From the beginning of time, humans always looked up to the sky, watching stars and planets, naming them and organizing them into constellations. We were always curious about what’s outside our home – the Earth. Space missions were prominent during the 1960s. During that time, government agencies ran these missions. Space explorations gradually declined after that decade due to the huge budgets needed for them. From 2010, the field is levelled, and new private players like SpaceX, Blue Origins, Boeing etc., have become the frontrunners. Now, it is in this domain Azure has started to extend its capabilities.
Azure Space is a new platform created by Microsoft to enable cloud computing capabilities accessible from anywhere in the world. Microsoft has partnered with SpaceX, Airbus, Esri, Blackshark.ai and many other companies working in space and geographic information system domains to provide satellite connectivity and geospatial capabilities.
Azure Orbital is a cloud-based Ground Station as a service. Satellite operators need to build a ground station to communicate with their satellites and process the data coming from space. Setting up a ground station is very expensive. Azure Orbital addresses these two use cases by providing cloud computing capabilities and communication services with satellites. End users can make contact with their satellite in just two steps:
1. Register a satellite
2. Create a contact profile
Users can also leverage the already proven Azure services like Azure Storage, Firewall, ExpressRoute etc. It helps scientists and researchers to get insights from space data and industries like oil and gas and logistics.
Other features provided by Azure Space are SpaceEye and Project Turing. SpaceEye helps us to “see” satellite view of the ground even if the sky is covered with clouds using a combination of historical optical imagery and data source from the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument from the Sentinel-1 mission. Project Turing enhances the geospatial data.
What’s in it for us?
ISRO has already initiated the launching of satellites built by private players. Azure Space has opened up a channel where in which private players will be able to communicate, do experiments and get geospatial data easily without the need of setting up ground stations. Imagine if we will be able to start and stop our ground station just like the way we do with a virtual machine. The possibilities are numerous.
Gone are those days when space explorations and inventions can be contributed by only scientists in government agencies. With Azure Space and more innovations like it, space will be more democratized, and everyone will be able to contribute to space explorations and research, thereby providing precise information that can be useful for common people to astronomers.