AWS comes forward to help India chart its new space journey

As the Indian government embarks on a new space exploration journey by wooing the private sector with liberal policies, Amazon Web Services (AWS) which is the Cloud arm of Amazon, has come forward to help the country transform its space sector and tap into the multi-billion-dollar opportunity.

AWS this year announced a new business segment called ‘Aerospace and Satellite Solutions’, dedicated to accelerating innovation in the global aerospace and satellite industry.

For Teresa Carlson, Vice President for Public Sector and Regulated Industries, AWS, the new vertical will bring AWS services and solutions to the space enterprise and India is on their priority list as the country opens up the space sector for the private players and startups.

“We have so many lessons learnt from our startups in the agriculture sector in India and we can apply the same learnings and key best practices with the startups in the field of space, and really lead them,” Carlson told IANS during a virtual interview.

“We’ll be listening to ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and our partners in India in terms of what we can provide them but from everything we know, they need humongous data storage and to make sense of huge space datasets, they need edge computing and have to work on their virtual mission operations just like NASA is doing,” she elaborated.

Several young startups such as Agnikul, Pixxel, Bellatrix Aerospace and Vesta Space have raised funds and joined the fray.

The Department of Space this month signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Chennai-based small rocket company Agnikul to access the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centres.

The new AWS space business segment, according to Carlson, would help India reimagine space system architectures, transform space enterprises, launch new services that process space data on Earth and in orbit and provide secure, scalable and cost-efficient cloud solutions to support government missions and companies.

On May 16, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that Indian private sector will be a co-traveller in India’s space sector journey and a level-playing field will be provided for them in satellites, launches, and space-based services.

According to Sitharaman, the private sector will be allowed to use the facilities of ISRO and other relevant assets to improve their capacities.

On the other hand, ISRO chief K. Sivan had said many startup companies have expressed interest in the space sector while big corporates are yet to come to the front.

Sivan said the global space sector market size is about $350 billion and India’s share is less than three per cent and the share will not improve if ISRO remains the sole player.

The government is also working on a new launch vehicle policy and a space exploration policy while the existing Satellite Communication Policy and Remote Sensing Data Policy are being amended to make it more transparent.

The time is ripe for tech giants like AWS to step in and provide tailor-made solutions to transform the space enterprises in India.

“We will help ISRO and private Indian space companies with secure satellite connectivity, the imaging and processing of space data via intelligent analytics using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a cost-effective way,” Carlson said.

“The world is entering an exciting and daring new age in space. New companies have moved into the space business and are launching more satellites and human missions into orbit than ever before” and India must tap into this huge opportunity, she added.

AWS Ground Station, a fully managed service already provides satellite owners and operators global access to their space workloads.

AWS Ground Station is already being used by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and many other customers.

Satellites are being used by more and more businesses, universities and governments for a variety of applications, including weather forecasting, surface imaging, and communications. To do this today, customers must build or lease ground antennas to communicate with the satellites.

“Low-latency internet, high-resolution Earth observation, and ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) communications companies will launch thousands of new satellites over the next five years to provide sensing capabilities to customers around the world,” Carlson emphasised.

Once customers upload satellite commands and data through AWS Ground Station, they can quickly download large amounts of data over the high-speed AWS Ground Station network, immediately process it in Amazon Cloud.

Using AWS Ground Station, customers can save up to 80 per cent of their ground station costs by paying for antenna access time on demand.