High-Def Cameras To Start Streaming Live Footage Of Earth Thanks To UrtheCast

One company is planning to launch the world’s first high definition streaming video platform aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to get a great glimpse of planet Earth from space.

UrtheCast (pronounced Earth Cast) will be launching two high definition cameras to be installed on the Russian module of the orbiting laboratory. These cameras will be streaming video of Earth back to ground stations, which will be available for users to see on the Internet, television channels, mobile devices, and other electronic media.

“From a User perspective, UrtheCast will blend features of Google Earth with the playback and video search functionality of YouTube,” the company wrote in a press statement. “The UrtheCast experience will be truly unique, generating significant awareness, publicity, and User interest worldwide.”

Users will be able to track the location of the ISS, and search for videos of a particular location. They will be able to zoom into areas, as well as rewind and fast forward areas on Earth. The cameras will be of such high-definition that they will be able to see man-made objects and groups of people, which UrtheCast says this will be comparable to Google Earth.

UrtheCast says video feeds available on the site will be free for non-commercial and private purposes. However, anyone hoping to use video for commercial purposes will be able to purchase a license to do so.

Footage will also be able to be used to access recent events, such as earthquakes or floods. A spokesman for UrtheCast said in an email that UrtheCast has an agreement with the UN to offer realtime information on disaster situations.

UrtheCast said if a competitor attempted to build and deploy a dedicated satellite to compete against the real-time feed, costs would exceed nearly $100 million for the satellite, launch, operations and ground segment.

“From a technology standpoint, it is also difficult to achieve imagery with similar data quality,” the company said. “The combination of exclusive partnerships and technology allow for substantial barriers to other would−be entrants.”

UrtheCast said it landed a deal with Discovery Science Channel to provide the high-definition footage for the television station. It said the Discovery Science Channel is working on a special segment focusing on UrtheCast technology.

“We are the home for space programming on television,” Science Channel executive vice president Debbie Adler Myers said. “Our viewers expect us to have the best, most authoritative television programs about space. UrtheCast helps us build on that promise, giving Science Channel the most stunning live images of Earth for use online and on-air.”

The Canadian company said it plans to start streaming footage of the astronauts’ view of earth by the fall of 2013. The equipment will be finished up this summer, and then shipped off to space via two Soyuz rockets. The Russian space agency will be installing the cameras beneath the ISS.

Company CEO Scott Larson said as the cameras take the images, the data basically gets stored on a hard drive on the ISS, and then at various points in the day the information is sent down to Earth. He said the delay between when you get imaged, and when the data gets sent down could be anywhere between half an hour up to a few hours.

Larson hopes the information being constantly recorded on earth will be utilized by universities, researchers, businesses and government departments.

“Coffee traders look at the coffee fields and say, ‘Is this going to be a good year for coffee or bad, do we need to import, do we need to export, is the price going to go up or down?’ Hedge funds will count the cars in Walmart parking lots to determine same-store sales,” he said.

UrtheCast is just the dawning of a new era in how we will be able to keep tabs with how life is going on Earth.





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