Amazon Web Services launches ‘ground-station-as-a-service’ system

- November 28, 2018 2 MIN READ
AWS Ground Station

With more than 16,000 satellites expected to be in low earth orbit within the next decade, Amazon Web Services (AWS) today announced the launch of AWS Ground Station, a service allowing customers to tap into a network of fully managed ground station antennas around the world.

Announcing the launch at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas today, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said the “ground-station-as-a-service” concept was developed as the company saw just how many customers were using satellite data, and the challenges they were facing in doing so.

The main challenge for most is cost, with companies either having to build or buy their own ground station, or lease another. Uplinking and downlinking significant amounts of data, too, incurs a cost.

Allowing customers to pay for downlink time by the minute, AWS Ground Station works by enabling customers to register and on-board a satellite, identify contact windows, and schedule a satellite contact.

They can then command, control, and downlink data during a scheduled contact before receiving, processing, and distributing the data.

The service has launched with two ground stations and plans to have 12 in operation by mid-next year. The company stated it will monitor utilisation and demand and build additional stations and antennas accordingly. Each ground station will be associated with a particular AWS Region, giving users low-latency, local access to other AWS services to process and store data.

Despite the ‘as-a-service’ terming, AWS Ground Station is not self-serve, with customers to work with AWS to register a satellite.

“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 Charlie Bell, Senior Vice President of AWS.

“A fear years back our customers asked us if we could remove the cost and complexity, and the more we thought about it, the more we realised that AWS with its global footprint was uniquely positioned to solve this challenge.”

The launch of Ground Station comes in hand with a partnership between AWS and aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

The partnership will see the Ground Station service integrated with Lockheed Martin’s new low-cost antenna network, Verge.

Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin, explained at re:Invent that parabolic antennas can only talk to one satellite at a time, when it passes directly overhead.

Thanks to strength in numbers, the Verge network of cubesat-sized antennas, meanwhile, will capture multiple streams of data as satellites pass and deliver it to the AWS Cloud as one continuous stream.

Through the integration, customers using AWS Ground Station will be able to download data from multiple satellites at the same time, and continue downloading data even when unplanned outages, such as a weather event, impact parts of the network.

Note: The author travelled to re:Invent as a guest of AWS.

Image: Andy Jassy. Source: Supplied.