Amazon Web Services launches space tech accelerator

by Joseph K. Clark

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched an accelerator to support innovative startups with space-related technologies or data. The AWS Space Accelerator is a four-week support program that will provide technical, business, and mentoring resources to startups seeking to use AWS to help solve the biggest challenges in the space industry. Taking place in June 2021 in collaboration with UK-based venture firm Seraphim Capital, which already runs its space accelerator program, the initiative will see a cohort of 10 space startups use AWS to accelerate their research, development, and growth.

“Helping startups succeed, from inception to IPO, has been an integral part of Amazon Web Services since our beginning,” said Sandy Carter, vice president of partners and programs at AWS. “Today, more startups build on AWS than any other cloud provider and many of our customers and partners started with AWS at an early stage. “For example, Capella Space began its journey on AWS as a startup to provide customers with access to satellite data within minutes of capture – far faster than traditional satellite data services and at a lower cost. As the global aerospace and satellite industry enters a new age, leveraging the power of startups will drive innovation and improve accessibility to space data.”

space tech

Rob Desborough, a partner at Seraphim, said: “Combined with Seraphim’s unique domain expertise in space investment and acceleration, we hope to attract, select and accelerate startups that will go on to address some of the world’s biggest challenges.” The 190 applications received were judged on several factors, including the innovative and unique nature of the project, the overall value the technology would bring to the industry, the creative application of AWS to solve problems, and the team’s potential to deliver on the opportunity it has identified.

Of the ten startups selected, which are all from the US or Europe, Cognitive Space, D-Orbit, and LeoLabs are working on space-related logistical problems – such as precisely tracking debris in low Earth orbit or managing small satellite constellations – while Lunar Outpost will focus on sustainable space exploration tech such as autonomous robots that are not constrained by the high latency of remote control from Earth.

The remaining six startups – Descartes Labs, Edgybees, Hawkeye 360, Orbital Sidekick, Satellite VU, and Ursa Space – all use space-derived data and insights to perform a range of functions for their clients, from bolstering environmental and sustainability efforts as well as agricultural productivity to preparing disaster responses and humanitarian assistance.

“Companies need to rapidly process, enhance and share their data from space so that end-users can extract the most value from it and apply it to decision-making,” wrote Werner Vogels, Amazon CTO, in a blog post announcing the cohort. “It is clear to me that opportunities are ripe to expand what is possible in space with capabilities such as remote satellite command and control, autonomous capabilities in orbit, and better solutions for data transfer. I view space startups as essential to delivering on that potential, and I am excited to watch our first cohort continue to experiment and grow in the cloud.”

Vogels added: “Emerging best practices from the commercial space industry relating to security, trust, and inclusion will also be essential to realizing our most positive visions of space.” Each participating startup will receive up to $100,000 in AWS Activate credit, as well as mentoring from space domain and technical subject matter experts with a deep knowledge of AWS and its technology. They will also have the opportunity to collaborate with existing AWS customers and members of the AWS Partner Network and network with space-focused venture investors.

According to the Seraphim website, industry leaders will be brought in to collaborate with startups on topics ranging from space and national security to international regulatory law and working with the public sector. “Startups provide a catalyst for bold new experimentation in the space industry,” said Clint Crosier, director of aerospace and satellite at AWS. “We are proud to announce the AWS Space Accelerator as part of our ongoing commitment to help startups succeed and to shape the future of aerospace. We look forward to helping the first cohort of companies launch and grow through this new program.

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