Sultan bin Salman Al Saud

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Sultan bin Salman Al Saud
A photo of Sultan aged 59
Sultan bin Salman in 2016
Born (1956-06-27) 27 June 1956 (age 66)
NationalitySaudi Arabian
Alma materUniversity of Denver
Syracuse University
OccupationChairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Space Commission
OccupationFighter pilot
Space career
Payload Specialist
RankColonel, Royal Saudi Air Force
Time in space
7d 01h 38m
Mission insignia

Sultan bin Salman Al Saud (Arabic: سلطان بن سلمان آل سعود; Sulṭān bin Salmān Āl Suʿūd; born 27 June 1956) is a Saudi prince and former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot who flew aboard the American STS-51-G Space Shuttle mission as a payload specialist. He is the first member of a royal family to fly in space,[1] the first Arab to fly in space,[1] and the first Muslim to fly in space,[1] as well as (at 28 years old) the youngest person ever to fly on the Space Shuttle.[1] On 27 December 2018, he was appointed as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Space Commission at the rank of minister.[2] He is the eldest surviving son of King Salman.

Early life and education[edit]

Sultan was born in Riyadh on 27 June 1956,[3][4] as the second son of Prince Salman, then governor of Riyadh province (currently King of Saudi Arabia).[5] His mother was Sultana bint Turki Al Sudairi.[6] She was a daughter of King Salman's uncle, Turki bin Ahmed Al Sudairi,[7] who was one of the former governors of al-Jouf, Jizan and Asir Province and was a participant in the unification campaign under his cousin, the founder of the Kingdom Abdulaziz ibn Saud.[8] Prince Sultan is a full brother of Fahd, Ahmed, Abdulaziz, Faisal and Hassa.[9][10]

Sultan completed his elementary and secondary education in Riyadh,[1] He received a bachelor's degree in mass communications from the University of Denver[11] and a master's degree in social and political science with distinction from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1999.[12]

Early experience[edit]

Sultan bin Salman started his career in 1982 as a researcher in the department of international communications at the Ministry of Information in Saudi Arabia.[13] His tenure lasted until 1984.[11] He served as deputy director of the Saudi media committee for the Saudi athletes participating in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Later that year, the department of TV advertising was created at the Ministry of Information, and he was appointed its acting director.[13]

From 17 June through 24 June 1985, he flew as a payload specialist on STS-51-G Discovery. As one of a seven-member international crew, which also included American and French astronauts, he represented the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (ARABSAT) in deploying its satellite, ARABSAT-1B.

Later, he assisted in establishing the Association of Space Explorers, an international organization comprising all astronauts and cosmonauts who have been in space. Currently, Sultan is a member of ASE's International Executive Committee.[13]

Portrait of STS 51-G crew

In 1985, Sultan recorded a commercial message that was broadcast on MTV during the Live Aid concert event. His message mentioned his recent trip on the Space Shuttle and was one of 33 such by notable individuals including Shimon Peres, Cesar Chavez, Sean Penn, Coretta Scott King, Leonard Nimoy, Sting, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, David Bowie, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Bono, Patsy Mink, Erich Honecker, Boy George, O.J. Simpson, Mick Jagger, Tom Cruise, Carl Sagan, Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Ronald Reagan, David Lee Roth, and Peter Ueberroth. Sultan bin Salman served in the Royal Saudi Air Force beginning in 1985 and held the rank of lieutenant colonel.[13][14] He retired from the air force in 1996 with the rank of colonel.[15]

Patrick Baudry and Prince Sultan in 1985

At the time of his space flight, Sultan had over 1,000 cumulative hours of flight time;[11] as of February 2020, he has over 8,000 flight hours as a military and civilian pilot.[16]


In December 2018, he was the chairman of the board of the Saudi Space Commission.[17] From 2009 until joining the space commission, Sultan bin Salman served as the president and chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH). He served as the commission's secretary general since its inception in 2000.[15][18] As secretary-general, he contributed significantly to the improvement of Saudi Arabia's tourism and national heritage strategy, and organizational building and innovation in the Saudi government.[18][19]

On 3 May 2021, Sultan bin Salman was appointed as special advisor to the King with a rank of minister, and chairman of the board of trustees of King Salman Foundation, a newly established non-profit organization.[20]


Sultan bin Salman Al Saud has written several books:[21]

  • Early Documents in (Saudi) Architectural Legacy (وثائق مبكرة في مسيرة التراث العمراني) (2010)[22]
  • The Architectural Heritage (سيرة في التراث العمراني) (2010)[23]
  • One planet, the story of the first Arab mission to space (2011), together with Ahmed Nabil Abo Khatwa and Tarek Ali Fadaak
  • The Possible Imagination (الخيال الممكن)[24]

He also edited the book by Facey, William, Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh: Al Turath Foundation (2015).[25]

Personal life[edit]

Sultan bin Salman is married to Princess Haifa, daughter of Prince Saud bin Faisal, the former minister of foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia and the son of King Faisal.[26][27] They have three children.[5][28] His son, Salman (born 1990), attended St. Andrew's University in Scotland and Oxford University[27] and married a daughter of Prince Khalid bin Saud Al Saud, a great-grandson of Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman, the brother of King Abdulaziz, in Riyadh on 5 December 2012.[29] His daughter (born 1994) also attended St. Andrews University.[27]

Sultan enjoys flying, gliding, skiing, and exploring nature in his spare time.[13] He owns a farm in Diriyah which is a model of modern facilities in a historical setting. His farm reflects his attempt to retrace the origins of the Al Saud family, and to document the Al Saud's claims over the Najd.[30]


Sultan has received the following awards/recognition:[31]

  • The King Abdulaziz Sash, KSA (1985)
  • Certificate of Appreciation, NASA (1985)
  • NASA Space Flight Medal (1985)
  • Officier de la Légion d’Honneur (1985)
  • Resolution by the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, USA commending the first Saudi Arabian Astronaut in space (1985)
  • First Class Order of the Republic, Republic of Tunisia (1985)
  • Al Bahrain Medal First Class, Bahrain (1985)
  • Hilal-I Pakistan (Order of Pakistan) Pakistan (1986)
  • Key to the County of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A (1986)
  • Key to the City of Dallas, Texas, USA (1986)
  • Honorary PhD, The King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (1987)
  • Golden Medal of Science and Art, Sudan (1987)
  • Independence Medal First Class, United Arab Emirates (1987)
  • Medal of National Arts, Lebanon (1987)
  • Sultan Qaboos Medal, Sultanate of Oman (1987)
  • Independence Sash, State of Qatar (1987)
  • Medal of Sash First Class, State of Kuwait (1987)
  • Order of Merit First Class, Republic of Yemen (1987)
  • Medal of Stars, Grand Sash, China (1987)
  • Iraqi Air Force Badge, Republic of Iraq (1987)
  • Order of the Throne, Kingdom of Morocco (1987)
  • Military Honor Medal, Syrian Arab Republic (1988)
  • Commandeur de l’Ordre de la Grande Étoile de Djibouti – Republic of Djibouti
  • Medal for Participation in the Gulf War, State of Kuwait (1993)
  • Liberation of Kuwait Medal, Second Class, State of Kuwait (1993)
  • Liberation of Kuwait Medal, Saudi Armed Forces (1993)
  • Certificate of Recognition, Space Studies Institute, Princeton, USA
  • Man of the Year for Benevolent Work 1997 – “In recognition of contributions to the Disabled” - Al Majallah Magazine, 21 December 1997, Issue No. 932.
  • Certificate of Recognition, “For outstanding leadership and inspiration dedicated to improving the quality of life for the mentally and physically challenged”, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, USA (1999)
  • Honorary Shield, Leading personalities in the Arab Tourism Sector, Arab World Tourism and Travel Exhibition, Lebanon. (2003)
  • “Man of the Year 2003” Prize in the field of Information Technology in the Kingdom offered by ITP Co. (2004)
  • Wisam Al-Hussain, Grade 1, an award presented by King Abdullah II, Kingdom of Jordan for efforts helping disabled people. (2005)
  • Chancellor's Medal by Syracuse University (SU) on 16 November 2012 for his key role in helping to launch a collaborative partnership between SU and Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University.[32]
  • CEO KSA Award for Tourism & Hospitality presented by the Arabian Business Magazine on 2012.
  • Leadership Award presented by the Arab Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) on 4 May 2014.
  • King Leopold Medal was awarded to Sultan on 26 January 2014 by the order of King Philip of Belgium in recognition for contribution in strengthening relations between Saudi Arabia and Belgium, especially in the field of archaeology.
  • Middle East Municipalities Award in Cultural & Heritage Preservation presented by the Institute of Middle East Excellence Awards on 16 October 2014
  • Harvard University named Sultan bin Salman as the Chief Representative of the Arabian Region and the Middle East in Tourism Leaders program in October 2014
  • Creativity Award presented by the Souq Okaz Higher Committee in January 2015
  • Arabic Leadership Award in the Care of Disabled presented by the Arab Hospital Federation in December 2015
  • UNWTO Award in recognition of His significant contribution to the development of tourism in the Middle East and His outstanding commitment to the global vision and work of the World Tourism Organization. Presented at the 22nd Session of the UNWTO General Assembly held in Chengdu, China on 12 September 2017



  1. ^ a b c d e John Lawton; Patricia Moody (January–February 1986). "A Prince in Space". Saudi Aramco World. 37 (1). Archived from the original on 7 May 2012.
  2. ^ "A number of Royal Orders Issued". Saudi Press Agency. 27 December 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz". Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiques. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Biographies of international astronauts". Space Facts. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz". Official Website. Archived from the original on 6 July 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Princess Sultana bint Turki Al Sudairi dies". Arab News. 1 August 2011. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Sultana, wife of Riyadh Emir, passes away". Saudi Gazette. 3 August 2011. Archived from the original on 28 December 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Sultana bint Ahmad bin Muhammad al Sudairi". Datarabia. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  9. ^ "Family Tree of Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud". Datarabia. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Kingdom mourns loss of princess". The Siasat Daily. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  11. ^ a b c "First Arab astronaut makes a royal tour of space". The Windsor Star. New York. 20 June 1985. pp. B12. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  12. ^ Haley, Kathleen (23 January 2015). "Father of Syracuse University Alumnus Assumes Saudi Arabian Throne". Syracuse University News. Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud Payload Specialist". NASA. Archived from the original on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  14. ^ Simon Henderson (1994). "After King Fahd" (PDF). Washington Institute. Archived from the original (Policy Paper) on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  15. ^ a b "HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman". Prince Salman Center for Disability Research. Archived from the original on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  16. ^ Sultan Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Other qualifications
  17. ^ "King Salman Reshuffles Cabinet". Al Sharq Al Awsat. 27 December 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  18. ^ a b P. K. Abdul Ghafour (12 February 2008). "Prince Sultan Gets 4-Year Extension as SCT Secretary-General". Arab News. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  19. ^ "Spotlight on the Saudi succession process". Al Arabiya. Reuters. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  20. ^ "Prince Sultan bin Salman Appointed Special Advisor". SPA. 3 May 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  21. ^ Books written by Sultan bin Salman Al Saud WorldCat
  22. ^ Wathāʼiq mubakkirah fī masīrat al-turāth al-ʻumrānī WorldCat
  23. ^ Sīra fi 't-turāt̲ al-ʻumrānī WorldCat
  24. ^ al-Khayāl al-mumkin WorldCat
  25. ^ Back to Earth on ArchNet
  26. ^ Sabri Sharaf (2001). The House of Saud in Commerce: A Study of Royal Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. Sharaf Sabri. p. 142. ISBN 978-81-901254-0-6.
  27. ^ a b c "Saudi Leadership Profiles: Prince Sultan bin Salman (5 January 2010)". Wikileaks. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  28. ^ "Family tree of Sultan bin Salman". Datarabia. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  29. ^ "سمو ولي العهد يشرف حفل زواج حفيده الأمير سلمان بن سلطان من كريمة الأمير خالد بن سعود". Al Riyadh. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  30. ^ Joseph A. Kechichian (6 July 2001). Succession In Saudi Arabia. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-312-23880-3.
  31. ^ "Recognition, Awards, and medals received by Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud". SCTA. October 2013. Archived from the original on 10 November 2018. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  32. ^ Ken Chapman (16 November 2012). "Saudi Arabian Prince honored by Syracuse University". CNY Central. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  33. ^ "Royal Family Directory". Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2017.

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