An enterprising and visionary company has successfully trialled a new video platform to bring ultra high resolution streaming from orbit.
Sen – which stands for Space Exploration Network – is focused on a mission to “democratize space”, by beaming quality views from across the Solar System to smartphones and home computers.
The first test video from space is remarkable for the quality of the images, both of parts of the satellite and of the surface of the Earth turning below. They exceed anything usually seen, and are matched only by the imaging caught by astronauts for brief spells from the International Space Station.
The test mission blasted into space in February from Kazakhstan atop a Russian Soyuz 2-1b Fregat-M rocket. Sen’s 4K video platform flew piggyback on an Egyptian remote sensing satellite, EgyptSat A. There was drama when the third stage of the Soyuz shut off prematurely, but the rocket’s upper stage was able to make up for this, carrying the satellite and Sen’s video platform into orbit.
Sen’s system, which is the world’s first 4K video-streaming platform from a satellite, comprises six video cameras plus a computer system to control them and process the images. Charles Black, Founder and CEO of the UK-based Sen, calls it “the most powerful video platform ever to operate in space”.
The cameras work together to stream continuous information about the satellite, with video streaming possible even in real time. Two of the cameras are steerable robotically, allow different views of the surroundings.
Highlights from the test flight show close-up views of the satellite in great details, from a reflective covering that was jetisoned, to the ion thrusters, glowing blue from their propellant, and golden “horns” that are X-band antennas used to transmit the video and other data to ground stations.
Images of Earth include a crescent marking the boundary between day and night, mountain ranges, the characteristic shapes of Italy and the Red Sea, all in natural colour.
Black, who has long nurtured the dream of bringing the wonder of space to ordinary people, told Skymania: “The mission is Sen’s first technical milestone on our roadmap to provide ultra high definition video of Earth and eventually other worlds we expand to.
“Looking at Earth from space provides a unique perspective of our ever-changing world, and can help improve response to humanitarian crises, natural disasters and our longer-term management of the planet. Sen’s vision is to ensure that watching Earth live will be accessible by everyone on smartphones and the internet, to inform, educate and benefit all humanity.”
Sen aims to begin with cameras in Low Earth Orbit but later to scale to deeper space and even to deploy cameras on planetary orbiters, rovers and drones deployed at the Moon, Mars and further into the Solar System.