Issue #1(27) 2021 Astronautics

Satellites in the cloud: data from orbit

Shivaprakash Muruganandham Northern Sky Research, Bangalore, India

Despite clear advantages of incorporating the cloud into satellite businesses, whether Earth observation (EO) or communications related, the satellite industry was late coming to the party in comparison to the ICT sectors. But the last 10 years have seen a surge in the adoption of cloud-based technologies, with established and NewSpace players targeting new-age business models that leverage the cloud. While the cloud was a backend concern relegated to niche use as recently as a decade ago, it has made its presence known in the satellite industry primarily through customer-facing big data products and internalised technologies that were essential for data orchestration at scale. Where then, does cloud computing most impact the satellite industry, and what does the revenue opportunity look like?

Cloud computing represents an important technological shift that has been underway across industries since the turn of the 21st century, impacting the bottom lines and business models of various players in the ICT (Information & Communication Technology) sectors. Over the past decade alone, adoption of ‘the cloud’ has surged forward with major legacy software vendors orchestrating efforts towards the emergence of on-demand self-service, rapidly elastic solutions on the cloud. Digitisation strategies today are less about the blanket adoption of cloud-based services and more about understanding exactly which services need to move on from on-premise, and their associated costs and added value.

The three cloud service models as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology - Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) - each come with their own pros and cons, but there are clear advantages: a reduction of upfront capital expenditures and operational costs, ease of development and ubiquitous accessibility.

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