UrtheCast (pronounced like “EarthCast”) is a Canadian company with an ambitious plan to attach two Earth-facing cameras to the International Space Station. It will then stream the HD video live and provide the captured still images for free. The ISS orbits earth from 350km above Earth and orbits the Earth 16 times a day with a variation that will cover most inhabited areas of Earth. The cameras will be flown into orbit and attached to the Russian module in 2013.
A medium resolution camera will take still images that capture an area of 47km across with a resolution of 5.4m x 6.2m. The high-resolution camera will capture video and still images. It will capture an area of 5km x 3.4km with a resolution of 1.1m. The video will be captured at 3.2 FPS. The data will then be compressed using the JPEG2000 standard and shot down to ground stations positioned around the globe and made available on the Internet to web and possibly mobile devices.
UrtheCast describes it as a mix between Google Earth and YouTube, live. It will be able to capture political, environmental, and social changes and broadcast them live. It may be the greatest access to satellite imagery non-military institutions will have. It seems the UrtheCast business model will be using advertising to fund its broadcast. It has raised private capital with plans to go public in the future.
You can find out more and sign up for the upcoming beta at www.urthecast.com.