Lockheed Martin joins the discussion about cloud computing services in space

Satellite constellation
Satellites could extend cloud computing to the final frontier. (Lockheed Martin Illustration)

Is the final frontier the next frontier for cloud computing?

One of the presentations planned for Amazon’s re:MARS conference in June suggests that Lockheed Martin is putting serious thought into the idea of space-based cloud services. The presentation, titled “Solving Earth’s Biggest Problems With a Cloud in Space,” features Yvonne Hodge, vice president and chief information officer at Lockheed Martin Space.

Just because an executive is talking about the subject doesn’t necessarily mean the aerospace giant has a plan in the works. But the concept would fit in nicely with Lockheed Martin’s previously announced partnership with Amazon on AWS Ground Station, a cloud-based satellite communications and control service.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon unveiled plans this month for a 3,236-satellite constellation, code-named Project Kuiper, which would make broadband internet access available to the estimated 4 billion people around the world who are currently underserved.

Extending cloud networks into space would provide yet another boost for global commerce, and potentially for global welfare as well. Here’s how the possibilities are described in the abstract for Hodge’s talk:

“Can a cloud in space impact the world’s poverty? Are there ways to make agriculture more efficient? Can internet connectivity for the world change how the world lives? Join this interactive discussion as we consider new approaches to solving Earth’s problems including how a cloud in space could positively impact our lives using space data.”

In response to our inquiries, Lockheed Martin spokesman Chris Pettigrew said he had nothing further to share at this time but would keep us posted. Amazon had no immediate comment on Hodge’s upcoming presentation. But the fact that Hodge will be on the re:MARS stage alongside Amazon executives and some of their partners at other companies, such as the Aurora self-driving software venture, suggests that Amazon likes what Lockheed Martin has in mind.

Space-based data services are already a thing. For example, Amazon Web Services is partnering with Iridium Communications on the development of Iridium CloudConnect, which makes use of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation to extend the reach of AWS’ Internet of Things applications. AWS facilitated NASA’s first live video stream from the International Space Station in ultra-high-definition 4K resolution — and has kept up a close relationship with the space agency.

Other ventures are revving up as well: The first satellite launched for Asgardia, which styles itself as a space nation, was designed to test long-term data storage in orbit. A company called ConnectX is planning a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit that would store digital currency. Singapore-based SpaceChain and ConsenSys Space, the Redmond, Wash.-based venture formerly known as Planetary Resources, have similar blockchain-based plans in the works.

Yet another relevant venture is Cloud Constellation Corp., which won $100 million in funding last year from HCH Group Company in Hong Kong for its SpaceBelt satellite cloud network. The idea is to store data (or at least the encryption codes for cloud accounts in terrestrial data centers) in a secure, space-based system where hackers can’t get at it.

The Los Angeles-based venture aims to have its constellation of cloud-connected satellites operating in low Earth orbit by the end of 2021.

Cloud Constellation lists SpaceChain, IBM and ArabSat among its partners, but hasn’t yet said who would manufacture or launch its satellites. Will Lockheed Martin and Amazon find new places to shine in this constellation of commercial ventures? Stay tuned … and watch the skies.

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