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Second spacewalk planned to install UrtheCast cameras

Posted: January 16, 2014

Russian cosmonauts will step outside the International Space Station later this month for a second try to set up a pair of Earth observation cameras after a cabling issue inside the complex cut short a spacewalk in December.

Cosmonaut Sergei Ryazanskiy on a Dec. 27 spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Roscosmos
Russian managers have scheduled the spacewalk for Jan. 27, a month after cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy had to call off the setup of two commercial high-definition video cameras outside the space station's Zvezda service module.

Attired in Orlan spacesuits, the cosmonauts bolted the cameras to their mounting points and plugged them in to the space station's power and communications systems, but ground controllers never received data. After initial troubleshooting, engineers in Moscow ordered the crew to unhook the cameras and bring them back inside the complex.

The Dec. 27 spacewalk lasted more than eight hours, the longest excursion by Russian cosmonauts in history, as Kotov and Ryazanskiy undid their earlier work to connect the cameras.

The cameras belong to UrtheCast Corp., a company based in Vancouver aiming to stream high-definition video of Earth from the space station in near real-time. The system includes a fixed medium-resolution camera and a high-resolution camera on a steerable platform to point toward targets on Earth as the space station flies overhead.

The sharp-eyed steerable camera, which will record minute-long videos for paying subscribers, will resolve objects on the ground as small as a meter (3.2 feet) in diameter, according to UrtheCast.

The five-meter (16.4-foot) resolution fixed camera will stream video for users who set up a free online account on UrtheCast's website.

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory of Britain built the cameras, which are designed to transmit imagery through electronics manufactured by MDA Corp. of Canada and existing space station communications systems.

"With the ISS cabling issue now resolved, we expect that the second spacewalk will result in a complete installation," said Scott Larson, UrtheCast's CEO. "We are again thankful for the hard work of the engineering teams at Roscomos, Energia, and UrtheCast, which were able to quickly isolate and resolve the issue. We're now confident that our business plan will remain unaffected."

The cameras launched Nov. 25 inside a Russian Progress resupply craft. They were sent to the station in a commercial arrangement with the Russian Federal Space Agency and Energia, Russia's main space station contractor.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.