Microsoft announced new Azure Space solutions and revealed partnerships with Blackshark.ai, ESRI, Airbus, Orbital Insight, Kongsberg Satellite Services and STE iDirect, demonstrating its commitment to a broadening role in the space industry. “Microsoft is committed to space, and we’re growing our partner ecosystem and innovation,” said Steve Kitay, who works as the senior director in charge of Azure Space.
Among the new collaboration deals revealed on December 9 is with the Airbus company. Airbus’ high-resolution satellite imagery, as well as elevation data, will be integrated into Azure Maps, Microsoft’s geospatial services platform. Airbus is going to provide data from the Pleiades 50-centimeter resolution, Spot 1.5-meter resolution, and also Pleiades Neo 30-centimeter resolution satellite imagery, and also elevation data from WorldDEM4Ortho that has been orthorectified.
“What’s intriguing about this is that it’s not just about getting data in,” Kitay explained. “Then it’s a matter of deciphering the data and drawing conclusions from it.” Microsoft formed relationships with Blackshark.ai, Orbital Insight, and ESRI a firm that blends satellite imagery featuring the artificial intelligence to be able to build a digital twin of Earth, with that goal in mind.
“It’s all about putting data, geospatial analytics, AI, and cloud performance together in one location making spaceborne data and AI easier to access and operate in the cloud,” Kitay added. In 2020, Microsoft created Azure Orbital, the company’s ground station as a service, signaling its commitment to the space sector. Satellite data is moved to the cloud for both processing and storage using Azure Orbital.
Microsoft is almost ready to release public previews of the Azure Orbital after rigorous testing through private tests. “With no additional backhaul charges into Azure, anyone can now communicate and operate satellites by using a worldwide network of ground stations controlled by Microsoft and our partners,” Kitay added.
As per Kitay, Microsoft is expanding its relationship with KSAT to also include KSATlite ground stations. “With Viasat and [US Electrodynamics Inc.], this will grow next year.” This gives our customers a single application to be able to command as well as operate the worldwide network, making it easier to use and more efficient.”
Azure Space is also collaborating with ST Engineering iDirect on “satcom solutions for the virtualized modems which can be simply launched and used by our customers of Azure Orbital,” according to Kitay. Microsoft created two new products to showcase the benefits of the AI and cloud in enhancing satellite imagery. Customers can use SpaceEye to create cloud-free imagery on a daily basis. According to Microsoft’s December 9 news release, Turing uses super-resolution to the satellite imagery to enhance visuals and enhance human perception of imagery.