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How this Amazon cloud device made it to the International Space Station, and what it did in orbit

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An AWS Snowcone SSD on the International Space Station during the Axiom Space Ax-1 mission. (NASA Photo via Amazon)

LAS VEGAS — Axiom Space tested an Amazon Web Services Snowcone cloud device in orbit in April during the first privately funded crewed mission to the International Space Station, the companies revealed Thursday.

Amazon says the Snowcone SSD, commonly used to transfer on-premises data to the cloud, had passed NASA certification prior to the mission with no modifications except for wrapping the exterior in a protective yellow film.

During the mission, a machine-learning algorithm on the device automatically reviewed, catalogued and identified objects in large-scale photos taken during experiments conducted by Axiom. Eliminating the need to transfer data to Earth and back reduced an 18-hour process to about 20 minutes.

Daryl Schuck, AWS business development manager for space exploration, left, and Clint Crosier, director of Aerospace and Satellite at AWS, with a Snowcone SSD at Amazon re:MARS this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

It’s the first time AWS has put a general purpose cloud computing device into orbit, said Clint Crosier, director of Aerospace and Satellite at AWS, a retired U.S. Air Force major general who oversaw the development of the U.S. Space Force, in an interview prior to the announcement at the AWS re:MARS conference.

Crosier said the company envisions cloud computing capabilities ultimately expanding to private space stations, satellites and the surface of the Moon, with a wide variety of possible applications.

The certification process was led by Daryl Schuck, AWS business development manager for space exploration, focusing on a stock AWS Snowcone device with minimal modifications. However, in the future, Crosier said AWS could pursue changes to optimize for weight and durability, for example.

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