AWS offers pay-as-you-go cloud computing in space

AWS CEO Andy Yassy describes it as the “world’s first fully-managed ground station-as-a-service”.
30 November 2018

Space satellite orbiting the earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. Source: Shutterstock

The sky (or space) is the limit when it comes to Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) campaign to dominate the cloud computing market. The cloud computing giant has announced a new partnership with Lockheed Martin to launch a new pay-as-you-go package for satellite operators.

In a truly extraordinary move, owners of satellites can rent time off Amazon-managed ground stations to send and receive data from orbit. The service, dubbed AWS Ground Station, works on the same premise as the company’s cloud computing offerings.

According to a blog post from AWS, they expect to have 12 in operation by 2019. There will be streaming, processing, analytics and storage options— a boon to those who have a need to cover special events such as severe weather, natural disasters or even sporting events.

Speaking to SpaceNews, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space, Rick Ambrose, said that this partnership is designed to be disruptive and lower the barrier of the cost of entry.

It is targeting companies and government agencies which have satellites in low Earth orbit that collect imagery. This consists of roughly 63 percent of active satellites, according to Lockheed Martin. AWS chief executive, Andy Jassy, describes Ground Station as the “world’s first fully-managed ground station-as-a-service”.

He went on to say that the ground stations will be closely tied to AWS data center, allowing data to be downloaded from the satellites in a matter of seconds. Calling it a ‘game changer’, Jassy believes the interaction people will have with satellites is set for a fundamental shift.

An industry analyst told the same publication that although the Amazon-Lockheed partnership promises impressive new services, the jury is still out on whether it will be an unqualified success.

This industry expert believes that “the seamless service across one provider for downlink, storage, and data processing will present an interesting dynamic”, as the AWS concept puts “key pieces of the value-chain for high-data volume, and any improvement in the process of getting data, processing it and delivering it to customer valuable.”

In related news, according to a post from NASDAQ, AWS recently won a contract from Iridium Communications IRDM to develop a satellite-based network called CloudConnect for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

For Amazon, it really does look like space is the new frontier in their quest for world domination. It also makes the aspirations of its CEO, Jeff Bezos, quite clear, to send people into space by 2019.