Epic spacewalk will put us in the front row for near live video of the Earth
29 Jan 2014





​​Video camera system (click image for a larger version)
(Credit: STFC/RAL)


28th January 2014

For the first time all internet users across the globe will be able to view recent scenes and events on Earth filmed from Space day and night. Two new cameras, one high-definition and one medium-resolution have been installed on the Russian segment of the International Space Station on 27 January 2014 after a spacewalk lasting more than six hours. The cameras were designed, built and tested by UK based RAL Space at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for the ‘Urthecast’ project that will start streaming near-​real-time video footage from the International Space Station in Spring 2014.

When logged in to UrtheCast’s near-live feed which is being installed on the Russian module of the International Space Station you will be able to view Earth through their socially integrated, interactive web platform. All you will need to view the footage is an internet connection and a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Professor Richard Holdaway, Director of STFC’s RAL Space, said: “This programme is a paradigm-shift in social media from space. For the first time ever we will be able to view what’s happening on Earth, from Space, on any device that has the internet. It’s thanks in part to the efforts of the UK team of engineers and scientists here in Oxfordshire. The RAL Space Imaging Systems team has designed, built and tested the two cameras - one high-resolution HD-quality video camera and one medium resolution camera”.

The medium resolution camera (MRC) is essentially a modified version of an existing earth-observation camera, RALCam-3, that operates in four wavelengths, allowing colour images of the Earth’s surface to be built up. The MRC will be pointed directly down and take continuous images of Earth in 45km swaths at a resolution of 5m per pixel.

The second and most exciting camera is a high resolution video camera (HRC) mounted on a steerable platform. The RAL Space cameras interface with the data handling electronics, built by MDA in Canada, which pass the data through the ISS systems down to the ground where Urthecast make the images available for streaming to their customers and to the public. With a resolution of 1m per pixel individual vehicles could be viewed by this camera.

The HRC can also be controlled to continuously aim at a single point on the Earth’s surface as the ISS passes overhead which allows the HRC to generate a video stream instead of single images. 

This will allow people to track natural and man-made changes such as seasonal variations, ​congestion, natural disasters and deforestation in near real-time and over the course of many months and years. UrtheCast will build a catalogued archive of footage and images for public access, creating a utility for education and environmental awareness.

The cameras will constantly be rolling as the ISS circles the world, 16 times a day. They will capture video and imagery below the Station’s orbit, where approximately 90% of the world’s population lives.

The cameras will traverse latitudes ranging from England, to Chile, and everywhere in between 51 degrees to -51 degrees latitude.

Further information

Watch a narrated animation of events during the spacewalk​.

Last year’s launch of the cameras to orbit can be seen online. (link opens in a new window)

Read the Urthecast blog.

Urthecast website.​

Contact details

For media enquiries you can contact the out of hours media number on
+44 (0)7092 982664.

Or contact Jake Gilmore, STFC Media Manager      07970994586

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries