To find out why AWS sent a Snowcone into space

Currently, Amazon Prime does not deliver to the International Space Station (ISS), but the company is sending up its edge computing devices in the interim.

Axion Space and NASA launched the Ax-1 mission in April, which included an AWS Snowcone storage device on a SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon. The Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth on April 25 with the first-ever visit by a private astronaut to the International Space Station.

Amazon hid Snowcone’s voyage until their re:MARS symposium on space, artificial intelligence, and robots in June.

It joined the Raspberry Pi and other ISS tech pioneers, such AWS’ tough edge storage device, Snowcone, on their trip to ISS nearly as-is following heat and vibration testing. The International Space Station flies at an altitude of approximately 250 miles above the Earth’s surface (402 km).

An iPad-sized Snowcone weighs 4.5 pounds (2.1 kg) and has 2 CPUs, 5 GB of RAM, and a massive 14 TB of storage capacity. In a more generic sense, it is used to collect, process, and transport data to AWS, either by shipping the device or through AWS DataSync. On-board scientific experiments were captured using the gadget, which was then relayed back to Earth. During its 17-day mission, the Ax-1 produced up to 1TB of data every day.

According to AWS, Snowcone was not designed for space missions, but rather for usage in harsh, off-the-grid environments devoid of cellular connectivity.

Photo data from Nikon cameras was saved on the ISS’s network-attached storage (NAS) and sent to the Snowcone device over the ISS’ local area network for processing, thanks to AWS’ machine learning (ML) solutions lab’s collaboration with Axiom.

“The model was able to deliver findings within three seconds after the photographs were on the Snowcone,” added Barr.

Due to Snowcone’s search for lower-case extensions while the NAS had images with upper-case extensions, the mission was halted. In order to resolve the problem and provide a new ML model, engineers on Earth were able to connect to the Snowcone over SSH. And that, according to Barr, was the big success.

“In order to launch, test, and update the model, the Earth-based crew was able to connect remotely with the orbiting Snowcone. In order to demonstrate their ability to leverage the limited bandwidth available between space stations and Earth to analyse images from onboard research projects, they then repeated this procedure “Barr explains this in a statement.

Snowcones are only a small portion of Amazon’s plans for space travel and satellites in low Earth orbit. It was announced in April that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) have committed to launching 83 of Amazon’s Project Kuiper’s 3,236 broadband-beaming satellites. However, the project’s satellites have yet to be launched.