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November 27, 2018updated 04 Dec 2018 9:30pm

Amazon Muscles Into Satellite Data Market, Launches AWS Ground Station

Move positions Amazon as a gatekeeper to satellite data, allows users to stream data directly to cloud at low latency

By CBR Staff Writer

AWS has launched a “ground station-as-a-service” network that allows consumers of satellite data to uplink and downlink from specific satellites directly to the cloud in a pay-per-minute tool, initially using a managed network of 12 Amazon ground stations around the world.

AWS Ground Station will save satellite data consumers up to 80 percent of their ground station costs as they move away from leasing or maintaining complex hardware and lease antenna access instead, AWS said. The move also positions Amazon has a major gatekeeper to satellite data.

It comes amid an expected surge in the number of low earth orbit satellites providing geospatial and other data to public and private customers. SpaceX alone, for example, this month received approval [pdf] from US regulators to launch 7,000 satellites, with up to 16,000 launches expected in coming years.

AWS ground station

AWS CEO Andy Jassy announces the launch of AWS Ground Station

AWS also announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin at its Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, that will see the two work together on the defence contractor’s new “Verge” network of low cost ground antennas, which aggregate satellite data and stream it to AWS’s cloud for subscribers.

The company’s Executive VP, Space, Rick Ambrose told Computer Business Review: “We’re starting with 10 [of the antennas] as a proof of concept, which we’ve run out of Denver and plugged directly into AWS. This could ramp up to hundreds globally, depending on customer demand.”

He added, speaking at the launch of the product: “Each antennas catches data from satellites, sends data to cloud and is aggregated in a consolidated stream for the user. As Verge expands, satellite capacity expands, opportunity cost drops. It’s a turnkey cloud-based service…”

Robert W. Sproles, Ph.D. and Program Manager, Ground Stations, for Spire Global, Inc. said in a release: “The combination of Lockheed Martin Verge and AWS Cloud will allow multiple satellites to downlink simultaneously, which will increase satellite constellation throughput and reduce latency for our customers.”

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AWS CEO Andy Jassy told attendees at the Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas Tuesday that the AWS Ground Station launch will tap AWS’s existing infrastructure across its 19 global regions. Walter Scott, CTO of DigitalGlobe and Maxar Technologies, added that use of Ground Station will “let us get data into cloud faster: in our case in under a minute; the stations are designed to feed directly into  the cloud.”

He added: “When I started out, clouds were for thunderstorms, not teraflops. We were early users of AWS and moved 100PB of data from our data centres to AWS using its ‘snowmobile’. Our imagery is incredibly detailed and we’re generating 80TB a day, so getting this into the cloud rapidly where we can run machine learning on it through SageMaker is a game-changer.”

The announcements came the day after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars for the first time. Customers previewing AWS Ground Station include Hawk Eye 360, Open Cosmos, Black Sky, Capella Space and Lockheed Martin, among others.


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