Software giant, Microsoft launched its Azure Space Initiative on October 20. This new dedicated business unit of Azure, the company's cloud computing platform, is a partnership with SpaceX and its Starlink broadband satellite constellation.
“By partnering with leaders in the space community, we will extend the utility of our Azure capabilities with worldwide satellite connectivity, unblock cloud computing in more scenarios and empower our partners and customers to achieve more,” said Tom Keane, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Azure Global.
Azure Space is a set of products, plus newly announced partnerships designed to position Azure as a key player in the space- and satellite-related connectivity/computing part of the cloud market. This announcement came shortly after Amazon also launched a dedicated space business unit. Azure Space also competes with the AWS Ground Station, an initiative that Amazon launched last year.
Both Microsoft and Amazon have started selling technology that promises to help companies easily collect and analyze satellite data. For example, companies can predict the weather or optimize crop yields with the collection and analysis of satellite data.
Though, Azure Space hopes to be a company that appeals to those inside and outside the space industry. Designed for public companies and private industry customers in the agriculture, energy, telecommunications, and government markets, Azure Space is also meant to serve customers with remote-access and bandwidth needs.
Microsoft is working with the Elon Musk-founded company, SpaceX to provide satellite-powered Internet connectivity on Azure. The partnership aims to connect SpaceX's Starlink satellite broadband to Microsoft's new Azure Modular Datacenter. SpaceX also announced the launch of 60 additional Starlink satellites for low-Earth orbit deployment as it readies for a public beta of its satellite-broadband service.
Microsoft also has plans to help SpaceX produce a defense system for the federal government capable of detecting and tracking ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missiles. SpaceX is developing the system through a contract with the U.S. Space Development Agency, which assists the Pentagon with space technology for military purposes.
Microsoft also unveiled its Azure Modular Datacenter, better known as MDC. This is a mobile, data hub that contains its own networking equipment and is capable of connecting to the cloud via terrestrial fiber, wireless networks, or satellite links. These developments will ultimately support the growing demand for satellite connectivity and cloud-based systems.