Announcements, Azure Orbital Ground Station, Networking, Partners
Azure Space technologies advance digital transformation across government agencies
By Stephen Kitay Senior Director, Microsoft Azure Space
6 min read
Since its launch, Microsoft Azure Space has been committed to enabling people to achieve more, both on and off the planet. This mission has transcended various industries, including agriculture, finance, insurance, and healthcare.
The announcements we’ve made thus far have helped showcase how our mission encompasses not only commercial industries but also empowers government missions through recent contract wins. By bringing new commercial technologies, such as Microsoft 365, Azure Government Cloud, and Azure Orbital, government agencies are increasing the speed, flexibility, and agility of their missions. Today, we are announcing additional momentum on this motion, including:
- Viasat RTE integration with Azure Orbital Ground Station, bringing high rate, low latency data streaming downlink from spacecraft directly to Azure.
- A partnership with Ball Aerospace and Loft Federal on the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) National Defense Space Architecture Experimental Testbed (NeXT) program, which will bring 10 satellites with experimental payloads into orbit and provide the associated ground infrastructure.
- Advancements on the Hybrid Space Architecture for the Defense Innovation Unit, U.S. Space Force and Air Force Research Lab, with new partners and demonstrations that showcase the power, flexibility, and agility of commercial hybrid systems that work across multi-path, multi-orbit, and multi-vendor cloud enabled resilient capabilities.
- Azure powers Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) to deliver Space cybersecurity and threat intelligence operating capabilities. The watch center’s collaborative environment provides visualization of environmental conditions and threat information to rapidly detect, assess and respond to space weather events, vulnerabilities, incidents, and threats to space systems.
Viasat Real-Time Earth general availability on Azure Orbital Ground Station
Microsoft has partnered with Viasat Real-Time Earth (RTE) to offer customers new real-time capabilities to manage spacecraft and missions with Azure Orbital Ground Station as a service. This includes the ability to view, schedule, and modify passes at Viasat RTE sites for downlinking data to Azure and bring real-time streaming directly to Azure across secure Microsoft WAN.
As commercial satellite operators require increasingly higher downlink rates to bring mission data such as hyperspectral or synthetic aperture radar into Azure—this partnership with Viasat increases the opportunity to access an established global network on KA-band antennas. This unlocks new business opportunities for missions that require fast time to insight whilst also maintaining a high level of security.
“Viasat Real-Time Earth is enabling remote sensing satellite operators who are pushing the envelope of high-rate downlinks. Our strong relationship with Azure Orbital enables those same customers, through increased access to our ground service over the Azure Orbital marketplace and a dependable, high-speed terrestrial network, to reduce the time it takes to downlink and deliver massive amounts of data.”—John Williams, Vice President Viasat Real-Time Earth.
Learn more about the power of Azure Orbital Ground Station and how it can unlock new missions by bringing real time date from space to earth, read more here.
True Anomaly delivers a fully integrated technology platform that combines training and simulation tools, advanced spacecraft manufacturing infrastructure and autonomy systems to revolutionize space security and sustainability.
True Anomaly is using the Viasat RTE integration with Azure Orbital Ground Station via Microsoft APIs today to advance their business with the government.
“Together, True Anomaly, Viasat, and Microsoft will employ cutting-edge modeling, simulation, and visualization tools available to train Space Force guardians and other operators. Our partnership will extend to satellite control, leveraging Microsoft Azure Orbital to provide seamless and efficient satellite management solutions for our fleet of Autonomous Orbital Vehicles. By joining forces, we unlock a path to disrupt space operations and training for years to come.“— Even Rogers, Co-founder and CEO of True Anomaly.
This partnership combines True Anomaly’s innovative Mission Control System with Microsoft’s Azure Orbital and Viasat, offering a seamless satellite management solution for space security operations and training.
Microsoft, Loft Federal, and Ball Aerospace partner on Space Development Agency NExT
The Space Development Agency is charged to create and sustain effective and affordable military space capabilities that provide persistent, resilient, global, low-latency surveillance. The National Defense Space Architecture Experimental Testbed (NExT) program will carry 10 satellites with experimental payloads into orbit.
SDA NExT builds upon Microsoft’s Azure Space products and partnerships. Central to Microsoft’s solution for NExT is the combination of Azure Orbital Ground Station and Azure Government air-gapped clouds which will allow SDA to do their mission work in a secure cloud environment.
Through NExT, together the SDA and US Space Force will securely operate a government-owned satellite constellation with Azure Orbital Ground Station’s global network for the first time. Additionally, Microsoft 365 will also provide them with productivity tools to enable personnel to share information, which will help ensure a coordinated response.
Microsoft Azure Government cloud will enable SDA to extract spaceborne data insights from the cloud to the ultimate edge and to scale innovation faster and better meet the critical needs of the Guardians and strengthen national security.
New advancements and partnerships for Hybrid Space Architecture
Last year, we announced our contract supporting the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Innovation Unit (in partnership with United States Space Force and Air Force Research Lab) on the Hybrid Space Architecture (HSA). The goal of the program is to bring our advanced, trusted cloud, and innovative Azure Space capabilities, alongside a space partner ecosystem, to serve as a foundation to realize their Hybrid Space Architecture vision.
This year, Microsoft completed the first demonstration for the program focused on resilient communication and data paths which showcased:
- Multi-orbit, multi-vendor, resilient, edge-to-cloud connectivity including use of Azure Orbital Cloud Access through satellite communications partner SpaceX and SES.
- SpatioTemporal Asset Catalogs (STAC) standards for operating a private Planetary Computer to efficiently manage large geospatial datasets and enable space vehicle tasking across multiple providers.
- AI-enabled field user application to allow users to rapidly and easily discover and task satellite collection through an intuitive chat interface.
Microsoft is committed to a strong, and growing, partner ecosystem. As part of this first demonstration, the Hybrid Space Architecture ecosystem included the capabilities from Umbra and BlackSky.
Future demonstrations will incorporate all Azure Space capabilities including Azure Orbital Cloud Access, Azure Orbital Ground Station, Azure Orbital Space SDK, our leading security solutions, and vast threat intelligence, as well as multiple leading space partners.
Azure powers ISAC to deliver Space cybersecurity and threat intelligence operating capabilities
As a society, our increased reliance of space-based systems for commercial, government, and critical infrastructure sectors underscores the importance of sharing threat intelligence to safeguard space infrastructure, which supports billions of people globally.
The Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) was established several years ago, with Microsoft as a founding member, to facilitate timely collaboration across the global space industry to enhance the ability to prepare for and respond to vulnerabilities, incidents, and cybersecurity threats.
On March 30, 2023, the Space ISAC’s Operational Watch Center reached its initial operational capability hosted in Azure. The watch center’s collaborative environment provides visualization of environmental conditions and threat information to rapidly detect, assess and respond to space weather events, vulnerabilities, incidents, and threats to space systems. The Watch Center is supported by a dedicated team of 10 in-person analysts with additional virtual support enabled by Azure cloud architecture.
As the largest cloud architecture in the world, Microsoft has gained an exceptional vantage point and garnered unique experience on what it takes to secure cloud workloads and containers. Microsoft has a unique view into emerging threats based on analysis of over 65 trillion threat signals daily across over 200 global consumer and commercial services and shares this insight with the Space ISAC community.
Working with the Space ISAC Watch Center, we can rapidly share threat intelligence with the space community. In addition, the new Microsoft Security Copilot capability will be available to our Space ISAC partners, to enable cyber defense at machine speed and scale.
As the world grows more complex regarding global security, climate change, sustainability, and more, the imperative to partner across public and private sector has become even more clear. Government agencies have the most demanding missions and need to effectively manage massive and growing datasets, resiliently connect across the globe, respond quickly to changing events, and provide a secure and trusted platform for varied users. With the rapid advancements in space technologies and cloud computing, Azure Space is proud to work with an industry ecosystem team and committed to support these government agencies to innovate and address their hardest missions.