At its re:Mars conference today, Amazon announced that it has quietly sent one of its AWS Snowcone edge computing and storage devices into space on the Axiom mission to the International Space Station.
For the most part, it was an off-the-shelf Snowcone that AWS had already built to be tough enough to be shipped by UPS, although the company had to conduct months of testing to get it certified for that flight.
“When you think of deploying cloud computing at the edge in remote, disconnected, harsh environments – after 35 years in the space industry – there is no harsher, more remote, or harsher environment, or more unforgiving environment, frankly, than the space environment,” said Clint Crosier , director of aerospace and satellite at AWS and a retired United States Air Force major general who helped oversee the founding of the US Space Force before retiring and then joining AWS last year. “As space travel is today a $425 billion global industry that all major analysts predict will be a $1 trillion industry by 2040 – and the number of satellites that will be built between 2018 and 2022 will triple — for all of these reasons, customers are telling us they need the same cloud computing capabilities close to their workloads, which happen to be off-planet in space, as they do on the ground.”
To certify the Snowball, the smallest device in the Snow family of edge computing and data transmission devices, AWS required it to undergo five months of NASA thermal, vacuum, acoustic, and vibration testing (not requiring radiation testing, since the device would do this). used in the shielded ISS environment). Once it arrived on the space station, the team, led by AWS’ Daryl Shuck, plugged it in, uploaded an object-detection ML model to it, and ran it throughout the Axiom mission.
The astronauts on the Axiom mission conducted a total of 25 experiments, including the Snowball experiment. As Crosier noted, they had to photograph and document all the equipment they brought on board and then carried down with them. The object detection model on Snowball helped them catalog all of these items (and flag those that should be excluded from public distribution).
Crosier admitted that this was a relatively easy demonstration, but the certification process taught the company a lot and also set the stage for future missions. “Tcap was the demo the we did In Obit, but the all Process, how we think around the future Requirement to the Cloud calculate in Place, This is what was Yes, really excited around because we think it usher in a all New epoch in place Innovation – when she can now, to the the First time ever, bring edge calculate capabilities on to orbit,” he said.
And that’s really what this is about. Because the goal here isn’t so much to launch existing Snowballs or their bigger brethren into space, but to take what the teams learn from those missions (and Amazon is already working with Axiom on future missions) and then maybe more sophisticated edge Computing capabilities integrate satellites as well. Exactly how that will look like remains to be seen. As any Amazon executive who has taken the company’s media training will tell you in every interview, the company listens to its customers and works from there.
“We work with our customers to meet their needs,” Crosier said. “It’s one of the hallmarks of AWS and one of the things I’ve learned about joining them after 33 years in the US military. And that’s how customers see the value and necessity of betting [edge] Computing capabilities on satellites, they have a right to expect us to listen and figure out how we can meet their needs.”
Amazon and AWS are already working with Blue Origin to provide the computing capabilities of its commercial Orbital Reef space station.
https://techcrunch.com/2022/06/23/aws-sent-a-snowcone-to-space/ AWS sent a Snowcone to space – TechCrunch