Finance Saudi investor leads $350m funding for US space company By Andy Sambidge, Pramod Kumar August 22, 2023 Nasa Saudi astronaut and Axiom Mission-2 Mission Specialist Rayyanah Barnawi enters the International Space Station Saudi astronauts on Axiom-operated mission Aljazira Capital backs rival to Musk’s SpaceX Kingdom commits to entering space race An investment firm from Saudi Arabia has led a $350 million funding round for Axiom Space, three months after the US company took the kingdom’s first astronauts to the International Space Station. Axiom Space said the Series-C funding round was led by Saudi Arabia’s Aljazira Capital and South Korean healthcare firm Boryung, taking its total raise to $505 million. That makes it the second most funded private space company in 2023, only behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Saudi Arabia signals intent with space sector shake-up Emirates space agency names astronaut for 6-month ISS mission Galactic ambition: the UAE’s mission to Mars is just the start In May, Saudi astronauts Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi were part of the Axiom Mission 2, the world’s second all-private mission to the ISS. The Saudi Space Commission was set up in 2018. Three years ago it allocated $2.1 billion to its space programme as part of Vision 2030. The investment went towards the Saudi Space Accelerator Programme, which aims to attract 20 startups in space tourism, exploration, satellite communication and space photography. “We believe in the importance of innovation in various sectors and across various markets,” Naif AlMesned, CEO and managing director of Aljazira Capital, said. “In line with the Saudi Vision 2030’s transformative approach, we acknowledge the need for technology toward the advancement of human life.” Axiom SpaceAljazira Capital CEO Naif AlMesned and Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini signing the funding documents In June of this year, the kingdom replaced the Commission with the Saudi Space Agency, saying at the time: “The resolution to transform the Saudi Space Commission into the Saudi Space Agency reflects the continuous interest in creating a sustainable economic and innovative environment for the space sector and its technologies”. Experts told AGBI last month that this was an important milestone as Saudi Arabia plays catch-up with the likes of the US, China, Japan and France as well as its neighbour, the UAE, which last year launched the Rashid Rover, the first Arab-built lunar spacecraft. “Although they are in an earlier stage of their space-sector development than the Emiratis, the Saudis are now moving fast,” said Bayly Winder, non resident scholar from the Middle East Institute’s strategic technologies and cyber security programme. “They are asserting themselves by making rapidly bold moves. The combination of money being invested into the space programme and buy-in from the highest levels of government is potent.” The global space tech industry was worth $4.5 trillion in 2021 and is expected to reach $10 trillion by 2030, according to SpaceTech Analytics. “By capitalising on this momentum, the kingdom has the potential to propel itself to the forefront of the international space race and emerge as a major force in shaping the future of space technology and exploration,” Dmitry Kaminskiy, general partner at tech specialist Deep Knowledge Group, said. Axiom has a $1.3 billion contract with Nasa to develop the first private space station as well as spacesuits for use on the moon and other space programmes. It expects to launch the first module of its private space station by 2026.