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MIT Technology Review

Amazon is launching pay-as-you-go cloud computing in space

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Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing arm, just announced a new offering aimed at satellite operators.

The news: At its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week, the web giant unveiled a service that lets owners of satellites rent time on Amazon-managed ground stations to send and receive data from orbit. The service, called AWS Ground Station, works in much the same way as Amazon’s well-established business for tapping computing capacity via the cloud.

Ground control … According to an AWS blog post, big businesses with a large number of satellites typically build and operate their own ground stations at a cost of a million dollars or more for each one. Smaller companies that can’t afford their own often end up signing inflexible, long-term contracts with third parties that own and run such stations.

… to major flexibility: The new service will let satellite operators get access to a ground station at short notice on a pay-as-you-go basis. Those who know how much capacity they will need well in advance can book ahead and pay less for downlink time. AWS is kicking off with a pair of ground stations and says it will have a total of a dozen up and running by the middle of next year. It will monitor how demand develops before deciding how many more stations to add.

Space, the busy frontier: AWS is betting the next few years will see a proliferation of satellites in Earth orbit as companies like SpaceX prepare to launch large numbers of them and governments hatch ambitious plans for building new constellations.