Live Video of Earth from the International Space Station Coming

Like Google Earth, but streaming in near-real-time, a Canadian startup will soon mount cameras on the International Space Station and broadcast the video on an open source Web platform.

by / September 18, 2012
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image

By spring 2013, a Canadian startup will finish preparations for streaming near-real-time video of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS), reported the BBC. Called UrtheCast (pronounced Earth-cast), the company will finish developing two high-definition cameras that will be moved by astronauts from a cargo ferry to the underside of the ISS where they will record and stream video at Google Earth-level quality.

One camera will be stationary and the other will swivel. Images taken by the two cameras will be about three feet per pixel, said Ian Tosh, an engineer at camera-builder RAL Space. “You won’t quite see the tiles, but you’ll see all the detail in the garden,” Tosh told the BBC.

While the ISS already has cameras, they are not intended for streaming video of the Earth. UrtheCast intends to make its Web platform open source and allow developers to build applications based on video data collected by the cameras and sell the apps on the UrtheCast website. The United Nations (UN) partnered with UrtheCast with the idea of using the imagery to monitor humanitarian emergencies.

“We anticipate that video imaging from space will become a critical component of a new best practices model for monitoring humanitarian relief, tracking human development and detailing peace-keeping missions,” UrtheCast President Scott Larson said. “If a relationship with the UN is any indication, formidable agencies are now recognizing the value of video imagery of Earth.”

Image courtesy of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.