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Microsoft unleashes Azure Orbital Ground Station

New as a service offering will leverage Microsoft’s partner network, including KSAT, to help satellite operators operate at a lower cost and latency

Microsoft has announced the general availability of Azure Orbital Ground Station, the Redmond giant’s fully-managed ground station as a service offering.

The Station will work together with the company’s partner ecosystem, including KSAT, to enable satellite operators to focus on their satellites and operate from the cloud at a lower cost and latency. 

That will allow operators to get to market faster and achieve a higher level of security through Azure, Microsoft says.

“Through Microsoft’s unique partner-focused approach, we are bringing together a deep integration of ground station partner networks to enable our customers’ data delivery to an Azure region of choice at zero cost, thus reducing their total operational costs and ensuring data is available in the customer’s Azure tenant for further processing,” said James Zander, EVP of Strategic Missions and Technologies at Microsoft.

The Azure Orbital Ground Station has been in the pipeline since the launch of Azure Space back in 2020. Now, satellite operators such as Pixxel, Muon Space, and Loft Orbital can leverage the facility as a service.

Thanks to Microsoft and KSAT, space data company Pixxel, which focuses on building a constellation of hyperspectral earth imaging satellites and analytical tools, can stream data directly to the Azure Cloud with zero data backhaul costs, and then process it using the platform’s AI/ML services to generate customer business insights.

Alongside the launch of the new Azure Orbital Ground Station, Microsoft and space infrastructure firm Loft Orbital are extending their partnership to support end-to-end customer missions as a service.

The pair also plan to launch the first Azure-enabled Loft satellite next year, which will be available for governments and businesses to deploy software applications onto space hardware within the Azure environment.

For Muon Space, which is developing a satellite remote sensing platform to power data-driven climate decisions, Azure Orbital Ground Station will support its coverage needs by increasing the number of ground locations to ensure multiple contact opportunities on every orbit.

Muon is also partnering with Microsoft’s sustainability product team to develop products targeting Enterprise Social Governance (ESG) analytics derived from their Earth Systems data.

Azure Orbital Cloud Access Preview

Alongside the Azure Orbital Ground Station, Microsoft also announced that Azure Orbital Cloud Access, a new service that brings connectivity from the cloud to wherever organizations need it, is now in Preview.

The offering serves as a “step towards the future of integrated 5G and satellite communications”, Microsoft says, enabling low-latency (1-hop) access to the cloud from anywhere on the planet.

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Azure Orbital Cloud Access provides prioritised network traffic through SpaceX’s Starlink connectivity and Azure edge devices, providing customers with access to Microsoft cloud services anywhere Starlink operates.

"Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency global connectivity in conjunction with Azure infrastructure will enable users to access fiber-like cloud computing access anywhere, anytime,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer. “We’re excited to offer this solution to both the public and the private sector."

Azure Orbital Cloud Access runs on a monthly subscription basis and a pay-as-you-go satellite communications model. It also integrates with SD-WAN technology from Juniper Networks to help prioritize connectivity between fibre, cellular, and satellite networks.

The Azure Orbital Cloud Access Preview is currently available for Azure Government customers.

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