The next step in the race towards “live” maps seems to be public satellite, or ISS, based near realtime HD video. The footage below is from Skybox Imaging, a company that has just started offering customers 90-second video of any point on Earth from its SkySat-1 satellite. In this clip, the SkyBox video sits on top of a static layer of satellite imagery and is overlaid by a map layer from Mapbox, based on OpenStreetMap.
Another company, Planet Labs, has just launched its own fleet of 28 imaging microsatellites from the International Space Station and hopes to offer scientists and the public the chance to track changes on the Earth’s surface with much higher frequency than ever before. These satellites will only provide still images though.
Also NASA seems to be willing to ride the wave by putting up four off the shelf HD cameras outside the ISS for the HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) project. The cameras will be insulated but not shielded against radiation. One of the projects goals is to find out what camera copes best with the radiation.
[Update] Recently found this more comprehensive list of players in this race on ieee.spectrum.
With the SpaceX Dragon 3 capsule that was recently berthed to the ISS, NASA deployed the HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing) experiment to space. It consists of four of the shelf HD video cameras in a common housing with a video encoder and router.
Today ISSs robotic arm extracted the box from the Dragons unpressurized cargo hold and mounted it outside of the Columbus module.
Live stream showing video of all four cameras in a predefined sequence.
The four cameras are mounted so that one camera is pointing forward into the stations velocity vector, two cameras to the back and one down towards the earth.
The housing insulates the cameras from the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space but will provide no significant shielding against radiation. That’s on purpose as the main reason for the experiment is to find out how none radiation hardened cameras, especially their sensors, will fare in this environment.
The video signal is encoded to a H264 stream for the downlink and broadcasted live on a ustream channel. The stream will show all four installed cameras in a preprogrammed sequence.
This is an interesting contribution in the race towards live satellite maps, several companies are now taking part in, as the possibility to use off the shelf camera would definitely limit the costs for such ventures.
Installation of the HDEV outside the Columbus module.
Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute is currently working on a complete end-to-end system for the real-time acquisition and projection of immersive, high-resolution video panoramas. The approach is based on a flexible, mirror-based multi-camera rig that uses multiple HD cameras to capture very high-resolution video panoramas. These videos are then exhibited with a flexible multi-projection system in order to provide the viewers with the immersive feeling of watching the event on-site from the very best seat.
Real-time acquisition and projection of high resolution video panoramas with large field-of-view (FOV),
Capturing with flexible rig for up to five HD cameras with FOV of 150 degrees,
Full circle rig for up to 12 HD cameras with 360 degree capturing capability,
Exhibition with flexible, high-resolution multi-projection system,
Based on CineCard PCI-card that supports up to four projectors per board (and up to 16 projectors per PC),
Unlimited cascading in both vertical and horizontal direction,
Immersive viewing experience that feels like “being there”.