UrtheCast video platform will let users view Earth from space


June 24, 2011

UrtheCast is launching a streaming video platform of planet Earth, that will originate on the International Space Station (Photo: NASA)

UrtheCast is launching a streaming video platform of planet Earth, that will originate on the International Space Station (Photo: NASA)

Canadian-based company UrtheCast has announced a project intended to let a wider audience view the earth from space. A pair of cameras will be installed on the International Space Station, recording videos and imagery of the planet. The project's aim is to create an internet-based video streaming platform, thus allowing for online viewing of the footage being recorded in space. It's "the world's first and only near real time high definition video from space," according to UrtheCast's website.

The International Space Station is a human-inhabited satellite, located at an altitude of around 350 km (217 miles) and traveling at a speed of 26,000 kph (16,155 mph). It orbits Earth 16 times a day. It was built as a joint effort of the Russian, European, Canadian, Japanese and US space agencies.

UrtheCast (pronounced "EarthCast") is based around two cameras located on a steerable platform in the Russian module of the ISS. One of them is high definition, capturing videos at 3.25 fps and a resolution comparable to that of Google Earth. The other one is medium resolution, and will shoot still images taking in 45 km (28 mile)-wide stretches of the earth's surface. Viewers will supposedly be able "to see man-made objects and groups of people." Both cameras will be built by British Rutherford Appleton Laboratories (RAL). Videos and imagery collected by the cameras will be broadcast in an uncompressed format to a number of servers located around the planet, and then uploaded to the UrtheCast internet platform.

UrtheCast's users will be able to view, download and manipulate the video feed, according to the project's website. It will also be possible to interact with the footage just as if the platform was a personal video camera - users can search for a certain clip, zoom in and out, fast forward or rewind the videos, for example. The UrtheCast project promises "a blending of a video version of Google Earth with the video playback and search functionality of YouTube," and will reportedly be able to "operate seamlessly with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter."

The project will be officially launched in Calgary, Canada, on June 28th. The cameras are scheduled for launch later this year, with the anticipated date of UrtheCast going live set for the Northern Hemisphere's spring of 2012.

See the brief UrtheCast presentation in the video below:


So...with a billion people logged on, vaing for control of the camera, HOW is anyone going to get a shot at it? Will it be FREE?


This is ridiculous. A live video stream to a high-bandwidth server is the only LIVE version. And since when 3.25 frames per second is high-definition? :D

Renārs Grebežs

High-definition is not based on how many fps is recorded but on the quality of each shot. As long as the film is shot in a resolution higher than standard definition, most usually 720p it is considered high definition even if there were 2fps or 200fps. And I do not believe you will be able to manipulate the actual arm rather than you will be able to move around the stream meaning timing wise or zoom your stream. If there were to be a way to control the camera it would definitely be paid only. This is just a guess however so do not take my word entirely.

Matthew Norman

Hmmmm, wonder if Police Forces around the world are now going to include this tool in Crime Solving (CSI) - ie: following getaway car. Or even watching the original crime happen by searching previously shot video (as they say will be possible in article above). I understand that the ISS will not always be scanning where you want it to be, but - it can be another tool in the \'ol toolbox that just might pan out if the ISS just so happened to be there.

No facial ID or license Plates (not at 1 metre res!), but actions sometimes speak louder than words (or text).

Could be verrrrrrrry Interrrrrrestink in the near future, methinks.

Edwin Wityshyn
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