Artist's concept of TDRS with data stream. Credit: NASA
SN, TDRS, international space station, NSN, ACCESS 

Space Network Upgrades Enable First UHD Live Stream from Space Station

May 15, 2017

This blog post was written prior to a reorganization of ESC’s projects and networks in support of the agency’s commercialization effort. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated and may contain broken links or outdated information. For more information about the reorganization, click here.

On April 26, recent upgrades to NASA’s Space Network will enable astronauts to give the first-ever ultra-high-definition (UHD) live stream from the International Space Station.

Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) in geosynchronous orbit and associated ground terminals around the world comprise the Space Network, which has been providing continuous communications coverage to the station and more than 40 other NASA missions since the 1980s. In 2016 through early 2017, the network performed hardware upgrades to the station's onboard communications systems and to the network's ground communications systems to double its data rate with the station.

Once data rates on the station could successfully support something like an ultra-HD stream, a JAXA H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) resupply mission in December 2016 delivered a 4K camera to astronauts.

“High-definition viewing from around the world is now common place,” said Neil Mallik, ESC’s Human Space Flight deputy network director. “Demonstrating a UHD downlink from ISS checks yet another box of home comforts, but from space. Never has space been so close to home.”

This capability will prove increasingly important as astronauts venture further into space and could be used to help humans stay connected with society, family and friends on long missions, such as the Journey to Mars.

Astronauts will use the 4K camera for the first time for a UHD live stream broadcast to the 2017 National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas via Amazon Web Services’ Elemental.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson will speak with Sam Blackman, chief executive officer and co-founder of the company, as part of a panel called, “Reaching for the Stars: Connecting to the Future with NASA and Hollywood.”

To experience the full effect online, devices capable of viewing 4K UHD content will be required, however, lower resolution streams of the live broadcast will be available on NASA Television, NASA’s Facebook page and the agency’s website.

Watch AWS’s live stream of the event April 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET:

To read more about the recent upgrades to the Space Network: