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AWS Seeking Bigger Stake In The Space Race

‘The aerospace and satellite solutions business segment will bring AWS services and solutions to the space enterprise,’ says Teresa Carlson, AWS’ vice president of worldwide public sector.

Amazon Web Services is doubling down on the space race with the launch of a new dedicated aerospace and satellite solutions division to win military and commercial space organizations as cloud computing customers.

The new division will tailor solutions to transform space enterprises, work with customers and partners to reimagine space system architectures, launch new services that process space data on Earth and in orbit, and provide flexible, scalable and cost-efficient cloud solutions to support government missions and private companies in the space industry, according to Teresa Carlson, AWS’ vice president of worldwide public sector.

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Clint Crosier, the former director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s planning for the U.S. Space Force – the new branch of the military created under President Donald Trump – will lead the new business segment.

"We find ourselves in the most exciting time in space since the Apollo missions," Crosier said in a statement. "I have watched AWS transform the IT industry over the last 10 years and be instrumental in so many space milestones.”

The new division will tap AWS’ already significant experience supporting commercial and government customers that design satellites and conduct spaceflight operations, according to Carlson. The news came as AWS, the largest cloud computing provider, hosts its AWS Public Sector Summit Online today.

“AWS’s reliable global infrastructure and unmatched portfolio of cloud services help organizations process and transform massive collections of data from space and then quickly analyze the data to make it actionable, redefining how we research, make decisions and see our world,” Carlson wrote in a blog post today.

The space landscape has dramatically shifted over the past 10 years, creating an enormous need for new types of innovation for space-based missions, Carlson said.

“The world is entering an exciting and daring new age in space,” she said. “New companies have moved into the space business and are launching more satellites and human missions into orbit than ever before. NASA continues to invest in developing a sustainable commercial space economy through Project Artemis. Low-latency internet, high-resolution Earth observation and ubiquitous internet-of -things communications companies will launch thousands of new satellites over the next five years to provide sensing capabilities to customers around the world.”

AWS Ground Station, which became generally available in May 2019 and is being used by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and other customers, hints at the innovative space solutions that AWS could develop, according to Carlson. Ground stations are facilities that use antennas to provide communications between the earth and satellites. AWS’ fully managed service allows satellite owners and operators to control satellite communications, uplink and downlink, process satellite data and scale their satellite operations.

“Today, customers around the world use AWS services and solutions such as data lakes and storage, edge computing, virtual mission operations, resilient, robust and secure satellite connectivity, image processing and intelligence analytics, and artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive innovation in space-based missions,” Carlson wrote.

That includes aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin; Geollect, a UK- and US-based based geospatial intelligence analysis company; and Maxar Technologies, a space technology company based in Westminster, Colo.

"With a background in cloud computing, it’s exciting to see Amazon Web Services extend that experience to space, fostering collaborations with Lockheed Martin to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems," Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, said in a statement. “We share a vision to help our customers access data faster and gain new insights from sensors in space that make data even more accessible."

AWS today announced that Capella Space, a San Francisco information services company that provides on-demand Earth observation imagery and data via satellite-based radar, is running its entire IT infrastructure on AWS to automate and scale its operations, including satellite command and control using AWS Ground Station.

“Our customers rely on us to deliver precision satellite imagery quickly,” Capella Space CEO Payam Banazadeh said in a statement.” Working with AWS and leveraging the global coverage provided by AWS Ground Station, we are redefining what is possible in the satellite industry and reducing the cost and time required for organizations to benefit from satellite data.”

AWS has been battling in court against the U.S. Department of Defense award of the Pentagon's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract to Microsoft last October. AWS contends that President Donald Trump exerted political influence over the award, which could be worth as much as $10 billion, due to his alleged dislike for Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of AWS parent Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post.

Amazon’s stock rose 2 percent on Tuesday to $2,734. The tech behemoth now has a total market cap of $1.36 trillion.

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