Amazon Establishes a Specialized Business Segment for Aerospace Data Processing Technologies

July 05, 2020 by Gary Elinoff

Amazon's new Aerospace and Satellite Solutions division represents the company's expanding commitment to space-based enterprise.

Amazon has announced the creation of the Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment, which will be purposed to the provision of Amazon Web Services (AWS) solutions tailored explicitly to space-based enterprises. The new division will be headed by retired Air Force Major General Clint Crosier, the former head of the planning group that inaugurated the U.S.'s newest military service, the U.S. Space Force.

General Crosier states that "We find ourselves in the most exciting time in space since the Apollo missions," and goes on to say that "I have watched AWS transform the IT industry over the last ten years and be instrumental in so many space milestones. I am honored to join AWS to continue to transform the industry and propel the space enterprise forward." 

 Amazon's New Direction

The stated goals of the Aerospace and Satellite Solutions include reimagining space system architectures and transforming space enterprises. The new division will also seek to provide the cloud-based solutions purposed to process space data both in orbit and on Earth.

Teresa Carlson, vice president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services, notes the "thousands of new satellites" that will be launched in the next five years. They will serve everything from low-latency internet and IoT to NASA's project Artemis, which is committed to landing astronauts on the moon by 2024.

AWS sees space as the future, and Amazon wants a piece of it. 

The AWS Ground Station

Amazon is no stranger to space-based operations. The AWS Ground Station is a well-established service that provides satellite operators worldwide access to their space workloads, enabling them to downlink data and provide satellite commands with speed and agility. 

A low cost "space as a service" solution, AWS Ground Station saves satellite operators from the expense and trouble of owning and managing their ground station infrastructure. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) is among the service's many customers.

Also in the mix is Project Kuiper, Amazon's massive effort to launch over 3,000 satellites into space to provide broadband internet planet-wide. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, also owns Blue Origin, a private space launch company.


Satellite that collects data from space.

The AWS ground station supports efficient communication with satellites, facilitating downlinking, processing, and distribution of satellite data within minutes of capture. Image credited to Amazon

Support from Industry Leaders

It may be poor phrasing to say that Amazon is hitting the ground running in space. Still, just as the Air Force was well established in space before General Crosier "spun off" the Space Force, Amazon had been an old hand at space operations before the Aerospace and Satellite Solutions division was itself spun off from AWS.

According to William Hillman, Head of Geospatial Operations, Geollect, "Working with AWS, Geollect provides near real-time geospatial maritime intelligence, meaning it's now possible to track and analyze the activity of ships and fleets around the world at previously unthinkable speeds."

Citing "Maxar's longstanding partnership with AWS", Dr. Walter Scott, Maxar Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, states that "This new AWS business will support Maxar as we launch our new WorldView Legion satellites next year, which will triple our 30 cm imagery collection and greatly increase our currency and scalability for government missions and commercial use cases. This division will also improve the space industry as a whole, allowing additional organizations to gain speed, agility, and resiliency from the world's leading cloud." 


There Isn't Room in This Universe for Both of Us

The recent push could be due to moves by Amazon's arch-rival, Google. Google has snagged up Viasat, SES, Intelsat, and Inmarsat as customers for its Azure division. There are considerable shenanigans afoot involving the Pentagon's coveted Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract, over which the two rivals are contending.

It's reported in Nextgov that Amazon is protesting the initial award of the contract to Google because of President Trump's improper influence. So far, it appears that the Pentagon is punting. Stay tuned!