Azure Space presents preview of Azure Orbital and new geospatial capabilities

Microsoft recently announced new satellite connectivity and geospatial capabilities for Azure Space. The cloud provider presented the preview of Azure Orbital, a ground station as a service that provides satellite communication and control, and added geospatial and data analysis partnerships with Esri, and Orbital Insight.

Launched a little over a year ago, Azure space is a collection of several products and agreements providing access to Azure satellite data and connectivity. Designed for sectors such as agriculture, energy and telecommunications, Azure orbital eliminates the technical and planning challenges of managing a network of ground stations. The preview includes support for Microsoft and KSATlite ground stations.

Tom keane, corporate vice president at Microsoft Azure, explains:

The connectivity of a satellite to a ground station depended on expensive and rigid radio equipment. Azure Orbital leverages virtualization, which shifts functionality from proprietary hardware to software that can be deployed on general-purpose hardware to deliver a more scalable and cost-effective solution to customers.


As covered by Microsoft in a separate article, identifying at-risk wetlands and tracking thousands of container ships are some of Azure Space’s new use cases. Aravind Ravichandran, Director of Strategy Space at, comments:

This could potentially become a good go-to-market strategy for existing and emerging Earth Observation (EO) companies!

New capability for Azure Space, SpaceEye is an AI-based system that generates optical and multispectral images without the cloud. Keane adds:

67% of the world is covered in clouds – a major challenge for observing the Earth from space is that a large part of the Earth is covered in opaque clouds (…) SpaceEye uses the Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument as a reference data source, as radar data is unaffected by cloud cover. SpaceEye then combines this radar data with historical optical images to generate an AI image prediction of what it looks like under clouds.


Through a new partnership with Airbus, Microsoft will add satellite imagery and elevation data from the aerospace company to Azure Cards. Amanda JR Moore, IT Consultant, tweets:

Space the Last Frontier: Azure Space Satellites and Airbus – of course interesting times ahead.

Azure isn’t the only cloud provider targeting space Marlet: Ground station, an AWS service managed to control satellite communications, was a main topic in Werner Vogels opening speech at re: Invent and recently expanded Support for software-defined radios.

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