Amazon goes into space

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Amazon’s Cloud business is launching a satellite direct connection service and representing the company’s first public move into space-based hardware and a continuation of its efforts to support the growing industry. Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) is creating a new division, AWS Ground Station and partnering with Lockheed Martin to build a dozen more – it already has two – satellite Ground Station facilities around the world and is planning to begin operations by the middle of 2019.

“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,” Charlie Bell, AWS/SVP, said in a statement. “Today, we are giving satellite customers the ability to dynamically scale their ground station antenna use based on actual need. And, they will be able to ingest data straight into AWS, where they can securely store, analyse, and transmit products to their customers.”

The Amazon-Lockheed concept is partnering with several satellite capacity facilities and operators, including Spire Global, DigitalGlobe and BlackSky. Each of the companies operate ground facilities already but will work with AWS Ground Station to augment operations. Spire operates more than 30 ground stations already but expects Amazon’s platform will offer faster speeds at lower costs.

“This offering that they’re doing is just an extension” of Amazon’s cloud service, Spire CEO Peter Platzer told CNBC. “Spire has built one of the world’s largest ground station networks … and now imagine that Amazon does all of that and the only thing that Spire does is rents capacity on the ground station.”

Amazon’s facilities will be added to the existing infrastructure from the existing AWS data centres located around the world, according to Platzer. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in five years they have hundreds of ground stations around the world,” Platzer said.

Spire has more than 60 “cubesat” sized satellites in orbit. The company’s satellites have multiple sensor on board, which track ships and airplanes, as well as gather atmospheric data to forecast weather. Spire describes itself as an analytics company, as a variety of industries use Spire’s data, ranging from hedge funds to earth scientists to shipping businesses.


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