A British company's 4K video cameras are heading to the space station

  • Written by Jonathan Amos
  • Science Reporter
Video explanation,

A rare sight: the UK and Ireland are clear

Super-resolution cameras from a UK startup are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS).

SEN.COM's 4K system will be attached to the front of the orbital outpost to capture what is expected to be some stunning views of Earth.

The London company is already broadcasting live video from a small satellite it launched in 2022.

President Charles Black says he plans to expand the company's technology to many locations, including the Moon.

He told BBC News: “Our goal is to offer a completely new way of seeing space, the Earth and the Moon.”

“We want to put cameras in lunar orbit, on the lunar surface and on lunar rovers, to photograph astronauts as humans return to the moon.

“We want to tell that story.”

International Space Station cameras are carried on the US space agency's latest resupply mission.

More than 2.5 tons of food, clothing, equipment and scientific experiments were launched aboard a SpaceX rocket from Florida at 16:55 local time (20:55 GMT).

After its arrival on Saturday, the station crew will prepare the SEN camera's payload and then place it through an airlock to be placed on the Bartolomeo deck – a piece of exoskeleton attached to Europe's Columbus science module.

The large robotic CanadaArm-2 will perform maneuvers scheduled for May.

Video explanation,

The golden color of the Namibian desert in Africa

One camera will look straight ahead at the horizon, capturing sunrise and sunset, as well as the northern and southern lights.

The second camera will look straight down to focus on what's happening on Earth. The amplitude scene size will be approximately 180 kilometers by 240 kilometers (110 miles by 150 miles). You will see features as small as 60 meters across.

The control software must be able to adjust exposures so that city lights are visible when the station transitions into darkness.

A third camera will be pointed at the forward docking point to record the comings and goings of the space capsules — the SpaceX Dragon ship and the soon-to-be-launched Boeing Starliner.

Video explanation,

Smoke from Canadian forest fires

The plan is to stream 4K video – switching between these cameras – almost continuously. The data will be sent through ESA's relay system, which transmits signals to Earth via high-throughput satellites positioned high above the space station.

You can get a sense of what type of video to expect from the samples on this page. It was captured by SEN's ETV-A1 satellite, which has been operating for the past two years at an altitude of 505 km. More of these spacecraft are currently being assembled.

Again, it's a mix of wide and narrow angle views.

The London company monetizes these productions, for example, by working with film and TV companies on documentaries.

The company also hopes to attract the interest of news organizations that may want to reflect events in a different way, especially if those events have a global reach. Last year's Canadian wildfires would be a good example. Seeing the fire fronts and smoke plumes gives a much clearer sense of the size of the burned area.

Video explanation,

Flying over Interlaken and the Swiss Alps

SEN is by no means the first company to move into the “video from space” market, but Black believes he can find success by packaging the material the right way.

“Video from space is important and will become big business… because real-time video has the power of storytelling, and can provide insights into what is happening directly to people, in the same way Google does,” he said.

“Google Earth has had over a billion downloads for looking at still images, so this real-time dataset about Earth that tells the story of what's happening on Earth and in space right now, which is fully searchable and uses AI and augmented reality to show insights, It will be a huge data producer for humanity.

“No one has addressed this market before, and this is what we do.”

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