Azure Space innovates for the future
Today, I’m excited to share some news covering the full range of space industry use cases, including:
- Real-world examples of how Azure Orbital Ground Station is enabling new ways for space agencies and startups to operate satellites in orbit.
- New addition to the Azure Space family, the Planetary computer (and the petabytes of data in its catalog). Together, through new partnerships with Esri and Synthetaic, we are on our way to empowering our customers with rapid new insights from Earth observation data.
When Microsoft announced Azure Space In 2020, we saw an opportunity to innovate new solutions that meet modern demands and create opportunities for the future. So we applied our proven partner-centric approach to quickly reinvent traditional space solutions, introduce new software tools, and minimize cost barriers holding back the space ecosystem.
This partner-centric approach allowed us to quickly move from vision to solutions. In October 2020, we shared early results that brought Azure together with a global ground station effort, delivered resilient hyperscale cloud connectivity, and launched a transformation effort to virtualize satellite communications.
Since then, both established satellite operators and exciting new start-ups have redefined what is possible in orbit. Today, start-ups, government agencies and businesses are experimenting with new satellites, leveraging Earth observation data for actionable insights and identifying ways to maintain constant connectivity in global environments unpredictable.
Together with our partners, we are rapidly innovating to provide every space operator with the solutions needed to solve persistent challenges in new ways and seize new opportunities in the rapidly expanding space sector.
Azure Orbital Ground Station supports our customers on and off the planet
Cloud computing is the foundation of one of the biggest revolutions in the space industry, ground stations as a service. These ground stations, in turn, have significantly lowered one of the most expensive barriers to entry into space. A year after the Azure Orbital Earth Station became available to everyone, customers including NASA and Muon Space are using it to support their operations.
Use KSAT and Azure Orbital Ground Station to improve delivery of NASA Earth science data products
Teams from NASA (Langley Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center), global space company KSAT and Microsoft conducted a technology demonstration. The demonstration focused on the acquisition, processing and distribution of near real-time Earth science data products in the cloud.
The teams successfully validated space connectivity at the KSAT and Microsoft Azure Orbital Ground Station sites with four public satellites belonging to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Terra, Aqua, Suomi National Polar- Orbiting Partnership and JPSS-1/. NOAA-20.
The demonstration was a showcase for Azure, which provided real-time cross-regional data transmission from Microsoft and KSAT sites to NASA’s virtual network in Azure. With satellite data in the cloud, NASA’s Azure compute and storage services help move data from its raw form to higher levels of processing (see final product example in Image 1) , improving latency from an average of 3-6 hours to less than 25 minutes for some data products. .
Integrating the capabilities of Microsoft and its partner KSAT has enabled NASA to expand its coverage and connectivity, benefiting from access to ground stations through a single application programming interface (API), ‘a direct link to Azure, cross-region delivery and a unified data format experience.
Muon Space Achieves Successful Liftoff and Operations with MuSat-1 and Azure Orbital Ground Station
Muon Space has selected Microsoft to support its first-ever launch in June 2023, leveraging Azure Orbital Ground Station as the sole ground station provider for its MuSat-1 mission. After deploying MuSat-1 from SpaceX Transporter 10, Muon Space established contact via Azure Orbital Ground Station within six minutes.1 From the Launch and Early Operation Phase (LEOP) through continued on-orbit operations, Microsoft ground stations around the world are used to successfully communicate with MuSat-1. Azure Orbital Ground Station is a completely cloud-based solution. Therefore, no hardware deployment was required, allowing Muon Space to take advantage of an innovative virtual radio frequency (RF) solution with a custom modem.
“Since we are building constellations of multi-band remote sensing spacecraft with unique data revisit, resolution and latency capabilities, our ground station partner was a critical choice. Muon chose Azure Orbital Ground Station during our constellation launch due to its current capabilities and product roadmap. Collaborating with Microsoft to manage the field allows us to focus on the core mission of collecting climate information and providing it to our customers.
Jim Martz, vice president of engineering at Muon.
Expanded capabilities to gain rapid insights from huge amounts of spatial data
Today, we’re applying this same approach to revolutionize geospatial data, welcoming Planetary computer to the Azure Space family. Planetary Computer is a robust geospatial data platform. It combines a multi-petabyte catalog of multi-source global data with intuitive APIs, a flexible scientific environment that allows users to answer global questions about this data, and applications that put these answers into the hands of many stakeholders. It is used by researchers, scientists, students and organizations around the world with millions of API calls every month.
With Planetary Computer now part of the Azure Space family, we are beginning to work with partners in new ways. Today, we are building on the existing catalog to pave the way for new capabilities and partnerships that will bring users one of the largest Earth observation datasets at their fingertips: petabytes possibilities for understanding our planet. Consistent with our partner-centric approach, Esri and Synthetaic will deliver critical functionality to our platform and ecosystem. By combining the power of data analysis in Synthetic CIZRWith Esri ArcGIS data visualization, customers will be able to glean insights from spatial data at a speed and scale previously unattainable.
Planetary computer is rooted in our commitment to not only better understand our world, but also to leverage the knowledge we gain to achieve our commitments to become a carbon negative, water positive and zero waste company by 2030. A quick overview of the Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit organization based in Annapolis, Maryland, illustrates the possibilities that Planetary Computer can offer any organization to achieve its sustainability goals.
Chesapeake Conservancy is leading a regional effort to protect 30 percent of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2030 using a precision conservation approach that optimizes resources and protects lands with the highest water quality value. water, outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat and local economies.
“Together with Microsoft Azure, we developed an AI system that maps ground-mounted solar panels using up-to-date satellite data, allowing us to regularly track one of the fastest drivers of change land use in the watershed. » says Joel Dunn, CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy. “Moving forward, we need to contextualize this information into a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of land use. We’re excited to work with Microsoft and their partners to produce our 1-meter land use data more frequently and accurately, keeping active momentum across the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
By using our partners’ tools to harness the power of Microsoft Planetary Computer, customers like Chesapeake Conservancy can use artificial intelligence and groundbreaking data to accelerate progress in conserving landscapes vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its cultural heritage while equitably connecting people to Chesapeake, as seen in the video here.
The space industry has made incredible progress since the start of the space age in the 1950s. However, this progress has been slow, difficult and expensive. This required costly and sustained investments by governments, followed by the creation of bespoke satellite constellations and ground infrastructure that were rigid and complex to integrate.
What’s next for Azure Space
Relying on the Microsoft Planetary Computer The development of a new Azure Space Data solution will create an end-to-end space fabric, providing ubiquitous connectivity, resilience and global insights at scale, in real-time. We are excited to build this platform and open it to the many companies, large and small, that are shaping the future of space and look forward to collaborating with those writing the next chapter of humanity’s journey beyond of the earth.
We invite partners and businesses interested in learning more about Azure Space to do the following: