Amazon is Bringing Cloud Computing Economics and Convenience to Space Data Operations

Getting satellite data back to Earth is still more difficult than it should be. Large-scale satellite operators often build and run their own ground stations at a cost of up to one million dollars or more each; smaller operators enter into inflexible long-term contracts to make use of existing ground stations.

Amazon will make space operations lower-cost and more convenient.

Amazon is already the world leader in cloud computing. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has invested billions into his space launch startup Blue Origin.

The new global ground station network will combine both aspects of Amazon cloud and Jeff Bezos’ passion for space.

When you are ready to make use of AWS Ground Station, they will need your satellite’s NORAD ID [Satellite ID], information about your FCC license, and your AWS account number so that they can associate it with your account.

The next step is to reserve a contact (an upcoming time when my satellite will be in the optimal position to transmit to the ground station you choose). You choose a ground station from the menu.

Pricing is per-minute of downlink time, with an option to pre-pay for blocks of minutes.

Amazon had previously announced Iridium as part of its AWS partner network. AWS and Iridium were connecting Amazon cloud via a space satellite network.

Amazon Will Bring Computing Cloud Economics to Space With AWS Ground Station

Amazon EC2 made compute power accessible on a cost-effective, pay-as-you-go basis. AWS Ground Station does the same for satellite ground stations. Instead of building your own ground station or entering into a long-term contract, you can make use of AWS Ground Station on an as-needed, pay-as-you-go basis. You can get access to a ground station on short notice in order to handle a special event: severe weather, a natural disaster, or something more positive such as a sporting event. If you need access to a ground station on a regular basis to capture Earth observations or distribute content world-wide, you can reserve capacity ahead of time and pay even less. AWS Ground Station is a fully managed service. You don’t need to build or maintain antennas, and can focus on your work or research.

Amazon and Lockheed are starting out with a pair of ground stations today. They will have 12 in operation by mid-2019. Each ground station is associated with a particular AWS Region; the raw analog data from the satellite is processed by our modem digitizer into a data stream (in what is formally known as VITA 49 baseband or VITA 49 RF over IP data streams) and routed to an EC2 instance that is responsible for doing the signal processing to turn it into a byte stream.

Once the data is in digital form, you have a host of streaming, processing, analytics, and storage options. Here’s a starter list:

Streaming – Amazon Kinesis Data Streams to capture, process, and store data streams.

Processing – Amazon Rekognition for image analysis; Amazon SageMaker to build, train, and deploy ML models.

Analytics / Reporting – Amazon Redshift to store processed data in structured data warehouse form; Amazon Athena and Amazon QuickSight for queries.

Storage – Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to store data in object form, with Amazon Glacier for long-term archival storage.

Your entire workflow, from the ground stations all the way through to processing, storage, reporting, and delivery, can now be done on elastic, pay-as-you-go infrastructure!

2 thoughts on “Amazon is Bringing Cloud Computing Economics and Convenience to Space Data Operations”

  1. Starlink should be able to provide even better possibilities. They can “just” launch some starlink-to-satellite nodes in higher orbits. Those nodes can serve as buffers (instead of ground stations) and then transmit to Starlink to get data down to anywhere on earth.

    How to administrate it from a customer perspective is another game. AWS has an advantage there with their massive infrastructure already in place.

  2. This kind of infrastructure will be necessary to move and process the very big amount of data we can expect to see coming from space infrastructure in the near future. A flood of satellite images for real time analysis of terrestrial events, a shower of IoT data coming from satellites connecting these remote devices to the places the information is required.

    SpaceX is already at it, by providing the basis for an space Internet in the form of Starlink, which can be grown to include other mesh satellite networks around other celestial bodies. This Starlink will evolve into a true interplanetary network, making the basis for most human logistics in those remote places. ‘Cause the IoT ain’t staying home, with another upcoming flood of commoditized satellites and space drones, making the bulk of human operations outside of Earth.

    Amazon is right to start preparing themselves to handle the traffic from space infrastructure and their applications as well.

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