re:Invent 2018: AWS Ground Station makes it easy and cheaper to download satellite data


At the annual AWS re:invent conference, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced AWS Ground Station – a game-changing new service that makes it easy and cost-effective for customers to download and use data from satellites. Ground station antennas located around the world have close proximity to AWS Global Infrastructure, making access to data fast and in real-time.

Satellites are being used by more and more businesses, universities and governments today, be it for weather forecasting, surface imaging, and communications.

But accessing satellite data is costly. This is because, customers must build or lease ground antennas to communicate with satellites. There are currently 2,000 satellites in orbit globally, with an expected 16,000 planned in the near future. Even so, antennas in a specific location need to wait for a satellite to pass over the desired location before it can downlink data. This means customers often require antennas in multiple countries to download data.

And access to ground antennas aren’t only the infrastructure requirement. There’s also need for servers, storage and networking in close proximity to ground antennas so that customers are able to process, store and transport the data from the satellite.

That’s not all. Customers must then build business rules and workflows to organise, structure, and route the data to the relevant parties before it can be used.

In short, satellite data requires significant capital investments and operational costs to build, manage and maintain.

Is there a better way?

Now there is.

AWS Ground Station
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A total game changer

AWS Ground Station answers several key pain points of accessing satellite and space data. First is not having to build or lease physical ground antennas. By making this a fully-managed ground-station-as-a-service offering, customers can save up to 80 percent of ground station costs. True to the AWS DNA, customers pay for access time on demand. There’s no upfront payments or long-term commitments.

Recency of data is critical for tracking and acting upon fast-moving conditions on the ground. This timeliness highly depends on frequent communications between ground stations and satellites. Without a large, global footprint of antennas, this would be impossible to achieve.

This is especially critical for fast-moving environmental, geopolitical, or news events that unfold on the ground. For instance, tracking refugee boats and migration routes; natural disasters like the Californian wildfires; or even for autonomous vehicles.

Because AWS Ground Station antennas are co-located at AWS Regions, customers will enjoy low-latency, local access to other AWS services to store and process this data.

With the 12 AWS Ground Stations around the world, customers can downlink current data in a timely manner and quickly combine the data with AWS services to process, store, analyse, and transport the data.

AWS services together with AWS Ground Station enables customers to get timely data sooner, rapidly experiment with new applications, and deliver products to market faster. Without the burden of buying, leasing, or maintaining complex and expensive infrastructure.

For instance, customers can use Amazon EC2 to control satellites and download data, store and share the data in Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), or Amazon S3. Then use Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) for secure communications between Amazon EC2 instances and AWS Ground Station antenna gateway. Customers can get real-time business insights with Amazon Kinesis Data Streams and Amazon Elastic Map Reduce, apply machine learning algorithms and models with Amazon SageMaker, add image analysis with Amazon Rekognition, and improve data sets by combining satellite data with IoT sensor data from AWS IoT Greengrass.

Another advantage of AWS is scalability. Customers can dynamically scale ground station antenna used based on need.

Initial customers of AWS Ground Station include DigitalGlobe, BlackSky, Spire, Capella Space, Open Cosmos, and HawkEye 360.

DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Technologies company, is the world’s leading provider of high-resolution Earth imagery, data and analysis. Jeff Culwell, Chief Operations Officer of DigitalGlobe said, “At DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Technologies company, we employ AWS Ground Station to augment the capabilities of our global network of ground station antennas. With greater connectivity to DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution constellation and more downlink capacity, our collection planning teams can now optimise the interval from planning to image collection, downlink, and analysis – especially valuable when time matters.”

DigitalGlobal says it currently downloads 80TB of data per day.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy said AWS Ground Station is “a total game-changer” and will democratise access to satellite and space data.

AWS Ground Station preview starts today. To get started with AWS Ground Station, visit

Follow AWS re:Invent updates here: and follow the official hashtag #reInvent

AT - Trapo

By Vernon

Vernon is the founder and chief editor of A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.