Microsoft wants to push beyond the clouds and into space. The latest in the company’s Azure Space efforts has seen the launch of Azure Orbital this week. Described as a “ground stations as a service”, Azure Orbital runs off its own datacenter located in Quincy, Washington.
Ground stations are an important part of space travel as they provide data and communication with orbital satellites. Back at Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced Azure Orbital will spearhead its Azure Space plans.
Microsoft is also using its Azure Modular Datacenters as part of the Azure Space initiative. These are caravan-sized mobile datacenters for compute and storage that can deploy into remote locations.
While Microsoft is leading Azure Orbital with its own datacenters, the company is also teaming with several partners. Among them a Kratos, Kubos, Viasat, and US Electrodynamics Inc.
Those partnerships were already announced at Ignite, but this week Microsoft is announcing a new Azure Orbital collaboration. Specifically, Thales Alenia Space will provide “near real-time geospatial data” to customers of Microsoft’s platform.
Geospatial data gathered by Microsoft is processed through Thales Alenia Space’s “DeeperVision” platform.
“This [geospatial] information is enriched by high-speed, high-volume artificial intelligence and machine learning to create an unprecedented impact on and beyond the planet,” says Clarence Duflocq, vice president for strategy and innovation at Thales Alenia Space, in a released statement.
Microsoft describes Azure Orbital as a fully managed platform for remote sensing, earth observation, and global communications. Tom Keane Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure, explains how Deeper Vision will work within the platform:
“Deeper Vision performs automated content extraction from images and enriches image data. The user can request images from specified content, which will prompt Deeper Vision’s automation and allow the user to focus on tasks where human expertise is critical. This ability becomes crucial for scenarios like change detection and site monitoring. When new imagery arrives from specific areas, Deeper Vision can compare it with previously acquired imagery to highlight places that changed.”
Keane points out that Microsoft will continue to build ground stations to support Azure Orbital customers.
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