Microsoft, SpaceX Team Up to Bring Cloud Computing to Space

NASA images/

Microsoft is taking its cloud to the final frontier.

Microsoft aims to make its Azure cloud technology available and accessible to humans anywhere on Earth—and potentially humans off world, too.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced Azure Space, a series of partnerships with space-related companies and satellite providers, most notably an agreement with SpaceX to use the company’s coming Starlink satellite constellation to bring high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband capabilities to customers in the most remote environments. Starlink satellites will serve as a conduit for data between Microsoft’s traditional data centers and partnered ground stations and the company’s modular data centers, which can securely store, compute and analyze data in areas where traditional high-speed communications are unavailable.

Microsoft also announced an expansion of its existing Azure Orbital partnership with satellite telecommunications company SES to further extend connectivity between its cloud data centers and edge devices.

“A thriving ecosystem of satellite providers is needed to meet the world’s growing network needs, and we are excited to partner with industry leaders to bring these capabilities to our customers faster,” Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday. “Resilient satellite communications, coupled with Azure’s ability to provide high performance computing, machine learning, and data analytics opens many new opportunities for both public and private-sector organizations.”

Microsoft’s Azure Space combines a set of offerings and products, like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, edge computing and  machine learning with a growing partner ecosystem to serve customers across several industries, including agriculture, energy, telecommunications and the federal government.

“Taken together, these offerings create a framework for a digital platform to benefit both partners and customers looking to expand in the space market,” said Tom Keane, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure Global.

Microsoft’s space play may have major ramifications for government customers, including the Air Force and budding Space Force. In early October, the Pentagon selected SpaceX to produce satellites that can track and target advanced missile threats from outer space in a contract worth up to $149 million. Microsoft will partner with SpaceX as a subcontractor on the effort.

“We will be delivering to the government a number of satellites that host a capability to protect against ballistic weapons, and we were really proud to have Microsoft on our team there,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer at SpaceX.