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Microsoft partners with SpaceX on new push beyond the stratosphere

October 20, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC

Microsoft has partnered with SpaceX to help the space cargo company develop a satellite-based Internet service.

Microsoft revealed its alliance with the Elon Musk–founded SpaceX while also debuting its Azure Space business, a cloud-computing service for aerospace companies.

Under the alliance, Microsoft said that SpaceX’s Starlink Internet service would be connected to Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing service, making it the backbone for SpaceX’s planned Internet service. The deal lets SpaceX avoid having to build its own data centers to supports its planned Internet service.

In September, SpaceX said Starlink would be capable of delivering Internet speeds of 100 megabits per second, or about as fast as some currently available Internet satellite services, but slower than wired Internet providers, which offer 128Mbs on average.

SpaceX has not said how much Starlink subscriptions will cost.

Microsoft also plans to help SpaceX develop a defense system for the federal government that is capable of detecting and tracking ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missiles. SpaceX is developing the system though a contract with the U.S. Space Development Agency, which is helping the Pentagon use space technology for military purposes.

Microsoft’s partnership with SpaceX and the debut of its Azure Space business comes as Microsoft’s cloud-computing rival Amazon plans to debut its own satellite-based Internet service. Amazon has not revealed a date for when the service will be publicly available.

Both Microsoft and Amazon have started selling technology that lets companies more easily collect and analyze satellite data via so-called ground stations. Companies can do tasks like predicting the weather or optimizing crop yields by collecting and analyzing satellite data.

Other companies that are signed up for Microsoft’s nascent space business include KSAT, Viasat, and Kratos.