Amazon Web Services is creating its very own space force for cloud computing

Amazon Web Services today unveiled a new business unit devoted to developing data infrastructure and cloud services for the aerospace and satellite industry — and headed by someone who helped set up the U.S. Space Force.

The Aerospace and Satellite Solutions business segment will be headed by retired Air Force Major Gen. Clint Crosier, former director of Space Force Planning.

“We find ourselves in the most exciting time in space since the Apollo missions,” Crosier said in today’s announcement from Amazon. “I have watched AWS transform the IT industry over the last 10 years and be instrumental in so many space milestones. I am honored to join AWS to continue to transform the industry and propel the space enterprise forward.”

The unveiling was announced by Teresa Carlson at the AWS Public Sector Summit Online. “Whether on Earth or in space, AWS is committed to understanding our customers’ missions,” she said.

Amazon Web Services started down the road to space-centric cloud computing a year and a half ago when it established AWS Ground Station, a cloud service designed for satellite owners and operators.

AWS Ground Station has been building up a network of literal ground stations for satellite communications, as well as a portfolio of customers ranging from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Capella Space, a provider of on-demand satellite radar imagery. Today AWS highlighted Capella’s move to go “all-in” on its infrastructure, including AWS Ground Station as well as ground-based cloud services.

“We are redefining what is possible in the satellite industry, and reducing the cost and time required for organizations to benefit from satellite data,” Capella CEO Payam Banazadeh said in a news release.

Walter Scott, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Maxar Technologies, said AWS is providing the “foundational building blocks” for its satellite data system.

“This new AWS business will support Maxar as we launch our new WorldView Legion satellites next year, which will triple our 30-cm imagery collection and greatly increase our currency and scalability for government missions and commercial use cases,” Scott said.

AWS’ Carlson said the world is entering “an exciting and daring new age in space,” highlighted by initiatives including space-based IoT and Earth observation services, low-latency satellite internet services and NASA’s Artemis campaign to send astronauts to the moon.

She promised that the new aerospace and satellite business unit would work with customers and partners to reimagine space system architectures and launch new services that process space data on Earth — and in orbit.

Amazon and its billionaire founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, have a couple of other ventures in the works to capitalize on the final frontier.

Last year, Amazon revealed that it’s working on a venture called Project Kuiper that aims to put thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit to provide global internet access. Then there’s Blue Origin, Bezos’ privately held space venture, which is developing a suborbital spaceship called New Shepard, an orbital-class rocket called New Glenn and a lunar lander called Blue Moon.

For now, AWS’ new business segment supports Project Kuiper and Blue Origin as customers, just as Amazon.com is treated as a customer. Looking longer-term, those efforts have additional potential for two-way synergy, with Kuiper conceivably providing satellite resources for cloud services and communication, and Blue Origin providing the means to get that hardware into space.

Competitors to AWS’ space force would include SpaceX, which already has hundreds of satellites in orbit for its Starlink broadband data network; and Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform, which has been working on space-related services with partners including NASA and SES, one of the world’s top satellite network operators.

This article was written by Alan Boyle and originally appeared in GeekWire.

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