• Microsoft launched Azure Orbital, a novel service, in its Ignite 2020 conference (virtually conducted event).
  • Azure Orbital allows consumers to transfer data from satellites directly into its cloud.
  • The company is concentrating on the expansion of its network.

Microsoft, on September 22, 2020, introduced Azure Orbital at its virtual Ignite 2020 Conference. Azure Orbital is a novel Ground Station as-a-Service that offers communication and control of the satellite. Moreover, it helps consumers transfer data from satellites directly into the Azure cloud for processing and storage.

“With Azure Orbital, we’re taking our infrastructure to space, enabling anyone to access satellite data and capabilities from Azure,” commented Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Microsoft, during the Microsoft Ignite 2020 conference.

Expansion of network

Microsoft is concentrating on expanding its network of partners supporting Azure Orbital to include KSAT’s network of more than 200 satellite antennas. However, the company was already associated with Viasat, Intelsat, Inmarsat, and SES to send consumer data to Microsoft’s Azure network of fiber-linked data centers. Also, the company is working with teleport operator US Electrodynamics Inc., AMERGINT Technologies, Inc., Kubos, and Kratos.

“Microsoft is taking a very partner-centric approach, working with space companies to bring a product to market with them,” commented Katherine Monson, KSAT USA Head.

“Microsoft is well-positioned to support customer needs in gathering, transporting, and processing of geospatial data,” Yves Pitsch, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft Azure Networking, writes in his recent blog post. “With our intelligent cloud and edge strategy currently extending over sixty announced cloud regions, advanced analytics, and AI capabilities coupled with one of the fastest and most resilient networks in the world – security and innovation are at the core of everything we do.”

Connecting satellites to Azure cloud

Connecting satellites to the Azure cloud will ease the process for satellite operators. The promise here is that on Microsoft’s cloud, satellite operators will be able to run not just the data analysis process, but will also be able to perform all their digital ground operations. That involves the ability to schedule contact with their spacecraft over Microsoft’s owned and operated ground stations by using UHF, X, and S frequencies. That data can then immediately flow into Azure’s various solutions for machine learning (ML), storage, and analysis.

The competition

The revelation marked the newest chapter in the rivalry between Microsoft and Amazon to link satellite communications networks with cloud infrastructure.

With AWS (Amazon Web Services) Ground Stations, Amazon already provides a similar ground station-as-a-service product that includes a global network antenna and direct access to the AWS cloud. AWS is one step ahead and recently unveiled its dedicated business unit for aerospace and satellite solutions.