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Microsoft expanded its Azure Space portfolio with a number of new solutions, including Azure Orbital Cloud Access and Azure Orbital Groud Station.

Microsoft’s Azure Space program aims to give customers the ability to use Azure services anywhere through satellite networks. This involves connecting various cloud services through satellite connections instead of cable networks.

Azure Orbital Cloud Access

The newly released services should extend the scope of Azure Space, Microsoft indicates. The Azure Orbital Cloud Access service provides relay connections from the Azure cloud environment through satellites and data terminals on Earth.

The service is initially aimed at the US government and intends to provide low-latency connectivity in conditions where other connections are limited. It can also serve in circumstances where failover is crucial.

The service is based on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite system and dedicated Azure edge devices. Users can access Azure cloud services as long as they’re within Starlink’s coverage. The connectivity can complement fibre and wireless connections.

Moreover, the combination accelerates the integration of mobile 5G connectivity with satellite communications. The service is also valuable in combination with Juniper Networks’ SD-WAN technology. Azure Orbital Cloud Access is now available in private preview.

Azure Orbital Ground Station

The second solution, Azure Orbital Ground Station, was announced during the launch of Azure Space, and is now becoming generally available. This service delivers virtual as-a-service ground stations to satellite service providers. The service is based on a collaboration with KSAT, a Norwegian satellite ground station provider. The Azure service is now available to satellite communications providers like Pixxel, Muon Space and Loft Orbital.

Furthermore, the tech giant announced its Satellite Communications Virtualization Program, a partnership with satellite communications provider SES. The service is to provide a virtualized ground network for satellite communications using software-defined hubs, edge terminals, virtual network functionality (VNF) and edge cloud applications.

Market for satellite cloud services is growing

Microsoft isn’t the only hyperscaler offering satellite services for its public cloud environment. AWS also launched a program for cloud satellite services. Experts expect the market to grow significantly in the coming years. Segment-wide revenue is estimated at €32 billion. Relevant services are expected to generate roughly 240 exabytes of data traffic by 2031.