SAN FRANCISCO — UrtheCast Corp., the Canadian firm preparing to offer high-definition (HD) video imagery from the international space station, announced July 9 that its two cameras are scheduled to launch Nov. 21 on a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  

The cameras are scheduled to travel to the space station on the same Soyuz cargo flight as the Olympic torch, which is being sent into space for the first time on its journey to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The schedule for launching the Progress cargo tug carrying the Earth-monitoring cameras is not likely to be affected by the July 2 launch failure of a Russian Proton rocket because the Soyuz mission departs from a separate launch pad, UrtheCast officials said. 

Soon after the Earth observation cameras reach the space station, Russian cosmonauts plan a spacewalk to install the instruments on a platform attached to the space station’s Zvezda service module, said Scott Larsen, president and chief executive of Vancouver, British Columbia-based UrtheCast. Cosmonauts recently practiced installing the cameras in the Hydrolab at the Star City Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow, Larsen told SpaceNews.

RAL Space, part of the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, has nearly completed construction of UrtheCast’s 5-meter-resolution still camera and 5.5-meter-resolution video camera, Larsen said. Another UrtheCast partner, Canada’s MDA Corp., is assembling electronic systems designed to transfer data and imagery from the cameras to ground stations. 

Once the two cameras are installed on the space station platform, UrtheCast plans to conduct several weeks of on-board testing before making imagery captured by the cameras publicly available through its Web platform in early 2014.



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Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She is...