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D-Orbit Reduces Space Logistics Costs and Improves Visibility Using AWS Ground Station


D-Orbit is a market leader in the space logistics and transportation services industry. As one of the first companies to address the logistics needs of the space market, D-Orbit is always looking to improve upon the services it offers to customers while reducing associated costs. When planning missions, satellite operators generally need to either build their own ground network or rent time on a third party’s antenna. The process of defining all of the costs related to a mission is complex. 

To address these challenges, D-Orbit developed a cloud-based mission control software known as Aurora, which is fully integrated with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The collaboration between D-Orbit and the AWS team gives satellite operators access to an expanded network of satellite ground stations and facilitates the ingestion of satellite data to the cloud.

Gaining Access to a Global Network of Antennas

Founded in 2011, D-Orbit has been able to accelerate the use of small satellites (SmallSats), which generally weigh less than 1,000 pounds, and cube satellites (CubeSats), which are cost-effective, miniature satellite cubes about three times the size of a baseball. Both SmallSats and CubeSats can be launched in small groups that work together as systems known as constellations. D-Orbit uses its ION Satellite Carriers to transport SmallSats and CubeSats and release them individually into distinct orbital slots. D-Orbit customers deploy SmallSats and CubeSats for a variety of use cases, such as Earth observation, global telecommunications, and space logistics. Customers use Aurora through a standard web browser on any device to monitor and control the spacecraft, to uplink commands, and to downlink and process satellite data.

Artistic representation of ION Satellite Carrier deploying satellites in orbit

Using AWS Ground Station provides us optimal productivity and visibility windows for our satellites. At the same time, it enriches our own mission control system.”

Sergio Mucciarelli
Head of Software Solutions, D-Orbit

In February of 2021, D-Orbit completed an integration to use Aurora with AWS Ground Station, which lets customers control satellite communications, process data, and scale operations without having to worry about building or managing their own ground station infrastructure. Working alongside AWS Professional Services—a global team of experts that can help businesses realize their desired business outcomes on AWS—D-Orbit designed and built a fully automated solution that helps establish reliable bidirectional communications between D-Orbit’s satellites in orbit and Aurora in the cloud using AWS. “AWS Ground Station integration within our Aurora mission control software is essential to managing and conducting increasingly complex missions for customer payloads on our ION Satellite Carriers,” says Bruno Carvalho, vice president of business development for D-Orbit. “Aurora is fleet or constellation ready, and AWS Ground Station helps D-Orbit to use that capability with global coverage.”

Facilitating Satellite Launch and Deployment Using AWS

By building out its spacecraft operations and data process on AWS, D-Orbit can give its customers near real-time access to AWS storage, compute, and analytics services. For example, to manage data ingestion from satellites, customers can use Amazon Kinesis Data Streams, a serverless streaming data service that makes it easy to capture, process, and store data streams at virtually any scale. Customers then can store data downloaded from their satellites using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), which offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. After they have acquired and processed their data from space, D-Orbit’s customers can build custom learning models to apply to a wide variety of datasets using Amazon SageMaker, which helps build, train, and deploy machine learning models for virtually any use case with fully managed infrastructure, tools, and workflows.

D-Orbit has controlled costs while expanding its reach. Now, using AWS Ground Station, customers can downlink and process data in near real time, efficiently control satellite communications across multiple regions, and scale operations while paying only for the actual antenna time used. 

D-Orbit also benefits from being able to scale quickly as the company launches new spacecraft and expands its business. Plus, using AWS Ground Station has contributed to the strength and reliability of its satellite communications without affecting its link budgets, which provide a measure of power gains and losses in satellite communications. “The high-performance hardware of AWS Ground Station provides a really big margin in our link budgets,” says Giorgio Garavaglia, telecommunication system engineer at D-Orbit. “We can easily make orbital maneuvers without affecting our link budget or communication with our satellites.”

ION Satellite Carrier, D-Orbit’s orbital transfer vehicle (OTV)

The ability to downlink satellite data fast, process it efficiently, and share information across additional cloud-based applications all benefited customers when, in 2021, D-Orbit completed a successful mission also using AWS Ground Station. The company plans to increase to as many as 12 launches by 2023, and customers will be able to select from numerous launch windows. “That means we are able to offer our customers the opportunity to choose their best launch date,” says Sergio Mucciarelli, head of software solutions for D-Orbit. “This flexibility provides important added value.”

Optimizing Mission Objectives Using AWS Ground Station

D-Orbit plans to incorporate additional AWS solutions into its Aurora mission control software, enhancing the ability of customers to stream incoming data from satellites to other AWS solutions to store, process, and analyze data. “Using AWS Ground Station provides us optimal productivity and visibility windows for our satellites,” Mucciarelli says. “At the same time, it enriches our own mission control system.”

About D-Orbit

D-Orbit offers services in third-party space logistics, including transporting satellites into space, launching them into orbit, and monitoring them through a proprietary mission control software.

Benefits of AWS

  • Controls costs while expanding reach
  • Gives satellite operators access to an expanded network of satellite ground stations
  • Establishes reliable bidirectional communications with satellites in orbit

AWS Services Used

AWS Ground Station

AWS Ground Station is a fully managed service that lets you control satellite communications, process data, and scale your operations without having to worry about building or managing your own ground station infrastructure.

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Amazon Kinesis Data Streams

Amazon Kinesis Data Streams is a serverless streaming data service that makes it easy to capture, process, and store data streams at any scale. 

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Amazon SageMaker

Amazon SageMaker is built on Amazon’s two decades of experience developing real-world ML applications, including product recommendations, personalization, intelligent shopping, robotics, and voice-assisted devices.

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Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. 

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