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Xplore’s Major Tom Software Delivers Satellite Operations Testing for NOAA with Microsoft Azure Orbital

Xplore Inc., a commercial space company providing Space as a Service, completed a satellite testing initiative using Microsoft Azure Orbital to conduct satellite operations for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s NOAA-18 satellite. Xplore is operating over a dozen satellites on orbit; the company completed its work with Azure and became one of the first cloud-based ground control software to operate a NOAA satellite.

Xplore integrated Azure Orbital as part of a first-ever Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to demonstrate how commercial services and cloud operations can be used to securely control satellites and acquire data with NOAA satellites.

Lisa Rich, Xplore Founder and Chief Operating Officer said, “The results of this CRADA reinforce the value Major Tom offers its customers. It demonstrates our ability to offer a cloud-based solution and provides NOAA with a path to sustainability and as well, a means by which they achieve redundancy and reliability for satellite operators.”

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Legacy satellites, new constellations and experimental satellites benefit from mission operations services offered by Major Tom. In the case of the NOAA-18 satellite, this initiative with Azure Orbital demonstrated technical feasibility of using the cloud to successfully connect with legacy software, designed over 15 years ago. Further, it demonstrates how mission operations through the cloud allow satellite operators to take full advantage of commercial ground stations as a service.

Steve Kitay, Senior Director, Azure Space at Microsoft Corp. said, “Our work with NOAA and Xplore is driving innovation to virtualize satellite ground station operations in the cloud. Empowering agencies to tap into these newest commercial technologies is unlocking new levels of resiliency and global capacity for critical mission operations.”

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Xplore’s Major Tom service offers a scalable platform with powerful satellite mission operations and planning tools. The cloud-based software allows operators to perform ground station scheduling, satellite tasking and telemetry monitoring, saving money and time on operations. It provides the ability to integrate and control ground segment applications and services, and further de-risks mission operations with features that include out-of-the-box ground network integrations, data analytics, real-time dashboards and a customizable commanding API.

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Justin Gronert, JPSS Mission Operations Manager said, “Legacy polar satellites require additional support. Under the CRADA with Xplore Major Tom and Microsoft, the capability to provide mission support was demonstrated and we were able to conduct payload data processing via cloud-based mission control.”

Leveraging cloud data allows Major Tom to provide satellite operators with assurance and more resiliency in the system. In the case of a natural disaster, for example, Major Tom can quickly transition all operations to support spacecraft from any location, ensuring reliable continuous operations and resulting in less costly down time.

Lisa Rich said, “with Major Tom, users operate their missions on a secure, unified cloud platform. Data lives in the cloud and can be brought down from any location. Major Tom is a scalable platform that ultimately provides ease of use for a wide range of satellite operators seeking value, reliability and resiliency.”

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