LAS VEGAS — As if Amazon didn’t already have its fingers in enough pies, today at AWS re:Invent, Amazon Web Services announced that it was getting involved with the satellite business. AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced AWS Ground Station, a new service for customers to download data from satellites into AWS’ cloud infrastructure.
It’s a “fully managed ground station as a service,” said Jassy.
The company is leveraging its 19 existing AWS infrastructure regions and 57 availability zones. The new AWS Ground Station initially comprises a network of 12 ground station antennas located on the same grounds as AWS facilities.
Jassy said the impetus for getting into this new business was AWS’ customers. “We work with a number of space agencies,” he said. “These customers say it’s not so simple dealing with satellites, to uplink and downlink data.” They need to either buy or build antennas. And in order to uplink and downlink data gathered from satellites, they have to write all kinds of scripts and workflows to take that data and analyze it and use it in applications.
“If you want to do something with that data, you need some kind of infrastructure,” said Jassy. “All of those things are difficult for customers. It’s expensive.”
Customers who sign up for AWS Ground Station can determine which ground station and satellites they want to interact with and then schedule their interact times. “Each of those ground stations have multiple antennas, so you can simultaneously uplink and downlink,” said Jassy.
Once customers receive satellite data at a ground station, they can immediately process it in an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance, store it in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), apply AWS analytics and machine learning services to gain insights, and use Amazon’s network to move the data to other regions and processing facilities.
Customers pay by-the-minute for antenna access time used.
One of the first customers for AWS Ground Station is DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Technologies company that manufactures satellites for communication, earth observation, radar, and other services. Maxar Technologies CTO Walter Scott said, “Space is hard. The hard part we want to focus on are the satellites, not on the ground station infrastructure in the middle. AWS lets us expand that network in an elastic fashion.”
He added that building a global ground network requires land, hardware for compute, storage, and networking, as well as maintenance. Scott said the company’s satellite imagery is “incredibly detailed,” and it’s important to get that data to the cloud as quickly as possible. AWS Ground Station will allow the company to get data into the cloud 10 times faster than it’s been able to do before.
Photo: AWS CEO Andy Jassy talks about AWS Ground Station at the AWS Re:invent conference.