Microsoft Azure Space
Credits: Microsoft

Private space industry has evolved massively over the past half a decade, primarily thanks to SpaceX. The industry is set to see a much higher boom in coming years as humans start to actually work towards becoming a space-faring civilization. Most big tech companies are directly/indirectly involved in the private space sector, albeit Microsoft. Until now.

Microsoft Azure, one of the largest cloud computing service provider in the world, is taking to the skies (literally) and has announced the expansion of its cloud computing service to the space industry, under a platform named ‘Azure Space’.

To achieve this goal, it has partnered with SpaceX, which will provide Starlink’s broadband connection to the new Azure Modular Data Centers (MDC).

The Seattle-based company said in a blog post, “The space community is growing rapidly and innovation is lowering the barriers of access for public- and private-sector organizations. With Azure Space, we have the ambition to make space connectivity and compute increasingly attainable across industries including agriculture, energy, telecommunications, and government.”

The new innovation areas under Azure space include simulating space missions, discovering insights from satellite data, and fueling innovation both on the ground and in orbit.

Microsoft’s partnership with SpaceX Starlink will provide high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband to the new Azure MDC. The company is also extending its partnership with SES and will now support the O3B Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation O3b MEO, to expand connectivity between Microsoft’s cloud datacenter regions and cloud edge devices.

Microsoft said, “Resilient satellite communications, coupled with Azure’s ability to provide high-performance computing, machine learning, and data analytics opens many new opportunities for both public- and private-sector organizations.”

Moreover, to help space companies conduct launch missions faster and with complete assurance, Microsoft has introduced the new Azure Orbital Emulator. The emulator provides an emulation environment to conduct massive satellite constellation simulations with the help of software and hardware, before risking millions of dollars on a project. Azure can also simulate an entire satellite network like complex, real-time scene generation using pre-collected satellite imagery. Microsoft says the emulator will allow satellite developers to analyze and fix AI functions and satellite networking to perfection before launching it into space. Microsoft said the Azure Orbital Emulator is already in use by its customers in the ‘Azure Government environment’.

The company said, “Our approach helps to address the some of the toughest technology challenges that our customers face in space: dealing with the vast amount of data generated from satellites, bringing cloud services and bandwidth to the most remote locations, and designing highly complex space systems. Coupled with our ecosystem of partners than can help bring this data to ground faster, we’re making it easier to find insights and make connections that weren’t possible before.”

The company also announced the new AMD (Azure Modular Datacenters), which are essentially moving datacenters, and can be deployed to any part of the world. These have been launched with the goal of providing more mobile cloud computing opportunities to remote areas, which goes especially well with the Starlink partnership. Microsoft says the new Azure MDC supports high-intensity, secure cloud computing in challenging environments. Moreover, the technology does not require any specific infrastructural or power facilities. Instead, it aims to overcome these hurdles and runs primarily on terrestrial fiber and low-bandwidth networks.

A self-contained datacenter in a field