Microsoft connects satellites to its cloud in new service, Azure Orbital

Sept. 22 (UPI) — Microsoft on Tuesday launched Azure Orbital, a new service that connects satellites to its cloud to process data from space.

Data satellite operators retrieve from space to observe Earth is key in addressing global challenges like climate change and furthering scientific innovation, Azure Networking Principal Program Manager Yves Pitsch said in a blog post Tuesday.

The new ground station service, Azure Orbital, connects satellite operators directly to the Azure cloud computing network to communicate with their satellites and process and store data from them.

Microsoft announced at its virtual Ignite conference Tuesday that Azure Orbital will begin in a “private preview” to select Microsoft customers.

“With Azure Orbital, we’re taking our infrastructure to space, enabling anyone to access satellite data and capabilities from Azure,” Microsoft CEO Satyr Nadella said during the Microsoft Ignite 2020 conference.

Amazon captured 45% of the cloud-computing market in 2019, when Microsoft captured about 18%, according to technology industry research company Gartner.

CNBC reported earlier this month on Microsoft’s plans to challenge Amazon Web Services ground station service, which launched almost two years ago and similarly connects satellites to the cloud.

“Microsoft is well-positioned to support customer needs in gathering, transporting, and processing of geospatial data,” Pitsch said in the blog post Tuesday. “With our intelligent cloud and edge strategy currently extending over 60 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.”

Pistch added that Azure Orbital has signed up Amergint, Kratos, KSAT, Kubos, Viasat, and U.S. Electrodynamics as partners.

The Federal Communications Commission awarded Microsoft an experimental six-month license earlier this month to download imagery data from Urthecast’s Deimos-2 Earth observation satellite.

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