AWS Architecture Monthly

A selection of the best new technical content from AWS

Aerospace ~ October, 2021


AWS re:Invent 2020: Advancing the future of space in the cloud
AWS: Connected Aircraft
AWS Vision for Model-based Engineering in Aerospace | AWS Events
Avio Aero: Serverless Application to Manage Expense Purchase Approvals

Ask an Expert

What are the general architecture pattern trends for aerospace in the cloud?

Buffy: The aerospace industry uses AWS to modernize its IT infrastructure, enable digital transformation, and drive innovation. However, they also have some unique challenges that make it an exciting segment to support.

The space and satellite industry, by definition, is focused beyond the confines of Earth. As such, customers in the industry require a global network to communicate back to Earth regardless where their mission takes them. Take for instance Capella Space (Capella). They aim to provide the most frequent, timely, and high-quality synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) imagery products and make them accessible through an intuitive, self-serve online platform.

AWS allows Capella to reach this goal. By using services like AWS Ground Station and our vast 100 gigabytes per second (Gbps) global infrastructure, Capella can downlink their SAR imagery data from all six inhabitable continents and transfer that data back to their main virtual private cloud (VPC).

The aerospace industry also depends on significant computational resources to perform calculations such as computational fluid dynamics, structural stress testing, and Monte Carlo-type simulations. AWS high performance computing (HPC) services allow aerospace customers to complete these calculations in record time.

In fact, Descartes Labs uses AWS HPC to process and understand the world and to handle the flood of data that comes from sensors on the ground, in the water, and in space. In 2021, they achieved a top 40 position for fastest HPC run in the world using AWS HPC and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) On-Demand Instances. They achieved 9.95 petaflops (PFLOPs) of performance with a peak of 15.11 PFLOPs.

Additionally, Maxar Technologies (Maxar) uses AWS HPC to reduce weather processing by 58%.

“Prior to using AWS, no one thought any cloud environment was capable of outperforming an on-premises supercomputer in generating numerical weather predictions,” says Stefan Cecelski, a data scientist at Maxar. “But with the fast networking speed provided by AWS, we accomplished what many IT experts considered impossible.”

AWS storage services are also a differentiator for the aerospace industry. Aerospace customers produce petabytes (PB) of data. This includes data from Earth observation pictures and readings, calculations, engineering artifacts, factory operations, and mission analysis. In addition, the aerospace industry is highly regulated, which creates requirements to keep data for long periods of time. AWS intelligence tiered storage options like Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon S3 Glacier provide storage with 99.999999999% durability and provide a cost-effective storage method to meet storage and regulatory needs.

Additionally, many aerospace customers are required to comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) export controls. AWS GovCloud (US) makes this compliance possible and relatively easy.

“The AWS GovCloud (US) region meets our customer’s requirements regarding ITAR data,” says Jeff Wright, cloud service senior manager in Lockheed Martin’s Enterprise Operations group. “Knowing that it’s a separate region that has already gone through accreditations and LM security approvals, coupled with our blueprints on top, provides a lot of confidence.”
When putting together an AWS architecture to solve business problems specifically for aerospace customers, what are some of the considerations?

Scott/Buffy: The number one concern we face with aerospace customers is data security. Even commercial companies have ITAR concerns that influence their thinking. In the US, building in AWS GovCloud (US) satisfies most customers’ needs. Outside the US, there is no AWS GovCloud (US) equivalent, so specialized environments must be built. Partners and third parties supply help, such as Thales Solutions for AWS.

The second concern aerospace customers have is around the regulatory environment in which aerospace vehicles must operate. Currently, AWS services, such as AWS IoT Greengrass, AWS Snowball, and AWS Snowcone, operate on aircraft.

AWS GovCloud (US)’s security and compliance features meet many regulatory requirements. For example, architectures can be built on AWS GovCloud (US) that comply with Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) high baseline; ITAR; Export Administration Regulations (EAR); Department of Defense (DoD) Cloud Computing Security Requirements Guide (SRG) for Impact Levels 2, 4, and 5; Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2; IRS-1075; and other compliance regimes.

Aerospace customers use HPC. Most are using commercial off-the-shelf codes that are compiled for specific chip sets. Usually, those chip sets are Intel or AMD based. Another cost-effective option is AWS Graviton2, which powers chips that have been extensively benchmarked for typical aerospace HPC workloads, such as computational fluid dynamics and finite-element analysis. Another recommendation for aerospace HPC workloads is to use Amazon FSx for Lustre or Amazon FSx for Windows File Server.

Building HPC clusters for aerospace customers depends on their size and tolerance for customization. We generally recommend AWS ParallelCluster for smaller customers who need a managed service with available support.
Do you see different trends in aerospace in cloud vs. on-premises?

Scott/Shayn: By using AWS Cloud, aerospace startup companies can reduce their capital costs and do not have to worry about provisioning or waiting to have their IT infrastructure built. They can also see how to scale as their company grows. Most startups use HPC and computer-aided engineering workloads using Amazon S3, AWS Parallel Cluster with Amazon AppStream 2.0, or Amazon WorkSpaces. These are managed services that allow engineers to get what they need, when they need it, without having to worry about provisioning for future workloads. Some startups start their cloud journey using software as a service (SaaS) partners. However, the added cost of a fully integrated SaaS provider can lead them to seek their own solutions on AWS.

Many legacy companies have built supporting software to manage their workflows on their existing infrastructure. They tend to mix and match software from various vendors and use internal solutions to manage data. Because of this, when legacy customers discuss migrating to the cloud, integration is often a significant concern. Understandably, there are some times they do not want to rebuild their workload tools and services for a new platform. So, there is growing interest in containers, specifically Kubernetes. We introduce them to integration services and our Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) to manage their container stacks.

Additionally, some aerospace companies are looking at using data lakes on Amazon S3 so that their data scientists can mine larger stores of data to gather insights they were unable to see before. Use of artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) using Amazon SageMaker is growing in aerospace. Data scientists and engineers are increasingly building, training, and deploying ML models as they outgrow their on-premises services. Many companies are also exploring microservices, which simplifies and standardizes coding and makes code more adaptable and scalable.
What's your outlook for aerospace, and what role will cloud play in future development efforts?

Shayn: The outlook for aerospace, and specifically space system development, is enormously positive. The cloud allows companies to reduce their dependency on building undifferentiated infrastructure and focus on generating and analyzing space data and developing space technology.

The space industry is changing at the most rapid rate since the original Apollo missions. Advancements in technology such as propulsion, materials, and the emergence of CubeSats have significantly lowered barriers to entry. Once the sole province of government agencies, space is now accessible to global consortiums, venture capitalists, and university students and researchers.

For example, in 2018, there were 365 satellites launched globally. By 2025, we estimate that number to triple to over 1,000 launches per year. Given these changes and the fact that there are now commercial alternatives, governments no longer have to design, acquire, operate, and sustain all space systems. They can use commercial services to fulfill key missions, including intelligence, communications, military applications, and space exploration.

The AWS Cloud is well suited to space endeavors, which require global networks, significant computational resources, and the ability to cost effectively store petabytes of data. And there are certainly significant investments going into space technology. According to a Bryce Space and Technology 2018 market analysis, the global space economy was estimated at $360 billion in 2018. A Space Foundation study revised that number in 2019 to $424 billion – huge growth! Through 2024, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) alone is projected to spend between $24-30 billion on Project Artemis to take humankind back to the moon. Goldman Sachs reports the global space economy will exceed $1 trillion by 2040. This is great for AWS space customers and partners because industry analysis of IT spending trends by Deloitte, with a 44 percent year-over-year IT growth rate, forecasts the space cloud spend should reach $3.7 billion by 2023, which shows that the analyst community agrees that the cloud will play an important role in space development.

And what a great development area to be a part of! The world is experiencing a resurgence in space exploration and development that benefits all of humankind. NASA’s Project Artemis will land the first woman and next man on the moon in the 2020s, then develop a human encampment on the moon, and follow up with human missions to Mars. The European Space Agency (ESA) and newly space-faring countries like the United Arab Emirates are all conducting missions to the moon and Mars. And many new space constellation operators, including Amazon’s Project Kuiper, plan to build and launch thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit to offer global communications services to the entire world. AWS is excited to work with our customers so they can use AWS Cloud services to realize their dreams – to the stars, through the cloud!
Anything else you’d like to add?

Scott: Two areas that are hot with customers are model-based systems engineering (MBSE) and connected aircraft and spacecraft. The former is the subject of the recently released Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) on AWS: From Migration to Innovation whitepaper. This whitepaper includes a generic architecture for MBSE.


Buffy Wajvoda, Worldwide Leader for Aerospace and Satellite Solutions Architecture at AWS

Buffy Wajvoda is the Worldwide Leader for Aerospace and Satellite Solutions Architecture at AWS. She was a founding leader of the organization in 2020 after serving at the AWS Ground Station Solutions Architecture leader.

Scott Eberhardt, Worldwide Tech Lead for Aerospace at AWS

Dr. Scott Eberhardt is the Worldwide Tech Lead for Aerospace at AWS. He started this role in January 2020 after serving as the EMEA HPC Specialist for the Public Sector. In addition, Scott holds a Visiting Reader position at Imperial College.


Shayn Hawthorne, Space Technology Leader for AWS Aerospace and Satellite
Solutions Division

Shayn Hawthorne works in the AWS Aerospace and Satellite Solutions Division as the Space Technology Leader. He works with customers to develop services and features that disrupt how space exploration, satellite, and launch operations are conducted and to collect and use space data to improve their missions and products. Shayn is the founder of the AWS Ground Station service.

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AWS Architecture Monthly provides new and curated content about architecting in the AWS Cloud. Our goal is to provide you with the best new technical content from AWS, from in-depth tutorials and whitepapers to customer videos and trending articles. We also interview industry experts who provide unique perspectives about the month’s theme and its related AWS services and solutions.

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