AWS Summit ANZ 2021 - Cloud powered innovation in space
Hello everyone. I'm delighted to speak to you today. My name is Mani and I lead the Aerospace and Satellite Solutions Business at Amazon Web Services, for Australia and Asia. Australia
has a stake in the global space economy, expected to generate a revenue of over a trillion dollars by 2040. We are moving from being a consumer of space technologies to being a contributor. Amazon Web Services created an industry business unit dedicated to aerospace and satellite solutions in 2020, because we saw, and continue to see, incredible potential for cloud computing to support the growing space industry. New companies have moved into the space business and are launching more satellites and human missions into orbit than ever before. We're excited to help
companies reimagine how to build, access and operate space systems on the cloud, and use innovation to be successful. We've built a team that has expertise in every facet of the industry, from spacecraft design and launch to on-orbit operations and space exploration. For instance, you may know of AWS Ground Station as-a-service, pay by the minute for antenna access to control satellite communication and process data. AWS Ground Station enables customers to rapidly transform raw data and deliver it to end users when, and where they need it. And the
elasticity of the cloud, means customers can operate at scale to fit their needs. It's only a part of how we've been moving into space in a very big way. Cloud is enabling space industry success. If you watch the 'Perseverance Mars Mission', AWS has been supporting in a number of different ways. All images for instance, returned from the mission will be hosted on AWS cloud. And right here in Australia, customer Fireball International, is using real time satellite images, ground cameras, sensors, and powerful artificial intelligence, to find bushfires within minutes. Dramatically
cutting down emergency response times. Farmbot, is another Australian, agricultural startup. They've developed a range of monitoring devices that enable farmers to remotely check water levels, animals, and staff movements.
Space companies, and satellite operators are turning to the elasticity, flexibility and speed of cloud. At Amazon Web Services, we believe space is critical, critically important to so many domains from national security, to scientific research, and to economic prosperity. And according to the government strategy, the Australian space sector is expected to generate economic value that grows at an annualised 8.6%. Compared to an expected growth in Australian GDP of 2.7% over the next three or four years. Okay. So, where is
the innovation opportunity here for you? How can you be a part of the new business models that are emerging from the space economy? Well, I've got a panel of experts to unpack it all for you. Please allow me to welcome to the studio, Aude Vignelles. Aude is the Chief Technology Officer at the Australian Space Agency. She has oversight of setting the agency's technology roadmap and delivering against it. She's a Space and Aeronautics Engineer, starting her career at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands. She has over 25 years experience delivering large and complex programs, introducing new technology in telecommunications, space and media industries. My second
guest today is James Brown. James is the CEO of the Space Industry Association of Australia. Australia's peak body for the space economy, formed to promote the growth of this challenge space sector. By formulating national policies and strategies, the Australian Space Industry Associations speaks with authority and credibility on behalf of its members on issues connected with the development of the Australian space industry. James is also a national
security and public policy expert, he has previously held research appointments at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, the United States Study Center, and the University of Sydney. And last but not least, my friend, Dr. Tim Parsons. Tim is a leader for innovative thinking in Australia. He's been
a founder, a co-founder and a C-Suite member of five startups over the past 12 years, covering the digital media venture, ecosystem, and of course the space industries. Tim is a startup advisor and investor, and a member of several industry bodies, including the SmartSatCRC and he's currently the chair of Aurora, a spinoff of the SmartSatCRC's Australian space industry startup cluster. Tim holds a PhD in Rarefied, Hypersonic Flow Simulation from the Imperial College of London. Welcome everyone. I want to begin by asking you Aude, why space now? And what's the big opportunity? Thanks, Mani. Why space? We're using space application every day without even knowing it. I mean, driving
here, I use my GPS. That's, that's coming from satellites. I want to check the weather, when is the rain is going to stop? I'm looking at pictures of Australia, they are being taken from satellites. I'm taking money out of the ATM, the timestamp is provided by a satellite. And the list goes on and on and on. You
said it yourself, a $1 trillion of committed revenue, that is planned for this space application. We need to grab a bit of that and the Australian Space Agency has a very clear goal. We want to triple the size of the industry. So the economy is there, the opportunity is there. We have to grab it now. If you add to
this, that there has been a big revolution of technology, and we used to build satellites that were the size of three fridges and, and take up to 10 years to develop and launch. Today you can develop a cube sat for demonstration and concepts in less than 18 months, and it costs $200,000 to launch them. So you have all the ingredients of a recipe for innovation of a growth of a market. So
this is why now, and this is why space. You've mentioned, the growth of startups in space. Tim, you're all across the startup scene. Aude mentioned talking about cube sats and a lot of different launches. Just in the
last few weeks we've had, customers, Myriota and Fleet Space, have all been putting out launches. What are you seeing from your perspective? I think the culture of .com startups has really infiltrated that space sector. The idea that you could build things with component parts, as Aude mentioned, the cube sats, a lot of them develop using COTSP commercial off the shelf paths. And also
that idea that you can now, test things, fail fast, go again, in that same classic, internet way. And then the ability to, of course, capture that data, plug it into elastic clouds, spin up instances, and deliver a service to customers, without huge amounts of physical infrastructure. You know, that all of these things come together to something we call space 2.0, which is a reinvention of what was very much about big telco, big projects, big, big satellites. But now increasingly, like small, cheap satellites. In a way, you can think of the cubes sats as, just like the PC. The PC came
along and did away with the mainframe. These small, micro electronic satellites are now doing away with these sort of giant, expensive, waterfall projects. I love it. The fact that we're moving from bigger machines to smaller machines, exactly the analogy that you've played out James, you've got a diverse membership base of space customers and partners, what are your guys saying about what is happening in the transformation of the Australian space sector? Well, I mean, Australia is such an interesting case. I mean, we had the fourth satellite, I think in the world was launched from Australia or the seventh, depending on how you count it. We've got this amazing higher education research base. Australia is seven, in terms of the number of, the most cited papers in space science. So there's this
baseline in Australia that makes it such a great place to develop space technology services and companies, before you think about our geography. We are between Europe, we are between, the US, we're in the southern hemisphere. If you're going to be operating a constellation, it makes sense to have at least some sort of presence or to use some kind of services in Australia. And our industry is booming. I mean, we established our space agency only two years ago, but in that time, the membership of our organisation has increased significantly. We're seeing more people returning to Australia to take up jobs in the space industry, Australians and others. And we're seeing the
space industry, or space technology, start to be utilised in non-space industries. So, we're, we're starting to get that sort of innovation that happens at the margins of two industries. How can we take what we can do from space and apply it in government, or in industry, to achieve outcomes. And so it's a pretty exciting time to be part of it and seeing what all of the members of the Australia space industry are doing. Fabulous. And you've got a
policy background and, you know, sometimes you talk about the space industry being new in Australia, but we know that's actually not the case, right? We've, we've got a deep space complex operating out of Canberra and we've been supporting NASA for, I don't know, the last 50 years. Tell us a little bit about your involvement with that, James. Well, I mean, across the road, from where I live, there's a telephone exchange, there's a plaque on the wall in Sydney that says, ah, that that's where the video for the moon landing was fed through. It went into the international cable, it came from a dish just outside of Sydney. So we've been doing that for a long time. We've
been, helping track recover satellites. We've been helping on a whole bunch of missions for NASA and others. And, we've never really taken advantage of all of this for Australian companies. And the reason we didn't do that was because manufacturing a large satellite was beyond our capability, but because of what we've seen in the last 10 to 15 years, because of the decreasing costs, the use of commercial off the shelf componentry, all of a sudden Australia is in a position where it can do more and it can lift its ambition. Okay. So people often think space is rocket launches and satellites. In fact, space
technologies, underpin many of the daily conveniences that Australians have come to expect. As Aude mentioned, this includes weather forecasting, emergency management, internet access, and even the GPS. Space technology also assist farmers to monitor the health of their crops.
Emergency response workers track bushfires, and even autonomous mining vehicles. Since we've been doing this for a while in Australia, Aude, what do you think are the advantages, the natural advantages Australia has in becoming a leader in the space sector? So this is the exact question the Australian Space Agency asks themselves when we got created, and we could have started playing in every field that applies in space, but we took the time to think our strategy through. And we've published in April, 2019 our national civil space strategy, where we highlighted seven sectors and seven priority areas where we want to grow our capability. And every time we've chosen a priority, we wondered, is there a need to fulfil, we want to do space to bring a solution to a problem.
Is there, is there a market opportunity? Do we have a competition, a competitivity, a competitive advantage in Australia? Or do we want to develop this capability for national reasons? We took all these factors into consideration and we came up with these seven sectors. I'm just going to give two examples. The first being, Space Situational Awareness. I'm passionate about that. There was before, no satellite orbiting the earth.
If you look at the map of the number of satellites, active satellites, there is less than 3000, but they are almost 9,000 tons of debris orbiting the earth. So lots of debris from 10cm, to less than 1mm. But even a paint of flick, a flake of paint can create a lot of damage to any satellites if it collides. And then you can think of the catastrophic scenario when two satellites collide, and it's the domino effect. And then you can't use any orbits around the earth anymore. So we need to make sure that we know where all these space objects are, to make sure that every time we launch a new satellite, we use a space where there is a space, and to make sure that if there is a risk of collision, we can actually predict that, and we can manoeuvre a satellite to avoid the collision. And to do that,
you need, you need sensors all over the globe. And you need some sensors in the Southern Hemisphere. And we have a unique position looking at Southern sky. So there is a great opportunity for Space Situational Awareness in Australia. And we are developing
some really cool niche sensors technology as well here. Another example, is the mining industry. The expertise that we have developed in the last 40 years, in remote operation, and remote management. Usually, when you mine, you have your activities 2000 kilometres away from, from where you control the operation. It's far, it's a harsh environment, sometimes it's under the sea. So
deploy a lot of expertise in, in the communication, the log that you have, the user interface, and we've done that for 40 years, we've done it in an industrial manner, and in a very safe manner. So when you think about going to the moon and on Mars and beyond the chances are we're going to build all the infrastructure required before we send people there using remote operation, using robots. So there's a fantastic opportunity here, as James was saying earlier, looking at the expertise we have on the ground and export that to space and opening a new business for our expertise. And
they're just two example out of the seven that we're working on. So that's, fantastic. So you mentioned the Southern Hemisphere, having those skies accessible to us. You mentioned
our expertise in mining, which allows us to do a lot of work around remote management report, remote operations. Tim, I'm going to ask you this, because a lot of innovation is coming into those two domains that Aude has talked about. But I'm finding that a lot of the Australian startups are very creative. I mean, they have use cases that are extending from building new spacesuits, to in-orbit drug manufacturing, to, like the farmers that we spoke about.
What are you seeing that's new, and novel for this industry out of Australia. Sure. I mean that space suits company is also doing next-generation active wear. So there's a great spin-out opportunity there. And we're all very familiar with active wear, having been through COVID. Yeah, we have an
incredible range of things. Another piece of information about Australia, we control about one sixth of the world's surface area from a search and rescue point of view. And in fact, international traffic, airline traffic across the Indian ocean Pacific ocean and North South in Asia, we touch about a quarter of the world's air traffic. So there's a
startup in Canberra called, Skykraft that wants to use space technologies to improve the safety and the traffic management for those use cases. We have people who are taking photographs of other spacecraft to help with Space Situational Awareness, like, High Earth Orbit Robotics. And they're literally identifying very complex orbit conjunctions, and helping ahead of time, to decide whether there's going to be a problem. We have companies that are using, quantum keys and they're distributing keys from space to help us handle next generation encryption, leveraging research out of places like ANU and Sydney University. And of course, lots
of other technologies. We have people in Australia now building radiation-tolerant, flight computers. There's next generation inertial navigation systems. And we haven't even talked
about the amazing biotech opportunities that, you know, going into space has an impact. Apparently, a few days spent in space is incredibly rejuvenating, but maybe 30 days or more you'd have to start taking serious drugs. So when it comes to sending people to the moon, to Mars, we have a stake in all those future opportunities.
A few days in space can be rejuvenating, so I'm hearing beauty treatments in space. James, how do you feel about going into space, just so you can look the 2.0 version of James. The only place to get a
facial, and a mani/pedi, would be in space in 20 years time. But it's a good question, and when I got this job, to my four year old daughter, I had to explain to her that I wasn't going to work in space. I was going to be working in the space industry. But she asked me whether I would go up or not. And you've asked
me and you know, I've thought about it a lot. And I think the answer is actually, no, I would love to do it. But I think, the skills you need, the mindset you need, and the commitment you need to strap yourself to a rocket full of, you know, explosive liquid and subject yourself to all the forces that you're going to subject yourself to. The radiation, the isolation, and the skillset you need. That's not me. I know what I
am, and that's not me. But I'm really happy to support people who want to do that. And I think we'll see more people doing it. I mean, space, health, and life sciences is a booming industry because if we're going to be sending people to Mars, if we're going to be sending people to the moon, we're going to need to widen the pool of possible astronaut candidates. The European Space Agency has talked about how do we prepare to send disabled astronauts into space? I think to date you've never, you know, none of the astronauts that have been in space have ever had a broken bone because of the selection criteria. So all of that is going to change. We're going to widen
that aperture. That means we're going to be needing to do a lot more, sort of modelling diagnostics. Thinking about, you know, the long-term impact of space if you're out there for six months, a year, 18 months. And we're going to see this in our lifetime. So, you know, these are real time problems. These are not academic esoteric problems. I love the
fact that a lot of life sciences, and space medicine is going to generate benefits for humans terrestrially, right here on earth. So space doesn't just mean innovation for the space sector, but the adjacencies that we're sort of now starting to see the benefits that are flowing through. Now, there's much more to career in space. Like you said, like your daughter asks, than just being an astronaut or a rocket scientist. Not to take
that away from you. Tim, there are many exciting career paths to follow right here on earth. So there's a space law. There's space medicine. There's design and manufacturing, robotics, data analysis, which is what we excel at, at AWS. So Australia needs a range of skills to support our growing space sector. And the
goal of the Australian Space Agency is actually to triple the size of the space sector, and create up to 20,000 new Australian jobs by 2030. So Aude, I want to ask you, what sort of bright spots, and or challenges are you seeing in growing the industry, as far as the workforce is concerned. I think the bright spot, I liked the example that James brought because space medicine and life science was not the priority at the beginning. And
it spun out from our leapfrog area a priority. Because again, in Australia, we realised that with the Antarctica division, we actually have a lot to say, and to bring, to sort out the isolation problem. These guys are cut out of the world, for nine months at a time. So, we had to look at that, and again a lot of things are exportable in space. And what you say resonates for me. Space was always an attraction to me because it's not only space science and space system engineer, rocket science, but it's also covering how are we going to make sure that we can live in space in longterm? How are we going to grow foods? When you're on the moon, are you going to claim a parcel of the moon? And I found water it's mine. So you need space law as
you already said. I can't think of one discipline and background that cannot be applied in space. And as long as you're passionate and curious, there'll be a carry across with that. Having said all that, I think you also need to think that space is hard. It's a hard domain to
succeed. Don't be afraid of failure. Don't be afraid of risk. You need to, you need to be ready to accept risk. And
love problem solving. Once you launch something out there, or once you're out there, you're on your own and you can't fix things. So if something goes wrong, you need to try to solve the problems. And I think that takes a kind of a different thinking, and the best example of that is this, session on, this episode on the Apollo 13 movie, when you have the mission control, that's my favourite part. He comes in with a box full of stuff, and he put that on the desk and he asked the engineers, "you have two hours to build an air filter with what's in this box" because there are astronauts up there who don't have any air to breathe. And you need to have an appetite for this. But
to your questions, I think again, Australia has a great opportunity, to embrace all these different sectors that we are good at and apply all that into space. And there is not one carry on that is not applicable to space. That's fantastic, and it's so encouraging to hear because every time you say solve a problem, take a risk, try, try. It it's feels like you're talking to our Amazon builders. That that's what our builders are renowned for. James, I
want to ask you, from a training upskilling enablement perspective, what is it that you think we should be doing in Australia? What are your members asking for? Our members want more people, there is such a small pool of talent at the moment. We've got to build that pool, and it's not all going to be people who've been through university engineering programs. There will be a vocational skills component of this as well. And, you know, as Aude mentioned, the number of disciplines involved in this thing we call the space industry, and the space economy, is broadening every day. So, what
we're thinking about, is; how do we create training opportunities for that future workforce that gives them that generalist perspective on what is happening across, not only Australia's space industry, but the global space industry. Because they need to be connected to that. They need to know what's happening, because that will affect their own conception of what's possible in the future. How do we credential so that we know that we're hiring the right people? And, how do we network? How do we make sure that we're getting space professionals together as often as possible to exchange ideas and come up with new solutions to problems we don't even know about yet? And how do we network that space community into the other parts of the economy as well? So, there's a big challenge there. That'll be a challenge for our members, but also for government, for universities, for technical colleges and for schools, because that's a big part of this too. How do we sort of, open the experience for school kids who know that, you know, some people in the world get to be astronauts, but need to know about all the other jobs and opportunities we're talking about here too. Fantastic.
There's no one who's more across the research and development, the startup space than you, Tim. I'm going to make this a little bit more specific. In terms of skills, because you're an AWS you've used AWS before, and you're an engineer at heart. What sort of skills do you think our builders should be beefing up on, in order to be successful in the space industry? So I think the fundamental skillset that they already have, is an appreciation for complexity, is a passion for how they can put together complex things to solve interesting problems in interesting ways. And I
think, if you look at some AWS products, like products like Cassandra, you know, there's a really, amazing kind of mind explosion that happens when you realise that you can handle a cloud formation of different instances. I think that, you know, Aude called it out. First of all, it's an attitude. You
need to be passionate. You need to be curious and bring that every day to what you're doing. I think, secondly, there are a lot of soft skills we need. We need people to have a mindset of empathy, so that they get great requirements from customers, from partners, or even from the people that they need to deliver to with these complex space systems. And in some cases, that
means the person who might be doing the business user experience. They need to have a really rich interaction with somebody who may be doing the data schema, because there's information that gets transformed through those soft skills. And then I believe that we need people to also have a real sense of, what is the art of the possible? Because in many cases, space unlocks possibilities that we hadn't thought of before. Again, something that, you know, the first time you encounter cloud computing, or the ability to do something like, like Lambda or serverless computing or, or a message passing system, you suddenly realise, Oh my God, I can do this in a completely new way. Space is very much about how might we do things in a completely new way, and it is extremely integrative. So that curiosity where you go, okay, I'm going to allow myself to fall down that rabbit hole to see how all this might plug together. And not only do that
from a technological point of view, do it from a social point of view, economic point of view, all those different things that you know, that software mindset triggers. We want you to bring that to the space sector. That's fabulous, Tim. I'm taking your word "integrative", because I heard a lot of different things there. One is customer obsession, empathy, and these are some of Amazon's leadership principles, you know, learn and be curious. So I'm really thrilled to hear that it's not just skills in cloud software engineering, but it's all the kinds of things that Amazon Web Services builders have in spades. This is
going to come in handy since the future of space is clearly data-driven. Thank you, Aude, James and Tim you've helped us learn today, that space as an industry offers a triple bottom line, return on investment, innovation and inspiration. And thank you for tuning in to listen. Whether you're a technologist or a business leader, we hope you enjoyed our session. If you'd
like to learn more about AWS for aerospace and satellite solutions, please reach out to me. And if you enjoyed this talk on cloud powered innovation in space, please don't forget to leave some feedback.