U.S. satellite and rocket manufacturer Orbital ATK has partnered with Riyadh-based Rakaa Holding to support its efforts to sell electro-optical reconnaissance satellites to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It is believed that Saudi Arabia is in the market for two to eight high-resolution reconnaissance satellites over the coming years, and it is known that French companies Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space have partnered together to offer electro-optical reconnaissance satellites similar to the Falcon Eye satellites being built for the United Arab Emirates.
According to the French news website Intelligence Online, Orbital ATK has partnered with Rakaa Holding to create a joint venture called Alliant Techsystems Operations Saudi Arabia as a commercial entity through which to make the Orbital ATK bid to the Saudi defence ministry.
Rakaa Holding was founded in Riyadh in 1982 by brothers Mosa and Fahad Al-Malik. The company has interests in construction, property, energy and water, as well as in defence and security. The company even has a stake in a Saudi Arabian football club. The Al-Malik family are a close industrial partner to the Saudi defence ministry and are also believed to have close family ties to the family of King Salman through marriage.
Orbital ATK have apparently also retained the services of Amer Kayani, a former commercial attaché in the US embassy in Riyadh, who speaks Arabic and has good connections across Saudi government and commercial circles.
US satellite industry sources have expressed doubts about the viability of the Orbital ATK bid to build reconnaissance satellites for the Saudis, given that the French government and the Airbus and Thales partnership have been lobbying the Saudi government hard for several years now.
This latest development with Orbital ATK and Rakaa Holding, however, suggests that the US satellite manufacturer is determined to have its say in what is likely to be a significant contract.