Xplore’s software provides satellite operations testing for NOAA with Azure Orbital
Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a Service®, has completed a satellite testing initiative using Microsoft Azure Orbital to conduct satellite operations for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite NOAA-18. Xplore operates more than a dozen satellites in orbit; the company completed its work with Azure and became one of the first cloud-based ground control software to operate a NOAA satellite.
Xplore has integrated Azure Orbital in a first-ever Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to demonstrate how commercial services and cloud operations can be used to safely control satellites and acquire data with NOAA satellites .
Lisa Rich, Founder and COO of Xplore, said, “The results of this CRADA reinforce the value Major Tom delivers to its customers. This demonstrates our ability to deliver a cloud-based solution and provides NOAA with a pathway to sustainability as well as a means by which they achieve redundancy and reliability for satellite operators.
Legacy satellites, new constellations, and experimental satellites benefit from the mission operations services offered by Major Tom. In the case of the NOAA-18 satellite, this initiative with Azure Orbital demonstrated the technical feasibility of using the cloud to successfully connect to legacy software, designed over 15 years ago. Additionally, it demonstrates how cloud-based mission operations allow satellite operators to take full advantage of commercial ground stations as a service.
Steve Kitay, Senior Director, Azure Space at Microsoft Corp., said, “Our work with NOAA and Xplore is driving innovation to virtualize satellite ground station operations in the cloud. Enabling agencies to leverage these latest commercial technologies unlocks new levels of resilience and global capability for mission-critical operations.
Xplore’s Major Tom service offers a scalable platform with powerful satellite mission planning and operations tools. The cloud-based software allows operators to perform ground station planning, satellite task assignment, and telemetry monitoring, saving money and time on operations. It provides the ability to integrate and control ground segment applications and services, and further de-risks mission operations with features that include out-of-the-box ground network integrations, data analytics, real-time dashboards and a customizable command API.
Justin Gronert, JPSS mission operations manager at NOAA, said, “Older polar satellites require additional support. As part of CRADA with Xplore Major Tom and Microsoft, the ability to provide mission support was demonstrated and we were able to perform payload processing through cloud-based mission control.
Leveraging cloud data enables Major Tom to provide satellite operators with assurance and greater resilience in the system. In the event of a natural disaster, for example, Major Tom can quickly transfer all operations to support spacecraft from any location, ensuring continued reliable operations and resulting in less costly downtime.
Lisa Rich said, “With Major Tom, users complete their assignments on a secure and unified cloud platform. The data resides in the cloud and can be downloaded from anywhere. Major Tom is a scalable platform that ultimately delivers ease of use for a wide range of satellite operators looking for value, reliability and resiliency.