I had the privilege of attending AWS re:Mars in Las Vegas last week. Amazon re:Mars is Amazon’s event to showcase amazing work in the categories of Machine Learning, AI, Robotics and Space.
You can read my pre-coverage of Amazon re:Mars, where I sit down with Rachel Thornton, CMO of AWS, and Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of Database Analytics and Machine Learning, here or you can check out the interview here on Moor Insights & Strategy Watch the Insider podcast episode here. I would now like to discuss how AWS and Axiom are working together to run an edge computing and storage AWS Snowcone on the International Space Station.
Space as the last frontier
The next hundred years of space exploration will not be like the last 75 years of space exploration. Politicians and governments have played a key role in driving spaceflight efforts over the past half century. The motivation to get to the moon was primarily to beat the Russians and was carried out by NASA. If we look at today’s space efforts, much of it is driven by the potential of space travel from an economic and opportunistic perspective. I think that’s a great perspective. Since man first flew to the moon, government space exploration has declined, being overshadowed by private sector efforts.
The transition of space exploration from the government sector (NASA) to the private sector reminds me a lot of today’s postal system (USPS). The United States Postal Service was born out of a need to quickly get information from the thirteen colonies, including revolutionary rumours, to be kept from the British. It was called the Committee of Correspondence, then the Constitutional Post, and finally, after the founding of the United States, the USPS. Over the years, companies like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have perfected the art of delivering mail and packages to all 50 states and the world, although the USPS is still used today. Going back to space, the same commercial drive and potential that allowed Amazon to excel in package delivery powers Amazon and other space exploration companies. Compared to sending packages, space, the last frontier, is a whole different beast.
The Challenges of Space Trade
Space exploration is one of the main motivations for companies like Amazon to go into space. As with any solution, research must precede the development of a solution to the challenge to be solved. Amazon addresses data latency and bandwidth issues from researchers in space to computers on the ground. Amazon is working with companies like Axiom onboard Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) to address this issue with AWS Snowcone.
Axiom completed the first all-private astronaut mission to the ISS, which was a critical step toward Axiom’s efforts to build the first private space station, Axiom Station. Axiom says that an integral part of the Ax-1 mission was scientific research, and 25 research investigations and technology demonstrations were conducted with private Axiom astronauts, including a demonstration using AWS Snowcone.
AWS introduced Snowcone a few years ago as an addition to the AWS Snow family. You can read my coverage of the AWS Snowcone announcement here. It essentially enables edge computing and data transfer in disconnected environments. It’s a tiny little device, small enough to fit in an average backpack and light enough to board a space mission without a second thought. If anything, its presence on the ISS is the perfect application to demonstrate the capabilities of such a small and robust device. AWS Snowcone provided compute, storage, and networking capabilities on board the ISS and off ground facilities, allowing researchers to do their jobs without having to transfer data to the ground.
When it comes to breaking “the final frontier,” devices like AWS Snowcone define the latest technology in space. The AWS Snowcone has undergone rigorous testing by NASA, including a safety review process, thermal analysis, and rocket simulation testing.
Like the cloud, space is full of data
I had the privilege of sitting down with Clint Crozier, Director of Aerospace and Satellite at AWS, and he put into perspective how important it is and will be to manage and move data from space. You can watch the full interview with Clint Crosier in a special issue of Six Five On The Road here.
Crozier explained how we live in an environment where there will be a 10-fold increase in data from space over the next half decade. As I’ve said before, data is the digital gold of the future, and we’re on our way to making more data, not less. When I think of how data is already being collected in space, I think of Planet Labs, which is taking data from images of the Earth and analyzing that data across industries.
The cloud is already good at turning data into digital gold. This need to manage and collect data is precisely the problem the space community is already facing. Incredibly, the cloud is a central solution to our space challenges.
I believe AWS is looking ahead and working with many space exploration companies to lay the foundations for future space trade. The amount of applications and commerce that could be done in space leaves a lot of potential open. Imagine a future where forest fire management is done in space and a forest fire could be detected because satellite imagery captures it in minutes. Imagine a future where a percentage of the world’s crops are grown in orbit, saving space on the ground. Imagine a silicon factory in space. Also remember that the environmental differences in space, such as B. the low gravity, make it easier to carry out some research and experiments. There is so much untapped potential in space, and companies like AWS are using the cloud and devices like AWS Snowcone to make space exploration a reality.
While the demonstration of AWS Snowcone on the ISS may not seem like a huge step for space commerce, it is a worthwhile step in addressing the difficulties of data transmission in space. The AWS and Axiom collaboration is the first of many leaps and bounds we should see over the next few decades as space trade and exploration become possible. Space exploration and trade are possible thanks to the advancement of data centers, the cloud, AI and machine learning, robots and dedicated capitalist economies.
Note: The Moor Insights & Strategy Co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.
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