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PIF launches space unit, despite Saudi funding constraints

PIF space unit Creative Commons/Negative Space
Saudi Arabia leads the Gulf’s satellite sector, having launched 35 out of the region’s 60 satellites
  • Neo Space Group to invest in satellites
  • Will also include space startup fund
  • Middle East space sector worth $25bn

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has launched a space unit to develop off-planet commercial activities, despite challenges the sovereign wealth fund faces funding Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects

The PIF-owned Neo Space Group will invest in satellite navigation and communications, Earth observation and remote sensing.

It will also include a venture capital fund to help Saudi startups and training in the space sector, a statement said on May 27. 



“The establishment of NSG marks an important milestone in the development of the growing satellite and space sector in Saudi Arabia and the ambition to be a leading commercial player in the global satellite sector,” said Omar Al-Madhi, co-head of Mena Direct Investments at PIF. 

The name Neo Space Group harks back to Neom, the PIF-owned city at the heart of the Saudi giga-projects. It is a shortening of Neo-Mustaqbal, meaning “new future”.

Aerospace is the latest sector for PIF to embrace as part of the country’s massive economic transformation programme it is charged with leading. Saudi Arabia already has a space agency that plans to launch two nanosatellites per year

Although PIF is now valued at $925 billion, it is carrying a burden of funding $1.25 trillion of projects as a result of budget deficits, higher interest rates and a dearth of foreign investment. 

Some projects are being pared back or reorganised. Neom’s horizontal city The Line will now open in 2030 at less than 5km long instead of the planned 170km. 

The Middle East’s space economy trebled over the past decade to an estimated $25 billion last year and is forecast to make up 8.5 percent of the global space economy by the beginning of the next decade.

Saudi Arabia leads the Gulf’s satellite sector, having launched 35 out of the region’s 60 satellites, according to a report by the German company SpaceTech in 2023. 

Halo Space, a Madrid-based company that is developing a craft for flights into the Earth’s stratosphere, has chosen the kingdom as one of its departure bases. It plans to launch a test flight from Saudi Arabia in June.

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