Sultan bin Salman Al Saud

Key Figure Profile

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Sultan bin Salman (Arabic: سلطان بن سلمان بن عبد العزيز آل سعود)‎ (born 27 June 1956) is a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot who flew aboard the STS-51-G Space Shuttle mission as a payload specialist, and a member of the House of Saud. He is thus the first astronaut of royal blood, and the first Arab and Muslim to fly in outer space.

Early life

Sultan was born in Riyadh on 27 June 1956. He is the second son of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz. His mother is Sultana bin Turki Al Sudairi who died in July 2011. She was a daughter of Prince Salman’s uncle, Turki bin Ahmad Al Sudairi, who was one of the former governors of Asir Province. Prince Sultan is a full brother of Fahd, Ahmed, Abdulaziz, Faisal and Hussa (born 1974).


Sultan completed his elementary and secondary education in Riyadh. He is a graduate of the University of Denver with a degree in mass communications. He received a master’s degree in social and political science from Syracuse University in 1999.

Early experience

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. His tenure lasted until 1984. 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.

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 their satellite, ARABSAT-1B. Sultan also holds the record for being the youngest person to fly on the Space Shuttle, at the age of 28.

Later, he assisted in establishing the Association of Space Explorers, an international organization comprising all astronauts and cosmonauts who have been in space, and served on its board of directors for several years.

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 Caesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, Carl Sagan, Jesse Jackson and Peter Ueberroth. Sultan bin Salman served in the Royal Saudi Air Force beginning in 1985 and held the rank of lieutenant colonel. He retired from the air force in 1996 with the rank of colonel.


Sultan bin Salman became the Secretary-General of the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in 2000 when SCTA was established. His term of service was extended for another four years in February 2008. It is claimed that as Secretary-General of SCTA, he contributed significantly to the improvement of Saudi Arabia’s tourism strategy. He is in fact regarded as the tourism minister of Saudi Arabia.


Sultan bin Salman also holds the following titles:

Honorary President for the Saudi Society for Archeological Studies, King Saud University

Vice-Chairman of the Historic Jeddah Development Committee (proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Founder of the Advisory Committee for the King Saud University College of Tourism and Antiquities

Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, Chairman of the Riyadh King Khaled International Airport (KKIA) Development Board – General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)

Chairman of the Board of Directors, the Disabled Children Association (DCA), KSA.

Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Prince Salman Center for Disability Research (PSCDR), KSA.

Founder and President, Al Turath, KSA (an organization dedicated to the preservation and development of Saudi national heritage)

Founder and Chairman of the Board, Saudi Aviation Club

Chairman of the Board, The Prince Salman Science Oasis (A science center and museum)

Founding Member and Member of the Board, The Graduates Society of Model Institute of the Capital Schools, Riyadh, KSA

Member of the Supreme Committee for the Development of Al-Dir’iyyah (a UNESCO World Heritage site) Ad-Diriyah, KSA

Member of the Committee of the Center for the History of Makkah, King AbdulAziz Foundation for Research and Archives, KSA

Chairman of the Executive Committee, Princess Hassa Al Sudairi Charitable Foundation

Member of Dana Gas corporation


Regarding the connections between the state and the people, he argued that “Every citizen of this country is a responsible person. Here the state is the citizen and the citizen is the state. There is no division between the leadership and the citizens.”

Personal life

Sultan bin Salman is married to the daughter of Saud bin Faisal, the minister of foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia. They have three children. His son, Salman (born 1990), attended St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, and married a daughter of Prince Khalid bin Saud Al Saud, a great-grandson of Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman, in Riyadh on 5 December 2012.

He enjoys gliding and skiing in his spare time.

Prince Sultan 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.