Vancouver-based UrtheCast aims to commercialize high-resolution video from space by installing HD cameras aboard the International Space Station. The cameras are in production now, with plans to install by the end of 2012. The company has recently signed a $4.2 million contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates to build some of the hardware and data compression for the project. The company is betting that this first HD live feed of the planet will aid scientific research, education, and international news.
This effort is a partnership with Russian Federal Space Agency, with the two cameras installed on the Russian module of the International Space Station. The cameras began as a means for publicity for the agency, but the commercialization angle grew when the agency’s original technology partner backed away from the project. Rutherford Appleton Labs in the UK are developing the camera lenses.
The high-resolution video cameras are being tuned to offer 5.5-metre resolution fixed views from one camera, and one-metre definition on a camera that can be programmed and controlled to deliver specific coordinates. Given the constant collection, with an estimated three terabytes a day of imagery, the company is looking to unique ways to harness the cloud to deliver this data. To help out with this challenge the company is working with Victoria-based MindHeap, a specialist in data handling. UrtheCast has been hard at work on the problem, and has won the T-Systems Cloud Computing Challenge, as part of the first annual GMES Masters Competition. sponsored by the European Space Agency.
The Space Station continues to be a good platform for earth observation ,with its rapid travels (26,000 km per hour) of the globe with 16 orbits per day. This new application of streamed video from space offers a new immediacy that is keeping with the age in which we live. Also keeping with the times, the company is promoting the monitoring of social media as a means to direct data capture to newsworthy hotspots around the globe. While there will be some delay due to image download and distribution, this platform for streaming earth views will offer a whole new insight into evolving events.
Here’s an introductory video that discusses the company’s vision.