Wednesday, 28 November 2018 11:36

AWS, Lockheed Martin widen ground station options

By
 AWS CEO Andy Jassy AWS CEO Andy Jassy

AWS has announced its Ground Station satellite ground station as a service, and Lockheed Martin Space's new Verge network of antennas is being integrated with Ground Station.

AWS Ground Station is initially available in two of AWS's regions, with 12 to be available by mid-2019.. The ground stations are located at or near an AWS data centre for low latency, and "you can lease them and pay for them by the minute," said AWS chief executive Andy Jassy.

This could reduce costs by up to 80%, he claimed.

Downlink data is stored in AWS, and becomes immediately available for processing, possibly in conjunction with other AWS services.

"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.

"A few years ago our customers asked us if we could remove that 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.

"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 without needing to worry about building all of the infrastructure themselves."

Part of the problem is that relatively low-cost satellites are generally placed on low or medium Earth orbits, so they do not remain over the same point on the Earth's surface, so multiple ground stations may be needed for sufficiently frequent communication.

Ground Station can be used on a regular schedule or on demand (eg, in the event of severe weather or a special event).

DigitalGlobe chief technology officer Walter Scott agreed that building ground stations to talk to their satellites was hard, and said the company — which provides high-resolution Earth imagery, data and analysis — would to prefer to focus on satellites and the services it can deliver to customers.

AWS Ground Station has allowed DigitalGlobe to expand its existing ground station network, and achieve a tenfold increase in uplink speeds.

When the company launches its fleet of next-generation satellites in 2021, AWS Ground Station will double the number of daily contacts with each satellite, and will allow any point on the Earth's surface to be "seen" 15 times a day.

AWS Ground Station can be used in conjunction with Lockheed Martin's new Verge antenna network (currently in private beta) thanks to a strategic collaboration between the companies.

Lockheed Martin Space executive vice-president Rick Ambrose said Verge consists of multiple low-cost antennas - its name was derived from the phrase "virtual resilient ground".

Antennas collect data as satellites pass overhead, and the streams of data are assembled in the AWS cloud. This means it is not necessary to wait for the satellite to pass over the operator's own ground station.

Lockheed Martin Verge

A Verge antenna

"Together, AWS and Lockheed Martin are providing satellite operators increased flexibility, resiliency and scale in a complete connectivity solution, ground architecture, and cloud environment for integrated satellite and data management operations," he said.

Disclosure: The writer attended AWS re:Invent as a guest of the company.

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