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AWS Satellite 'Ground Station as a Service' Hits Preview

At this week's re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services (AWS) took the wraps off a new product that lets companies download and process satellite data on demand and at low cost.

AWS Ground Station, now in preview, is an "as a service" offering that lets customers take advantage of the AWS cloud to access data from any satellite -- such as live weather data, topographical imagery or over-the-air communications -- without having to purchase, build or maintain their own physical ground stations.

Instead, users can tap AWS' network of 12 antennae that are positioned around the globe, many of which are located at one of AWS' cloud regions, to communicate with the satellites of their choosing. Users schedule their satellite communication in advance, pay only for the amount of time that they need, and process their collected satellite data using the AWS services they're subscribed to. AWS claims this process can reduce customers' ground station costs by as much as 80 percent.

"Satellite data is incredibly useful for building a wide range of important applications, but it is super complex and expensive to build and operate the infrastructure needed to do so," said AWS Senior Vice President Charlie Bell in a prepared statement. For instance, in order to actually communicate with a satellite, a customer must buy, build or rent the ground antennae to do so, as well as the storage, servers and networking infrastructure to support the data collection and processing. Moreover, customers typically must make these investments at multiple sites worldwide to eliminate the need to wait for a satellite to pass above a single location.

"Today, we are giving satellite customers the ability to dynamically scale their ground station antenna use based on actual need," Bell said.

Users can access AWS Ground Station from their AWS console, where they can schedule their satellite link, as well as set up an EC2 instance that will enable the satellite communication. From there, according to AWS, customers can "use Amazon EC2 to control satellites and downlink data, store and share the data in Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), or Amazon S3, use Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) for secure communications between Amazon EC2 instances and the AWS Ground Station antenna gateway, hunt for real-time business insights with Amazon Kinesis Data Streams and Amazon Elastic Map Reduce, apply machine learning algorithms and models with Amazon SageMaker, add image analysis with Amazon Rekognition, and improve data sets by combining satellite data with IoT sensor data from AWS IoT Greengrass."

Customers currently using AWS Ground Station include DigitalGlobe, BlackSky and Spire Global. AWS also announced that it is partnering with Lockheed Martin to integrate the latter's upcoming Verge antenna network with AWS Ground Station.

More information on AWS Ground Station, including how to access the preview, is available here.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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