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Gulf space sector attracts private companies, including Bezos' Blue Origin

The Middle East and North Africa is one of the world's most active regions in expressing interest in space technology and travel.
Andrea DiCenzo/Getty Images

DUBAI — Three Arab astronauts were aboard the International Space Station (ISS) Monday in a historic first as Gulf countries push collaborations with major private space agencies to develop their fledgling space industries. Their financial investments are attracting the interest of private space companies that see massive potential.

Saudi Arabia launched first-time astronauts Rayanah Barnawi, the kingdom’s first female astronaut, and Ali AlQarni into space on Sunday as part of commercial agency Axiom Space’s private astronaut mission, using the Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 rocket, both manufactured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. They joined UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi, who got there in the same reusable rocket in late February.

Such endeavors are piquing the interest of global space companies. Roman Chiporukha, the co-founder of luxury adventure company SpaceVIP, said it’s not only the billions of dollars in investments some Gulf governments are making that signals opportunity. The already evident results of their long-term space education strategies are also attractive.

“There’s a lot more growth in interest coming out of the Middle East as it compares to Europe and the United States,” he told Al-Monitor. As a result, SpaceVIP is exploring the possibility of setting up bases in Dubai and Riyadh. 

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