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To bring data down from the heavens, come to GSaaS, says Microsoft as it launches Azure Orbital

Birds that aren't geostationary can tap Redmond's Ground-Station-as-a-Service for all their downloading needs

Ignite Microsoft has come up with a way to de-orbit data and land it in a cloud.

Named Azure Orbital and promising ground-station-as-a-service (GSaaS), the offering is aimed at satellite operators whose assets aren't in geostationary orbits and must therefore deal with multiple ground stations to retrieve their data.

Microsoft's aim aim is to make arranging the ground segment of satellite operations into Azure – integrating ground stations, networks, and procedures into a digital platform that the Windows giant will offer as-a-service. Microsoft has teamed with numerous existing operators and plans its own uplinks too. Scheduled spacecraft contacts in X, S, and UHF band frequencies will be available via shared high-gain antennas.

Reports of Microsoft's plans for space surfaced earlier this month, and its partners for the endeavor include SES and Viasat, which have already appeared among Redmond's plans to connect hard-to-access places to Azure via its ExpressRoute service.


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Microsoft is not the only game in town when it comes to dealing with ground stations and data. AWS Ground Station will cheerfully ingest satellite data and shunt it to S3 for storage and other AWS services to wrangle it. Like Microsoft, Amazon is also keen to highlight the ease of simply paying for the time used rather than having to build one's own ground station infrastructure.

Amazon also reckons that up to 80 per cent of the cost of ground station operations can be saved by this approach.

For Microsoft's part, it sees opportunities for its partners and highlighted SES, an outfit that has been co-locating and operating its next-generation comms gateways (including telemetry, tracking and command systems) alongside Microsoft's finest, as an example scenario for Azure Orbital.

The service, it said breathlessly, "enables you to take full advantage of our global network and services infrastructure to build new product offerings and service chains with the edge, 5G, SD-WAN, and AI." Assuming, of course, Azure doesn't have one of its special moments just as a satellite passes into range.

We asked Microsoft about this, and also how a customer might control where in the Azure infrastructure its data would end up. We will update should a response be forthcoming. For now, let us just note that ground-station-as-a-service shortens to GSaaS, which would mean any outage could become a "Come to GsaaS moment" for users impacted by said downtime. ®

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