AWS Looks To Space With New Ground Station Cloud Service


Amazon Web Services is looking to the heavens with a new cloud service intended to "democratize access to space data," AWS CEO Andy Jassy said Tuesday at his company's re:Invent conference.

AWS Ground Station, an on-demand satellite communications and data ingestion service for private space companies and government space agencies, will change how those entities explore earth from space, Jassy said.

The world's first fully managed Ground Station-as-a-Service, Jassy said, was born from the input of AWS customers that rely on processing satellite data.

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"What you find, and what these customers tell us all the time, is it's not so simple dealing with satellites if you want to upload and download data," Jassy said.

That process, called uplinking and downlinking in satellite lingo, requires sophisticated ground stations powered by advanced software and workflows, he said.

"It's expensive," Jassy said. "You have to either buy them or build them or lease them."

To change that dynamic, Amazon is building a dozen space-trained ground stations all over the world next to its AWS regions—often on the same grounds.

Customers can rent access to AWS Ground Station facilities by the minute and take advantage of data transit costs greatly reduced by that proximity to its data centers, as well as AWS cloud services for storage and analysis.

Currently, sending data to and from orbit doesn’t come cheap, he said, as satellites generate massive data streams when observing the earth, and space ventures rely on many applications that consume that data to "change how we interact with our planet," Jassy said.

The service launched Tuesday in preview at a couple ground stations, with 10 more to be added in 2019, Jassy said.

For space agencies and companies, AWS Ground Station will be "a game changer in how people can interact with satellites," Jassy said.

Among the inaugural customers is Blue Origin, the aerospace company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Amazon's space-age service will take advantage of a strategic collaboration with Lockheed Martin to talk to the thousands of satellites in Low Earth Orbit.

AWS and Lockheed will integrate Verge (Virtual Resilient Ground)—the aerospace giant's low-cost, compact and turn-key solution for deploying ground antennas.

Rick Ambrose, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin Space, said Verge antennas will work side-by-side with AWS Ground Station, with AWS cloud powering software that reconstructs the many signals across its antenna network.