With the new Azure Orbital Space SDK |…

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earlier this year, We announced our vision to enable any developer to become a space developer via Azure. With over 90 million developers on GitHub, we’ve built a powerful ecosystem and are focused on empowering the next generation of developers for space. Today we’re announcing a critical step in democratizing access to space development with the preview of the Azure Orbital Space SDK (Software Development Kit) – a secure hosting platform and application toolkit that enables developers to build, deploy, and operate applications -Orbit .

By bringing modern cloud-based applications to spacecraft, we not only increase the efficiency, value, and speed of insights from space data, but also increase the value of that data by optimizing ground communications.

Many of the fundamental technological improvements that accelerated the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) over the past decade remain untapped by space development missions today. With the Azure Orbital Space SDK, we’re helping bring these improvements to space through modern agile software delivery, container-based development, use of high-level languages, and cloud-managed networking. Extending the power of the Azure cloud to space means spacecraft development takes less time, costs less, and involves more people in the space development ecosystem.

What is the Azure Orbital Space SDK?

The Azure Orbital Space SDK is designed to run on any spacecraft and provide a secure hosting platform and application kit for building, deploying, and operating applications in orbit. This “host platform” runs onboard the spacecraft, including a containerized, scalable computing infrastructure with resource and schedule management capabilities.

The Application Kit provides a set of templates, samples, and documentation to get you started as a space developer with templated applications for common workload patterns, such as: B. the processing of earth observation images to facilitate. There is also a “virtual test framework” that allows developers to easily test their applications on-premises against an instance of the host platform.

Architecture diagram for the Azure Orbital Space SDK.

How the Azure Orbital Space SDK is changing the game

By moving the application onboard the spacecraft via the Azure Orbital Space SDK, we enable time and cost savings while radically changing and expanding the spacecraft’s capabilities.

remote sensing

Remote sensing from space provides the perspective we need to better understand our world, supporting commercial, economic, humanitarian, intelligence and military scenarios – from damage assessment after weather events to vessel detection to crop monitoring and land classification.

Overhead satellite image of farmland.

Most remote sensing satellites have limited connectivity windows and bandwidth to transmit data back to the ground. As sensors become more accurate, the amount of data they generate dwarfs the bandwidth available. Being able to prioritize useful imagery or even send insights to the ground instead of the raw data significantly reduces costs, speeds up speeds and fundamentally increases the value of the satellite.

Through the Azure Orbital Space SDK, developers can write and host smarter applications onboard satellites, meaning they can collect data and use time more efficiently, and autonomously reconfigure even applications at the very edge. Rather than creating a unique solution each time developers deploy a spacecraft application, the Azure Orbital Space SDK creates a common template for performing imaging tasks, making it easier to transfer models and applications from one satellite configuration to another.

communication

Satellite communication is one of the most well-known and widely used space functions. It allows us to follow live events around the world, provides Internet and cloud connectivity to remote locations on Earth and in space, and supports the backbone of cellular networks. By bringing applications and intelligent computing onboard satellites via the Azure Orbital Space SDK, we enable more sophisticated management of satellite communications – resulting in lower costs and greater efficiencies for satellite-based communications networks

Azure Orbital Space Ecosystem.

Telecom networks have evolved towards software-defined networks and application-centric approaches to managing their communications infrastructures. The uptake of satellites in 5G standards is the impetus for satellite networks to follow the same digital transformation. The Azure Orbital Space SDK will provide a compute fabric with networking capabilities to host telecom workloads, allowing operators to more easily move applications from ground-based cellular sites to orbiting satellites, enabling better resiliency and network utilization.

Ultimately, by combining the Azure Orbital Space SDK with our portfolio of Azure Orbital products, we bring the power of cloud networking to the edge of space.

Azure Orbital Space SDK partnerships

In April we started the Azure Space partner community and unveiled our first cohort of space community partners, including loft orbital, Ball aerospace and Thales Alenia room. Today we’re announcing the newest member of our partner community –Discover– which will help us continue to shape the future of space technologies and services.

Discover

Satellite by Xplore.

Xplore delivers unique data including optical, video and hyperspectral imagery via XCRAFT, its high-performance multi-sensor satellite. The XCRAFT’s sophisticated sensors produce terabytes of data per day and will utilize powerful computing, storage and communication solutions to deliver the unique insights gained to customers.

Microsoft and Xplore are partnering to leverage the Azure Orbital Space SDK to gain new insights into how edge computing solutions can better enable both government and commercial customers to achieve their mission goals. Together, our teams will explore numerous on-orbit computing use cases, from downlink optimization to multi-sensor data fusion.

loft orbital

Loft orbital image of satellites, headquarters and satellite software.

Loft Orbital is a space infrastructure and services company that provides customers with fast, reliable and simplified access to space. Loft have developed a highly modular satellite platform that allows them to provide a true plug-and-play path to orbit for customer payloads and missions.

The partnership between Microsoft and Loft Orbital will allow developers to develop, test and deploy software-only “virtual payloads” to Loft Orbital’s infrastructure. Together we develop new technologies and products that improve the flexibility of operations in orbit and enable a seamless connection to the terrestrial cloud.

Earlier this year, Microsoft and Loft conducted a successful test to demonstrate the integration of Loft spacecraft with the Azure Orbital Ground Station. Over the next year, we will build on that success with the launch of YAM-6, a dedicated free-flying orbital testbed that will allow customers to explore how our shared space infrastructure, connectivity and on-orbit computing technologies will further enhance access to space will be easier than before.

Ball aerospace

Ball Aerospace is a systems integrator with many years of experience in the development and creation of government satellite programs and mission applications. Ball continues to innovate on behalf of its customers, combining its rich heritage of exquisite satellite systems with modern tools and processes, enabling a more agile approach to space mission development and operations.

Ball Aerospace and Microsoft are working together to execute a series of orbit testbed satellites that demonstrate this highly agile future. These missions will leverage the Azure Orbital Space SDK to demonstrate modular and reconfigurable on-orbit processing technologies required to support the complex missions for the United States government. The new software and hardware technologies demonstrated in these testbeds will open up new opportunities for customers and provide the opportunity to support future concepts for smaller, agile, multi-mission capabilities across federal space programs.

Thales Alenia room

Image of the International Space Station.

Thales Alenia Space is a leading provider of orbital infrastructure and develops high-performance edge computing solutions for space.

Microsoft is collaborating with Thales Alenia Space to demonstrate and validate on-orbit computing technologies for multiple remote sensing applications. Launching in late 2023 to the International Space Station (ISS), our team’s future orbital testbed will bring together Thale’s edge computing hardware and Microsoft’s Azure Orbital Space SDK platform with visible and hyperspectral sensors, enabling the next generation, the Exploring space and orbit Computers can improve our world. Developers on our platform will explore various use cases for on-orbit computing, from AI-based hyperspectral imaging to multi-sensor fusion algorithms, both compute-intensive workloads that benefit from Thales Alenia’s high-performance edge computing architecture.

In partnership with Microsoft Research (MSR), Microsoft and Thales Alenia Space, we are breaking down the barriers to space exploration through a range of outreach initiatives. One such initiative is the new Azure Space Academic Outreach program, which will work with research teams in remote sensing, computer vision, and climate science to demonstrate the potential of next-generation on-orbit computing for Earth observation. The first pilots to study this program are the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and George Mason University; However, we hope to open this up to more participants in the coming year.

What we’ve done and what’s next

The Azure Orbital Space SDK is a key part of the Azure Space portfolio, connecting our investments to create a value chain unique in the industry today – from space to ground to cloud. Over the past two years, we have evolved from a vision of combining the power of the cloud with the possibilities of space to bringing ours to reality our Azure Orbital Ground Stationthe recently announced Azure Orbital Cloud access, and today the Azure Orbital Space SDK. An integral part of Microsoft’s approach to these announcements was partnership, and that’s what we did Partnership with leading companies in the space industry to deliver incredible value to our customers, most recently by partnering with DIU to support their hybrid space architecture and the evolution of the Internet of Space.

The Azure Orbital Space SDK will transform what’s possible onboard spacecraft, but more importantly, it will transform the applications and insights we gather on Earth, and impact critical decisions and communications around the world.

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