Microsoft CEO Sataya Nadella speaking at Microsoft Ignite 2020, the annual developer conference.

SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft unveiled Azure Orbital Sept. 22, a service to help customers move data from satellites directly into the Azure cloud for processing and storage.

“With Azure Orbital, we’re taking our infrastructure to space, enabling anyone to access satellite data and capabilities from Azure,” CEO Satya Nadella said during the Microsoft Ignite 2020 conference.

The announcement marked the latest chapter in the competition between Microsoft and Amazon to connect satellite communications networks with cloud infrastructure.

In June, Amazon Web Services announced the formation of a dedicated business unit, Aerospace and Satellite Solutions, to offer cloud services to support space and launch operations.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is expanding its network of partners supporting Azure Orbital to include KSAT’s network of more than 200 satellite antennas. Intelsat, SES, Inmarsat and Viasat were already working with Microsoft to send customer data to Microsoft’s Azure network of fiber-linked data centers.

“Microsoft is taking a very partner-centric approach, working with space companies to bring a product to market with them,” Katherine Monson, KSAT USA head, told SpaceNews.

Microsoft also is working with Amergint Technologies, Kratos, Kubos and teleport operator U.S. Electrodynamics Inc.

Azure Orbital “is a fully managed ground station as a service that lets you communicate with, control your satellite, process data and scale your operations directly in Microsoft Azure,” Hrishi Shelar, Azure Networking senior program manager, said during the virtual Ignite conference.

Amergint and Kratos developed satellite modems for Azure Orbital customers, Shelar said.

The Federal Communications Commission awarded Microsoft an experimental license in early September to download data from Urthecast’s Deimos-2 Earth observation satellite.

“Contact scheduling will be available for Microsoft owned and operated ground stations in X, S and UHF band frequencies via shared high gain antennas,” Microsoft said in a Sept. 22 blog post. Microsoft also is connecting its global network of data centers “with our partner’s ground station networks for easy scheduling with your preferred teleport operators,” the blog added.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...