Satellites and satellite information are used by more and more companies, academic and research institutions, and governments around the world. The various uses of satellites and the information gathered by them include weather forecasting, high altitude photography, and communications networks.
Alongside players like SpaceX, Google, Facebook and OneWeb, online retailing and cloud computing giant Amazon unit Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also working on various satellite and space projects. Earlier this month, Amazon founder, chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos presented to Amazon investors a spacecraft designed to land on the Moon, developed by aerospace company Blue Origin together with Amazon. Last month, Technology Review reported Amazon's intention of launching thousands of Internet satellites into space.
Now, Amazon AWS has announced the general availability launch of AWS Ground Station , a network of ground stations for satellites. The ground stations will be fully operated and maintained by Amazon, and will be hired to satellite operators as a service on demand, enabling them to download and upload data from and to their satellites. Amazon first announced the service at a conference it held in Las Vegas in late 2018, and last Thursday it announced its official availability around the world.
AWS thus hopes to support as many satellite operators as possible, thereby accelerating use of its satellite technology and cloud infrastructure, and encourage the usage of its cloud computing and storage services to store and process the data produced and transferred from the satellites.
Besides giant corporations, there are more and more startups developing creative ways of using satellites in their businesses. Such companies, which cannot bear the financial burden of building their own ground stations, represent a target market for the new service. On its launch, Amazon announced that it had started working with seven initial customers, among them Israeli startup NSLComm, which is developing nano-satellite technology for high-volume communications.
"What Amazon is trying to do is to increase the number of endpoints connected to its cloud services. As soon as my data are downloaded from the satellite to Amazon, it receives the satellites' operating data (TMTC - telemetry and telecommand) and also the data transferred via the satellite, all the communications of the end-user on the Internet," says NSLComm co-founder and CEO Dr. Raz Itzhaki-Tamir, talking to "Globes". "In addition, Amazon recently declared that it was about to launch its own satellites as well, so they want to take part in producing the information, and are constantly deepening their hold on the data along the entire food chain.
"There are currently about 3,500 active satellites in space. The reason that they are working with us is that we are a customer that will transfer a large amount of information through them: we bring to the deal many small satellites, and high quality, and so the quantity of data that will be transmitted through us is such as no-one else can provide."
In order to obtain continuous and immediate access to data or to the satellites, a continuous connection between the satellites and the network is required. Satellites are connected to networks via satellite ground stations, which transmit data to satellites and receive from them by means of an antenna on one side and a connection to communications networks and the Internet on the other.
Continuous communication with satellites depends on the satellites being able to connect to many antennae deployed around the world. Constructing and operating satellite ground stations, however, requires large financial investment, something that impedes the work of various satellite companies. Amazon claims that using a cloud-based network of ground stations such as it is setting up will cost the companies 80% less than constructing, operating and maintaining a single ground station themselves.
NSLComm was founded by Itzhaki-Tamir in 2015 together with Daniel Rockberger and Danny Spiritus. In 2006, Itzhaki-Tamir set up the nano-satellite division at Israel Aerospace Industries, while Rockberger and Spiritus both had experience in the space industry. The company has raised $15 million since it was founded, from the JVP, Liberty, OurCrowd, and Hawk GF funds, from El Al Group’s technology investment arm Cockpit Innovation, and from the Israel Space Agency. About twenty people currently work at the company at its offices in Airport City near Ben Gurion Airport. It expects to launch its first satellite using Amazon's infrastructure in the coming months.
"Communications ought to be a basic human right. In fact, all of civilization developed around communication routes, and our social vision is that lowering communications prices will enable everyone to be connected to the Internet," says Itzhaki-Tamir. "The cost of satellite communications has three components: production, launch, and operation. We are dealing with the first two; Amazon comes in with operation."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 27, 2019
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019