AWS Runs Analytics Software On Satellite In Orbit

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing division of Amazon, has this week reported a notable development for the space industry.

The cloud unit revealed during the AWS’ re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, that it had run software on a satellite in orbit to speed up data analysis – in ‘first-of-its kind’ experiment.

CNBC reported that Amazon Web Services, used prototype software on a satellite to analyse imagery. The software automatically reviewed images to decide which were the most useful to send back down to the ground, and also reduced the size of images.

AWS experiment

AWS conducted the prototype satellite software demonstration through partnerships with Italian company D-Orbit and Swedish venture Unibap.

The experiment was reportedly conducted over the past 10 months in low Earth orbit, using a D-Orbit satellite as the test platform.

And the success of the experiment is likely to have implications for the space industry.

This is because spacecraft such as space stations or satellites, have traditional had to contend with data storage and communications limitations whilst in orbit.

Indeed these ‘spacecraft’ typically have to be in a certain location or time window, in order to establish a downlink to the planet, usually via a connection to a ground station.

This approach comes limitations such as the speed of the connection, or the time window in which the spacecraft is above the ground station, CNBC reported.

AWS said that its artificial intelligence and machine learning services helped reduce the size of images by up to 42 percent.

This will speed up data transfers, and the AI system can decide which images should be transmitted.

“We demonstrated the capability to increase the [satellite’s] productivity,” AWS VP Max Peterson told CNBC.

Peterson added that the experiment also showed that AWS can help companies perform “insight operations on the satellite, instead of having to wait until you can downlink back to Earth.”

“We can train models to recognize practically anything … [giving] the ability to both improve the utilization of a really expensive asset in space, and be able to take huge amounts of data and get insights and translate it into action faster,” Peterson reportedly said.

Project Kuiper

According to media reports, AWS has also previously conducted other space-based cloud computing experiments.

Amazon sent an edge-computing device known as an AWS Snowcone to the International Space Station in April.

Last month Amazon’s satellite broadband program, Project Kuiper, revealed it will launch two prototype satellites in early 2023 onboard a new rocket.

Also in October Amazon said it will expand its Project Kuiper manufacturing capability, with the development of a dedicated, 172,000-square-foot satellite production facility in Kirkland, Washington.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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