Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Lockheed Martin are teaming up to integrate the new AWS Ground Station service with Lockheed Martin’s (also) new Verge antenna network. New Space startups with constellations of satellites will be able to quickly download information from multiple satellites at the same time and then move that data into other AWS services, as well as upload satellite commands through AWS.
“AWS and Lockheed Martin have a long, deep relationship and over the past several years it’s become apparent that together we could bring greater capabilities to our public sector and commercial customers,” said Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector for AWS. “Today we are taking the next step in this relationship. The integration of AWS Ground Station with Lockheed Martin Verge brings the unique capabilities of both companies to mutual customers, enabling them to control satellites across both networks and downlink data faster with more resiliency.”
One of the challenges with new low earth orbit (LEO) satellite networks is being able to move data in real time or near real time off the satellite and to the ground for processing. For example, an imaging satellite taking pictures of Antarctica might have to wait minutes to hours until it passes over a ground station in the U.S. or Europe to download its imagery.
Several companies are building out ground station capacity, while others such as Analytical Space, Audacy, and Kepler Communications are building relay services using a (separate, dedicated) constellation of data relay satellite to pick up data and move it around and to the ground faster. However, satellite relay is pricing out to be much more expensive than Ye Olde Ground Station.
Lockheed Martin, best known for its government-based work, is building Verge around a network of distributed, low-cost receivers plugged into the cloud – in this case, the AWS Cloud. Lots of receivers means more opportunities for satellite communications while the icing on the cake for many IoT and imaging companies already leveraging AWS is a direct connection between satellite communication and the AWS portfolio of storage, computing, analytics, and machine learning services.
Satellite operators will be able to go to AWS Ground Station for one-stop shopping, getting access to antennas in multiple countries through a single user-interface and only paying for the actual antenna time used. They will be able to avoid the costs of building and operating their own global ground station infrastructure, so there’s a net savings in both capital and operational expenses.
Access to the Lockheed Martin Verge network is available in “private beta” today for customers using S-band frequencies and can downlink in the Denver, Colorado area. There are a pair of ground stations active today, with 12 expected to be operation by mid-2019, according to an AWS blog post. General availability and expansion to higher frequency (and higher data rate) X-band services will be announced in the future.
Announced customers for AWS Ground Station include DigitalGlobe, BlackSky, Spire, Capella Space, Open Cosmos, and HawkEye 360, according to a report by Space News.