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.
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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: