Microsoft has announced plans to cement Azure Space as a key player in the growing Australian space market through new partnerships with Nokia, the University of Adelaide's Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), and the South Australian government.
Microsoft launched its Azure Space initiative last October. Azure Space was developed by the tech giant to position Azure in the space and satellite-related connectivity and compute part of the cloud market.
Azure Space Australia's operations are based in Adelaide's Lot Fourteen and is headed up by former US Air Force colonel Lynn McDonald.
On Thursday, the tech giant said it inked an agreement with Nokia and the South Australian government to build communications, connectivity, and advanced data processing solutions featuring satellite imagery, AI analytics, and 5G-based technology that could be used for various applications such as rail safety, mine automation, defence, and public sector use cases.
Microsoft's Azure cloud, Azure Edge, Azure Orbital, and emerging Azure Space, AI, and machine learning technologies, plus Nokia's 5G Digital Automation Cloud platform will be leveraged to build these capabilities, Microsoft said.
Nokia also plans to expand its Adelaide-based 5G services so it can co-develop these use cases with the Azure Space team.
"We are delighted about this agreement with the South Australian government and the opportunity to work with Nokia as we bring together interdisciplinary experts to develop, test, and deploy new technologies and strategies that respond to some of the biggest challenges facing organisations today," McDonald said.
"This important collaboration with Nokia will allow Australian organisations in multiple sectors to take a giant leap forward into a new era of communications and cloud computing, making the most of space data and technology and catapulting them to the very forefront of digital innovation."
Additionally, Microsoft has signed a memorandum of understanding with AIML to jointly explore how advanced cloud computing, AI, computer vision, and machine learning can be applied in space.
Dubbed Project AI Off Earth, the pair will conduct modelling, emulation, and simulation of complex space operations and systems; build algorithms for on-board satellite data processing; develop solutions for the remote operation and optimisation of satellites, constellations, and swarms; and address space domain awareness and debris monitoring.
"Although focused on in-space technologies, Project AI Off Earth will explore how space-related technologies and data, and cognitive systems can be used to support automation of multiple different industries, help establish smart cities, as well as address sustainability and important environment challenges," Microsoft Australia Azure Space engineer Nicholas Moretti said.
These latest announcements follow the launch of a Microsoft for Space Startups Australia Program in July. The new program was designed to support space startups, give them access to Azure credits, and provide a range of Microsoft technologies, technical specialists, and mentors. Office of Planetary Observations and Spiral Blue were named as the first startups to join the initiative.