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AWS sent a Snowcone into space – TechCrunch


At its re:Mars conference, Amazon today announced that it has quietly sent one of its cutting-edge AWS Snowcone computing and storage devices into space on the Axiom mission to the International Space Station.

For the most part, it was a standard Snowcone, which AWS had already built to be tough enough to ship via UPS, though the company had to go through months of testing to get it certified for this flight.

“When you think about delivering cloud computing at the edge, in remote, disconnected, and rugged environments – after 35 years in the space industry – there’s no more harsh, remote or rugged or unforgiving, very frankly, that space environment,” said Clint Crosier, director of aerospace and satellites at AWS and a retired U.S. Air Force major general who helped oversee the founding of the U.S. Space Force before retiring and then joining AWS last year. “With space, a $425 billion global industry today, expected to be a $1 trillion industry by 2040 by all major analysts – tripling the number of satellites launched between 2018 and 2022 – for For all of these reasons, customers tell us they need the same cloud computing capabilities close to their workloads that are off-planet in space as they are on the ground.

The AWS Snowcone SSD aboard the International Space Station during the Ax-1 mission, prior to installation. Picture credits: AWS

To certify the Snowball, the smallest in the Snow family of edge computing and data transfer devices, AWS had to run it through five months of NASA thermal, vacuum, acoustic, and vibration testing ( with no radiation test necessary as the device was going to be used in the shielded environment of the ISS). Once they arrived at the space station, the team, led by Daryl Shuck of AWS, hooked it up, downloaded an ML model for object detection, and ran it throughout the Axiom mission.

Astronauts on the Axiom mission performed a total of 25 experiments, including the Snowball experiment. As Crosier noted, they had to take photos and document all the equipment they brought on board and then carried with them. The object detection model on the Snowball helped them catalog all of these items (and flag those that should be excluded from public distribution).

Crosier admitted it was a relatively simple demonstration, but the certification process taught the company a lot and also set the stage for future missions. “That has been the demo this we did Inot ohrbit, but the together treat, as we think on the coming terms for cloud computing in space, it is What was really excited on because we think this ushers in a together New time in space innovation — wchicken you box now, for the first time already, to bring edge computing abilities on orbit,” he said.

And that’s what it’s really about. Because the goal here isn’t so much to take existing snowballs or its bigger brothers into space, but to take what teams learn from those missions (and Amazon is already working with Axiom on future missions ), and then perhaps integrating more sophisticated edge computing capabilities into satellites as well. What exactly 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. “That’s one of the hallmarks of AWS and one of the things I learned when I joined after 33 years in the US military. And so if customers see the value and the need to put [edge] computing capabilities on satellites, you can rightly expect us to listen to this and look at how we can meet their needs. »

Already, Amazon and AWS are working with Blue Origin to provide computing capabilities for its commercial space station Orbital Reef.

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