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This is how Earth is seen from the International Space Station through the HDEV experiment

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From HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing)translated into Spanish as Visualization in High Definition of the Earth, is an experiment aboard the ISS (International Space Station), which was activated from April 30, 2014.

The system is installed in the external payload installation of the Columbus module of the European Space Agency. This experiment works with several HD video cameras aimed at the Earth, enclosed in a pressurized and temperature-controlled casing.

To be from an experiment in operation, the views are generally sequential for the environment of the different cameras. Between the interruptions of the cameras, a gray and then black slate will appear for a short time.

HDEV live video:

If you can’t see the video, go to this link

These chambers are enclosed with specific temperature y exposed to the harsh radiation of space. From the analysis of the effect of space in the quality of the video, during the time in which the HDEV is active, can help the engineers to decide which cameras are the best for use in future missions.

Preparatory students helped to design some components of these cameras, for the purposes of the High School United program with NASA for the Create Hardware (HUNCH) program.

The principal investigator is the Master Susan Runco, from the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, United States. Coininvestigators and collaborators help her Carlos Fontanot, Lori Motes and David Hornyak, all from the Johnson Space Center.

The main objective of the HDEV is to validate the performance based on the space of the cameras in a variety of operational modes to exercise and demonstrate the characteristics and durability of COTS equipment for future use of the ISS program. The payload consists of a multiple camera system for viewing external terrain that uses a set of COTS (Commercial-off-the-shelf) cameras.

The HDEV integrated assembly consists of a system of four COTS cameras, integrated with avionics for handling and data handling, as well as an energy data distribution box that allows the integration of the interface of the components of the load to the module ISS Columbus.

HDEV cameras are a system of cameras that do not require zoom, we have horizontal or vertical movement mechanisms. The four fixed cameras are positioned to capture images of the Earth’s surface and its tip from the ISS, this means that one camera points towards the station’s velocity vector, two cameras point back (wake up) and the fourth the camera panned from the nadir. The video images are encoded in a format compatible with ethernet for terrestrial transmission and distribution, thanks to this, the video can be viewed on any computer connected to the Internet.

This is a video recording experiment on board the ISS, all of the video is transmitted to Earth in real time, any desired video recording occurs as ground operations. The COTS cameras, the COTS encoder and other electronic components are enclosed in a pressurized box to provide a level of protection to the electronic components in the space environment. The cabinet contains dry nitrogen at atmospheric pressure.

HDEV operations design

In an experiment, a camera is operated a la vez. The HDEV is designed so that when the system is turned on, after a warm-up period of one to two minutes, the cameras turn on one at a time in a repetitive cycle. The camera that points forward feeds first, followed by Nadir and the cameras that point back, so that the HDEV video continues to have a location on Earth when the ISS passes by.

This automatic cycle mode of the HDEV can be operated at any time when the energy and information resources of the ISS are available without requiring a controller on Earth present to operate the payload. Only a ignition command is required, which is carried out by the Columbus Control Center of the ESA, according to the programming for the payload operations of the ISS.

So, alternately, HDEV video can be ordered for controllers on Earth. The operators on Earth have the option to change the cycle of the recorded images in automatic cycle mode, either to change the cameras that are switched on or to change the time of ignition, or on the other hand, controlling from the Earth a single camera that stays on and does not stay in the automatic cycle.


El HDEV tests HD cameras that are commercially available for future space missions. The use of commercial products is usually more profitable than the design of new products for spatial applications. Tests on Earth have shown that these cameras could survive in a simulated space environment, but real exposure to low Earth orbit shows how durable they are and that they work well in the extremely harsh conditions of space.

Some results

With the aim of preparing the next generation of space explorers to carry out missions beyond low Earth orbit, space agencies around the world have implemented programs to encourage students to study careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This investigation has allowed the students to observe the Earth from the astronaut’s perspective by applying remote sensing analysis tools through the HDEV camera. Until now, more than 1,000 students and 70 teachers have participated directly in this investigation.

The lessons are also broadcast on television and radio, and the visits to the website have reached more than eleven thousand students. This research was developed by the University of Bonn and sponsored by the Space Administration of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The HDEV archive in Bonn has stored all the videos downloaded since the end of 2014. In addition to the continuous storage, the project selects some outstanding aspects of the HDEV experiment that are published on the Internet.

You can see some of the videos stored during this experiment in this link.

Original article on the official page.

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Neil Barker
Neil Barker
Hi there! I am Neil Barker, a tech enthusiast who believes in the power of open-source software.


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