Cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy took a second shot at installing two cameras on the International Space Station (ISS) this morning. They completed the job with mixed results.
The cameras, provided by UrtheCast, a Canadian company, were originally to be installed during an Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), or space walk, on 27 December. During that record setting Russian EVA, the cameras were unable to transmit data to Earth so the installation was cancelled.
Troubleshooting has since traced the problems to indoor wiring and it was believed before today’s EVA that a remedy had been found and initiated. The two cosmonauts locked out at 9 a.m. for six hours and eight minutes. The installation of the larger of the two cameras, the high definition camera, nicknamed Iris, went without a hitch. It was mounted to the side of the ISS and when tested, data flowed as intended to ground controllers stationed just outside Moscow.
The second camera, a medium definition camera, was attached as planned, but when the connections were made a faulty data stream was received by ground controllers. Both cameras are secured in place and wired with numerous electrical connections for power and signal.
Cosmonaut Ryazanskiy was informed of the problem with the second camera by ground control and undid and redid the connections, but the problem persisted. With attempts to wire and rewire showing poor data flow, it was decided that UrtheCast and the Russian Space Agency will once again try to find the source of the problem from inside the Space Station.
Once the cameras are up and running UrtheCast predicts a three month time-frame to calibrate them before they go live this coming summer.
The two cameras are part of an exciting plan by UrtheCast to offer near-live streaming of Earth from space to subscribers below. The basic membership is free; all one needs is an internet connection and they’ll be able to tune into near-live streaming anytime they want. The high definition camera, the one installed successfully today, is mounted on a bi-axial mount which will enable it to follow predetermined focus points on the ground. Paying subscribers will be able to study and observe areas of special interest and can pay for specific camera tasking options. They will also be able to purchase the rights to photos and videos taken during their allotted time slot.
As the ISS operates at an altitude of 260 miles, the cameras will be able to film and shoot between latitudes 51 degrees north and 51 degrees south. They’ll film a 25 mile wide path in 4K-resolution with each daily pass.
UrtheCast has made a point of highlighting the possibilities offered by the two new cameras. Tracking deforestation, mining activities, and natural disasters are just a few of the possibilities. Their pitch is that if these things can be tracked successfully from space, then companies, governments, and agencies can coordinate plans of action where their interests are concerned.
During the second shot at installing the cameras, the Russian cosmonauts have put all those with internet access a step closer to being able to google Mother Earth from the comfort of home, via the International Space Station.