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Transferring satellite photos to decision makers in the military and commercial sectors is not immediate. “When firefighters are attacking a wildfire, they need the most up-to-date information to save lives and homes,” Jeff Carr, director of mission operations engineering support at DigitalGlobe, wrote in a Nov. 27 blog post. “When first responders are tracking down refugees fleeing danger in flimsy rubber boats, they need real-time information about where those rubber boats are located before they sink. The uses for current and accurate space-based data is growing — and the end-users need it quickly.”
Now, intelligence analysts and soldiers on the battlefield could have access to near real-time imagery from commercial satellites as soon as 2021 thanks to new industry partnerships.
Amazon Web Services’ new product AWS Ground Station, which includes parabolic antennas at 12 locations across the globe. Those ground stations can download imagery data as satellites pass overhead and then push that information to the cloud at faster speeds than traditional ground stations.
Meanwhile, tests made by satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe demonstrated the capability to move imagery data from the ground station to the cloud in less than a minute. Using today’s technology, that task takes about an hour. Combined, the speed of the new ground stations and the expected launch of DigitalGlobe’s constellation of next-generation imagery satellites in 2021 would offer a new level of immediacy to customers.
Traditionally, ground stations download information from satellites on a rigid schedule, meaning users must wait several hours until the next pass when new information is available and can be processed. The new Legion satellites will double the number of times the satellites contact ground stations. In addition, an imagery satellite could revisit the same target as many as 15 times a day. All of that means defense and intelligence agencies could have access to imagery that is a few minutes old, not several hours old, according to c4isrnet.com.
In addition, Lockheed Martin and Amazon Web Services have recently announced a new partnership that would allow customers to download satellite data faster, more often and from multiple satellites at the same time.