Today, Canadian company UrtheCast is celebrating the release of three full-color videos shot from its Ultra HD Iris imaging device, mounted on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS). The videos (seen below) are but a small taste of the high-quality, near-live streams that the company is planning to make available to the world with the full launch of the UrtheCast Earth-viewing platform.

UrtheCast is touting the video release as a historic event, and it's really quite hard to argue the assertion. Mankind has taken millions of years to evolve to its present state, and has only been capable of manned spaceflight since 1961.

Therefore in the greater context of our species, the ability to view the Earth from orbit is an incredibly recent development. Now, UrtheCast is preparing to provide high-quality, full-color images and near-live video streams to anyone in the world with internet access. When viewed in this light, UrtheCast's efforts to democratize space does indeed take on a historic aspect.

It took
two spacewalks, totaling over 14 hours, to install the company's Iris and Theia imaging devices on the exterior of the Russian Zvezda service module. Theia, UrtheCast's multispectoral medium-resolution camera, is capable of capturing 50-km (31-mile)-wide swathes of terrain at a resolution of 5 m (16 ft) per pixel. Each day, Theia could potentially image around 29 million sq km (18 million sq miles).

Meanwhile, UrtheCast's Iris imaging device is designed to be trained on specific locations and is capable of capturing full-color video sequences up to 60 seconds in duration, with a resolution of 1 m (3 ft) per pixel. Furthermore, in April UrtheCast announced that it was to partner with NASA, integrating the agency's own High-Definition Earth-Viewing (HDEV) service into the company's platform.

"This summer we'll begin feeding live video data from the HDEV cameras to UrtheCast's web platform, our interactive hub of Earth video and imagery," states UrtheCast's CEO and Co-founder, Scott Larson. "NASA's online HDEV channel has already garnered over 46 million views in under a year, so this is no doubt an exciting opportunity for everyone involved. With this resource, we'll tap into a view of the world that is not only breathtaking, but incredibly inspiring."

The three videos included in today's release were shot by the company's Ultra HD Iris camera, and showcase the capabilities of the service while offering a brief glimpse at life in three highly diverse cities – London, Boston, and Barcelona. The impressive level of detail displayed in the videos allows users to observe traffic moving in real time, while being presented with an overlay highlighting various pieces of information.

When the UrtheCast Earth-viewing platform is launched, images from Iris, Theia, and NASA's own HDEV experiment will be processed and continually streamed to the service, available to all. A basic account will be completely free, and users will be able to manipulate the image, and even upload their favorite pieces to their profiles.

The company will also be offering its services to the commercial sphere, allowing paying customers to task Iris on a specific area and collect exclusive footage. The company also envisions numerous humanitarian and agricultural applications for the data, including aiding in disaster relief, monitoring crops, and keeping track of deforestation.

“We are realizing UrtheCast’s mission to bring something really quite unique to the Earth Observation industry," explains UrtheCast President and Chief Operating Officer Wade Larson. "With today’s video release, we continue to move towards being able to deliver fast, scalable, and affordable Earth Observation imagery to our customers, and ultimately broadening the market appeal and utility of space-based remote sensing.”

Source: UrtheCast

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