Today, on October 20, a report from the Financial Associated Press informs that Microsoft is going to team up with SpaceX on a satellite-based cloud service plan with a view to competing with Amazon.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is going to offer services using the low-orbit spacecraft developed by SpaceX and the traditional satellite fleets that circle around the earth at higher altitudes. The initiative has been launched today to target commercial and government space businesses. This move by Microsoft comes three months after Amazon Web Services announced its space plans.
The Redmond based tech giant also plans to work with Luxembourg’s SES SA SESG which operates a larger satellites network under the brand O3b. Tom Keane, a corporate vice president has been reported to tell the Wall Street Journal that Microsoft is “focused deeply on governments and defense”. According to him, the space effort gives an opportunity “to bring commercial technology and innovation to the military.”
This initiative is Microsoft’s answer to the AWS (Amazon Web Services) Ground Station project, launched by Amazon in November 2018. Earlier in August, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave authorization to Microsoft for performing the proof-of-concept demonstrations of this service by connecting a Spanish imaging satellite to two proposed ground stations located in the Washington state to show that it can download satellite data directly for immediate processing.
Amazon and Microsoft are the two biggest cloud computing service providers in the United States. According to the data from market intelligence provider Gartner, Amazon owned 45 percent share in the cloud market, and Microsoft enjoyed 18 percent, as of 2019.
Microsoft has laid out a plan to build a network of these ground stations in an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This is to show satellite firms the potential advantages of connecting to the Azure cloud. As can be easily inferred, this directly aims to the market that is dominated by Amazon Web Services.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has plans of building 12 ground stations. Two of those already began service this year. According to CNBC, Amazon’s clients are NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Capella Space, Spire Global, Maxar Technologies, among others.
Yves Pitsch, a principal product manager on Microsoft’s Azure team earlier wrote in a company post, “Data collected from space to observe Earth is instrumental in helping address global challenges such as climate change and furthering of scientific discovery and innovation. The cloud is central to both modern communications scenarios for remote operations and the gathering, processing, and distributing the tremendous amounts of data from space.”
The following six satellite companies: Amergint, Kratos, KSAT, Kubos, Viasat, and US Electrodynamics have been enlisted as partners of the tech giant.