a team from King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. Along with the Saudi governent , it will also serve Hellas-Sat, a subsidiary of Arabsat – the satellite operator based in Riyadh.
“Today we celebrated the success of the launch of the Ariane 5 mission,” Dr. Badr Al-Suwaidan, SGS-1 program director from KACST, said. “KACST is honored to provide the satellite in the name of Saudi Arabia thanks to the support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the overeeing of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
The SGS-1 was manufactured, tested and operated with the participation of Saudi engineers and scientists. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversaw manufacturing stages during his visit to Lockheed Martin’s San Francisco headquarters.
The Ariane 5 rocket used in the launch is designed for heavier, dual launches. The French Guiana Space Center is the world’s only dedicated commercial space base, with the launch located near water and away from population centers.