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Saudi Arabia explores floating hotels as part of ‘commercialisation of space’

Gulf kingdom in discussions about 'building a new model for space stations' ahead of sending first Arab woman to space
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifting off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in April 2019. The rocket carried the Arabsat 6A communications satellite for Saudi Arabia. (Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK/Space X/Reuters)

Saudi Arabia is in talks to launch its latest outlandish project: floating hotels in space. 

Speaking on Monday at the Abu Dhabi Space Debate in the Emirati capital, Mohammed bin Saud al-Tamimi, governor of the Saudi Communications, Space and Technology Commission, spoke keenly about the “commercialisation of space”.  

“We hear lots of announcements by multiple companies regarding space tourism and building a hotel as a space station, becoming like a commodity,” he said during the two-day conference attended by 50 space agencies and authorities.

“For me, I see there is a huge opportunity. This is the right time in [the] history of space where we can see real commercialisation of space.”

He added that the Gulf kingdom is currently in discussions with other countries about “building a new model for space stations”. 

In September, it was revealed that Riyadh would send two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a capsule on Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The deal was signed with Houston’s Axiom Space, which manages private missions to space. 

At least one of the two Saudi citizens will be a woman, making them the first Arab woman in space.

Grandiose projects

In 1985, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the first Arab to fly in space thanks to Nasa's Space Shuttle programme Discovery. 

The Gulf kingdom is among 20 countries to have signed the Artemis Accords, which aim to create a new framework for space exploration and land people and hardware on the moon in the coming decades.

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Tamimi said that Saudi Arabia would reveal further details on its national space strategy early in 2023. 

In recent years, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, has pushed forward grandiose, eyebrow-raising projects with the aim of weaning the kingdom's economy off petrodollars.

Last month, Italian design house Pierpaolo Lazzarini revealed plans for a gigantic $8bn turtle-shaped "terayacht" in Saudi Arabia - which would be the world’s largest water structure. 

The kingdom has also pressed ahead with Neom, a $500bn megacity touted to be 33 times the size of New York City. It is set to include a 170km straight-line city, an eight-sided city that floats on water and a ski resort with a folded vertical village

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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