AWS completes six ground stations, changes rollout strategy

by

Updated Aug. 4 at 4:43 p.m. Eastern. 

WASHINGTON — Amazon Web Services slowed the rollout of its commercial ground station network to accommodate customer feedback about the best locations to place its antennas.

AWS has built a network of six ground stations spread around the globe instead of the 12 it expected to complete by the end of 2019, a goal AWS set when it first announced plans to provide turnkey services to space startups looking to avoid the hassle and expense of building their own ground infrastructure for downloading satellite data and flying constellations.

Shayn Hawthorne, senior manager of the AWS ground station business, told SpaceNews in a July interview that AWS changed its deployment plans last year as it realized customers wanted ground stations in different locations than AWS had assumed.

“We originally had our plan for where we wanted to go, but as we started to engage more and more with customers, we had customers who wanted us to get as far north as we could,” he said. That led to a ground station built in Sweden, where its high-latitude location better serves polar-orbiting satellites of the sort operated by the remote-sensing companies AWS counts among its early customers for its ground-station-as-a-service offering.

Customer demand also drove decisions to build ground stations in Bahrain and Australia, he said. AWS also has two ground stations in the United States and one in Ireland, Hawthorne said.

AWS still plans to build 12 ground stations, and potentially more, but is deciding on many of the future sites with customers, Hawthorne said. The variety of national regulatory regimes governing future sites makes it difficult to predict when those ground stations will be completed and activated, he said.

“We have more regions coming soon this year and we’ll keep building into the future because of customer demands and the capacity required to meet their needs,” he said.

Hawthorne declined to name future locations but said one will be a “high-latitude site” to be completed later this year.

“As you continue to see more ground stations launched in the future, you’re going to see that many of them are going to be coming along with a customer request or use case that drove those sites to be prioritized over others,” he said.

Disclosed AWS Ground Station customers include satellite operators Spire, NSLComm, Maxar Technologies, HawkEye 360, BlackSky, Open Cosmos, Myriota and Capella Space.