Amazon Makes Distributed Satellite Satellite Stations



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Here's an interesting thought: it's possible to make ten thousand dollars worth of cubesat, and hitch a ride for free thanks to NASA's outreach program. Tracking that satellites along their orbits will need tens or hundreds of earth stations, all equipped with antennas and connections to the Internet. Switching your data from a cube is actually more expensive than building a satellite.

This is an observation made by someone on Amazon. They have developed AWS Ground Station, a system designed to downlink data from cubesats and other satellites throughout the orbit. At present, Amazon only has two earth stations installed, but they plan to have a dozen in place by the middle of next year. Each of these land stations is linked to a particular AWS area (there are a total of sixteen AWS areas, which may limit the orbital coverage of the AWS Earth Station system), and consists of antennas, alt-az mounts, and giant server banks and hard drives to capture data from satellites orbiting above.

The Amazon blog entry discusses how easy it is to retrieve data from satellites, and is as easy as getting a NORAD ID, entering your AWS account, and clicking a few buttons.

This should go without mentioning that this is the exact same idea behind SatNOGS, the Open Source global network of satellite ground stations and the 2014 Hackaday Prize winner. One of their land stations is what is described above if this article is. At present, SatNOGS has more than seventy earth stations on the network, including several stations that are in very useful locations such as the Canary Islands. The SatNOGS network already has far more coverage than the maximum of sixteen locations where Amazon has their data center – made possible by its open nature. Congratulations to the SatNOGS team once again for creating something very useful, and doing it four years before Amazon.

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