Microsoft Cloud Service Aims for Support of Space and Satellite Ventures


Microsoft has brought together a team of space industry veterans and experts to work together with its in-house product engineers to develop cloud capabilities suited for the needs of space.

In an increasingly information-powered world, the need for reliable and diverse pathways to achieve Internet access has never been more important and will continue to be necessary in our lives for the foreseeable future. Despite over a quarter million kilometers of various optical fiber helping connect people all over the world, many communities, and researchers—especially those living in rugged, remote areas—find it difficult to the connect to the world at large via the Internet. Microsoft’s offering seeks to address their increased need for access to data and bandwidth that were not previously available.

To achieve its goals, Microsoft has partnered with various industry leaders to provide new networking capabilities as part of the Azure Space framework. One of those partnerships is with SpaceX Starlink, which will provide high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband for the new Azure Modular Datacenter (MDC). Microsoft’s existing partnership with SES will support the O3b Medium Earth Orbit constellation to increase connectivity between Microsoft’s cloud data center regions and edge devices.

By supplying a resilient framework with multivendor, multi-orbit, multi-band, cloud-enabled capability, and combining it with Azure’s high performance computing, machine learning, and data analytics, Microsoft hopes to open and make accessible many new opportunities for public and private sector organizations that previously faced many barriers to entry.

The Azure MDC is crucial in Microsoft’s plan to quickly deploy Azure Space edge capabilities to the remotest locations. Building on Microsoft’s experience with building remote data centers like the underwater Natick, the MDC is a self-contained unit that will be able to give users access to high-intensity, secure cloud computing in challenging environments where basic infrastructure like power and physical buildings is lacking.

The MDC is a self-contained unit that will allow organizations to quickly deploy a complete data center to remote locations or augment the existing infrastructure in a transportable solution. The MDC can be connected via terrestrial fiber or low-bandwidth networks, or have no connection at all. The satellite connectivity through SATCOM provides MDC users with accessibility and the resiliency of essential Hyperscale activities in Azure.

Microsoft hopes that Azure Space will lower barriers to entry by providing reliable, repeatable technologies to help the space community launch its projects faster with more mission assurance through the data that Azure Space’s modules provide. The Azure Orbital Emulator is the first of these offerings. It is an emulation environment that conducts massive satellite constellation simulations, which will allow developers to evaluate and train their AI algorithms and satellite networking before they even launch a satellite.

Azure’s ability to emulate the thousands of interconnected satellite communications using real-time scene generation can be implemented in virtualized environments or implemented in satellite hardware, allowing design teams to focus on their own projects instead of redoing previously completed work. The Azure Orbital Emulator has already seen use in the Azure Government environment.

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