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Microsoft, Ball Aerospace show satellites can connect cloud services to the battlefield

Recent demonstrations have shown that commercial cloud computing can be used to process and securely deliver actionable information from low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to military ground stations, command centers or direct to warfighters on the battlefield.

As part of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Commercially Augmented Space Inter Networked Operations program, Microsoft and Ball Aerospace demonstrated that data and images from distributed constellations of LEO satellites could be quickly processed, analyzed and distributed using Microsoft's Azure cloud and Ball Aerospace‘s imagery exploitation algorithms.

For the demonstrations, simulated infrared data was pushed from Telesat satellites to a Microsoft Azure cloud data center, where it was processed using Ball’s event-driven architecture and then distributed to multiple end points, officials said in a press statement. In the final demonstration showing that satellite data could be transmitted directly to warfighters, data was downlinked direct from Telesat’s network of LEO satellites to a Ball-built phased array antenna attached to a tactical vehicle equipped with an Azure Stack Edge device.

"For years, the military has envisioned an agile and connected force structure,” said Steve Smith, vice president and general manager, Systems Engineering Solutions, Ball Aerospace. "Our tests showed that the cloud is, in fact, a viable solution for data processing, exploitation and dissemination of data that is not only fast, but also flexible, secure, scalable and resilient."

The direct satellite-to-cloud communication and enhanced ground-based data processing gives the Defense Department advanced analytics capabilities that can power predictive modelling and uncover actionable insights, according to Microsoft’s Azure Global Vice President Tom Keane. "By combining satellite data with other sources directly in Azure, the Microsoft-Ball Aerospace team has demonstrated an innovative approach for ground processing which also opens the possibilities for a huge range of commercial applications."

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