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A new livestream from space.

There’s a new 4K camera on the International Space Station that is capturing live images of the orbiting lab and the Earth. Liam Kennedy shares more details.



Deep Space


Sen’s mission to livestream Earth in 4K launched into orbit aboard a SpaceX supply ship on March 21, 2024, bound for the International Space Station. Sen’s payload, called “SpaceTV-1”, will be hosted on the outside of the ISS through a commercial payload agreement with Airbus U.S. Space & Defence, supported by the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. Liam Kennedy joins Maria Varmazis to tell us more about getting the payload to space.

You can connect with Liam on LinkedIn and sign up to see the livestream at Sen.com.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Frank White coined the term the overview effect many years ago to explain the connection the astronauts feel to their home planet after spending time in space.

Looking back down to the Earth and seeing the thin blue line of the atmosphere that separates us from the hostile environment of space is humbling.

And maybe, just maybe, you could experience it from your home too.

[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to T-minus Deep Space from N2K Networks.

I'm Alice Karuth.

Last month, SpaceX launched the 30th commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

On board SpaceX's cargo dragon, loaded with supplies and science experiments, was sent payload called Space TV1.

The camera system will be hosted on the outside of the ISS through a commercial payload agreement with Airbus US Space and Defense and supported by the International Space Station National Lab.

It will provide a live stream from the ISS that we can all experience from the comfort of our homes.

Our host, Maria Barmasas, spoke to Liam Kennedy from Sen about the new payload.

And we joined the conversation as Liam explains to Maria about the company's mission.

The founder and CEO of Sen, Charles Black, had his own epiphany when he was just a mere little thing working in a garden center in the UK.

I think it was 1991.

And he was just so passionate about, hey, I want to build something that people of the Earth can see the Earth from space and follow along.

And he even tells me that he had a sports cap, a baseball cap, and written on it was Space TV.

He lit it so-- can you imagine that?

And now the dude who is speaking to you about this, I'm Space TV director.

That's amazing.

I was going to say, I think the last time we spoke, which was a while ago, we spoke, I think, a bit more about ISS above, not so much about Sen.

Tell me a bit about Sen for folks who don't know, because I know about it through you.

But I'd love to know a little more if you want to tell me a bit.

Yeah, so I'll wind back a little bit, because you mentioned ISS above.


So ISS above was my cracker pot little invention, a Raspberry Pi.

I wrote the software.

And I had this cracker pot idea that I wanted my three-year-old grandson in 2013, this was, to know every time the human beings that were in space were above him in space.

So this thing lights up every time that it goes by.

I called it ISS above.

And then the story between then and now is that I also configured it so that it would show the live view of Earth from the International Space Station.

So it both lit up when the station is above, but it also, wherever the space station was around the Earth, it would show NASA's phenomenal live feed from the space station.

NASA was the first-- and only-- I mean, no one else does this.

No one has done this since then, provided a view of the Earth live from space 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And my little ISS above device is now grown to that first one I built for my grandson, to be now in more than 5,000 locations worldwide in schools, science centers.

I have education curriculum for it.

I'm an education partner with the ISS National Lab.

But here's the key thing.

Early on, I understood from folks at NASA that their live feed was not guaranteed.

In fact, they even called it an experiment.

It was the high definition Earth viewing experiment.

Experiment means it might not be here forever.

And there was-- So don't be disappointed if you tune in and it's not working.

Yeah, well, but here's the thing.

It's been available since April 30, 2014.

The actual original experiment did die in 2019.

But it was off air for a few months before they could figure out a replacement.

And the replacement has been working reliably since, I think, October 2020 or something like that.

But because I knew it was never guaranteed, and I, along with other ISS above community members, we were always interested in making sure that there was a secure pathway to having access to the public of live views of the Earth from space.

So the story is I presented it three times, of the five times I've presented at the ISS R&D.

It was on the topic of replacing and upgrading the NASA camera system with a commercial camera system.

So across all those years, I've been looking to persuade someone with their money to build a replacement.

And back in 2019 was when I first discovered this organization called CEN.

And at that time, in May of 2019, they launched their camera system, the very first version of it.

It was really a proof of concept kind of thing.

But they built this camera payload to go on a communication satellite.

It was ArabSaturn 1 or something.

And they conducted the very first ever 4K live stream from space showing the use of the Earth.

And that got my attention because that's what I wanted to have as a possibility for the space station.

So it just so happened that someone at NASA had already connected with Charles Black and they put us in connection.

So really, NASA's now to blame for the fact that docked to the space station right now is a whole new 4K external camera system.

Because they said, yeah, Liam, you want to speak to these people.

Because very early on, NASA made very clear to me that they did not have budget.

And they were not going to take as a priority either guaranteeing that the live Earth views would be available in perpetuity.

Or indeed upgrading it.

So early days in 2019 was when I connected with Charles.

And he was interested at that point.

The high definition of Earth viewing experiment from NASA died in July of 2019.

So that was convenient.

But I started conversations.

And then it took a little bit longer before Charles really got connected.

But to get things going.

Because when you have an external camera payload that you're getting views of the Earth, location, location, location is the most important thing on the space.



I'm just wondering about how it gets mounted.

And also, I'm just thinking about bandwidth.

I mean, 4K continuous video streaming, that's going to take a lot of bandwidth.

So I'm sorry.

My nerd part's going, OK, how is that working?


So let me tell you about this.

In 2018, I discovered that Airbus, Space and Defense, Houston-- they were my main contacts in this-- had really released information about a new platform that was coming to the International Space Station called Bartolomeo.

Bartolomeo is apparently the brother of Galileo.

He's dead now, just in case you're wondering.

Did not know that.


Didn't know he had a brother.

The brother.

All right.

All right, that's cool.

I hope that's right.

Correct me if I'm wrong, listeners.

But this platform, it's really-- I'm going to just put it down to nuts and bolts.

It's a shelf that sticks out from-- He said that.

It's a high-tech shelf in space.

Everything, even a shelf, has to be very carefully manufactured and designed.

It's a space shelf.

It's a space shelf.

So and it's on the Columbus module, European Space Agency module, which happened to be the same module that HDEV was connected to.

And in the early days, Airbus and Bartolomeo had referenced how it was going to have high bandwidth capabilities, a substantial amount of daily downlink capabilities.

And for me, the most critical thing, it had prime position.

It basically had unobstructed views of the forward side of the space station and the nadir down below and also other parts as well.

Is it internally mounted looking through a window, or is it actually external?

fully external.

Oh, OK, that's what I was thinking.

It's outside.

It's outside.

And so critical things.

You brought them up perfectly, Maria, is what's important is location and bandwidth.

So yes, because the current HDEV system, or now it's switched to something called external high-definition camera, which is really a Nikon D4 in a very expensive but reliable system.

Oh, you just made all the Canon fans really mad that you said it was Nikon.

I'm just going to-- Yeah, unfortunately, they will already know this.

So-- Oh, because they all the photography nerds are huge.

Just go away.

Yeah, every DSLR camera in the station pretty much, pretty much everyone, is a Nikon.

Yeah, it is known.

And there are others.

They do have a 4K camera system.

They have the red camera system.

I think there's a different name for it now.

But they do have the capacity for Astronaut Operated 4K Video.

And NASA has done the first 4K live stream from the space station.

They did that in 2017.

It was essentially an interview, a downlink between two astronauts.

It was Jack Fisher and Peggy Whitson, I think.

They were the ones that did it.

And it's just coming up for the anniversary of that, because they did that at NAB in Las Vegas, which is a big broadcasting conference.

But those cameras, as I say, they're internal.

They have to replace them probably every six months or so due to cosmic ray hits.

You often see, even on the video that was live, you'd see there at what we call hot pixels on them, where you see red dots all over the place.

You can remove them in post-processing, but the live, they're sort of stuck there.

But so yeah, going back to bandwidth, where we get the bandwidth from, we are essentially just going through Airbus.

It's called the Airbus Cloud.

And there's something-- people who are into this know that the high bandwidth, certainly for the NASA side of the operations, goes through something called TDRS, the Transit and Data Relay System of Satellites.

I may have-- anyway, TDRS is pronounced TDRS, but spell T.

Oh, I didn't know that.

I know.

TDRSS-- You've got to make it roll off the tongue.


Yeah, there's a lot of acronyms that are not pronounced the way I think they are.

But once you say them, it's like, oh, that makes sense.



All right.

And you said earlier that the SLCs are slicks.

I, again, yes, I didn't-- I embarrass myself daily in this show, so it's OK.

I'm learning.

So just to let you know, I found that out on Wikipedia before I embarrassed myself.

So thank you, Wikipedia.

Oh, pro tip.

There you go.

Yeah, and then I happened to be on the OSB2 building right outside, right in view of the VAB.

I used to pronounce VAB.

I was going to say, does one pronounce it the VAB?

The VAB.

No, that we don't say like that.

Yeah, that's right.

We spell that one out.


Luckily it was before it was something that would be terribly embarrassing if you discovered that it was-- I follow.

It is the VAB.

VAB people.

And I was right there, and that was where I did-- I used the term SLC40 to someone who is really well known in this area, and they didn't look at me with a quizzical look on their face.

Maybe they were just polite.

That really passed.

Yeah, I did literally get it confirmed.

I did just check.

That is the way we pronounce it over here.

And you say, yes, we definitely do.

We pronounce it slick 40.

SLC, space launch complex.

I think space-- Yeah, all this time I've been saying SLC, and I'm imagining people have been yelling at me saying it's slick.

You are absolutely-- it is an either/or, but I think if you pronounce it slick 40, then they've got this internal thing going on.

That person is one of us.


And the other side, they just say, you're still-- yeah, hey, you're good.

You actually know it's SLC.

You know what pad it's on.


You know that.


What state is it in?

So anyway, back to-- Yeah, so the bandwidth-- so everyone's heard of TDRS, who are doing things with this on the space station.

And the other side of things as well, how is-- we are Airbus going on a Columbus module, which is all ESA.

Yeah, everyone knows that's how you pronounce ESA.

You don't pronounce it ESA.

Yes, ESA.

Yes, that one I got.


Yeah, anyway.

As opposed to NASA.

I have heard a lot of people call it ESA.

And anyway, so where are we getting our bandwidth from?

So all we know is that we are contracted through Airbus, Space and Defense, Houston, who've been long-- yeah, did you know Airbus does things on the space station, people?

I guess.

You do.

Oh my god.

I mean, I personally do, yes.

Yeah, but for some others, it's-- you think, oh yeah, Boeing has a huge part of the space station, prime contract of the space station.

And obviously, they've been doing stuff, government work with NASA for a very long time.

A little bit less known is, I would say, is the connection with Airbus.

With this particular office that's just close to Johnson Space Center, they have a legacy of doing experiment platforms on the shuttle programs.

So in fact, they have in their offices, flown stuff that is their experiment platform that was inside the shuttle.

So they've done all of that for a very long time.

And they do other work, I'm sure, in the defense part of what they do.

There's things that I have no idea what they're up to, but they do it.

And we will never know.

They will never know.

We will never know.

[MUSIC PLAYING] We'll be right back after this quick break.

[MUSIC PLAYING] So you've heard of T-Dress?


The version that is ESA's side of things, would you be surprised if I called it E-Dress?

That is what it is.


Oh, what did you say?

What else does that sound like, then?

Is there another-- E-Dresselba.

So you might break it.

Because I was like, I was just thinking to myself, would they use T-Dress, or is there something in parallel that they use?

I don't know how open T-Dress is.

I was-- yeah.

Yeah, E-Dress is what ESA is creating as a service that obviously is both growing and its capability to do stuff with the space station.

But I don't know a lot about that.

I'm coming to this with just some very scant information, a little bit of info about how that's all working.

But they have a similar kind of network of satellites in orbit around the Earth.

And they have their own antennas that are reaching out to that.

Now, whether they are also making arrangements with NASA for us to utilize other bandwidth capabilities, that may be the case.

But that's sort of-- we're immune to that kind of conversation and arrangements.

We're basically contracted through ESA.

We're not contracted through NASA.

Although we are very grateful for everything that has gone on to make the space station just this remarkable platform it is.

And we're exploiting it for the benefit of humanity.

And we couldn't do that without both what NASA and ESA have made possible for us.

So thank you, everyone, who has made that possible.

The views are just-- yeah.


I want to say, remember, when this went live-- and I was reading the chatter from people who are not space bubble folks.

Like folks?

And I remember seeing things something like the phone wallpaper generator just went live or something like that.

People were like, now I know I'm going to get all my best desktop wallpaper and phone wallpapers, which is so funny to sort of reduce it to that.

But at the same time, it's such a joy to be able to see it all the time.

As I said, I don't get sick of seeing these views.

They're just so beautiful.

And in 4K.


In 4K.


And let me tell you a little bit more about the payload, if I may.

Please, yes.

Because since-- so Hdev was a platform that had really three different views of the Earth.

And it would cycle between them.

It had a forward-facing view, so you could see sunrises.

It had an a deer-facing view, so you'd see the Earth directly below.

And then they had a rear-facing aft-facing camera, so you could see sunsets and things like that.

So that system died, and they switched to a single view only, which is facing the Earth, the deer-facing.

And we've had that since 2020.

What we're bringing back are multiple cameras.

So our payload is, again, external.

It has a forward-facing camera.

So we will be seeing those sunrises.

And it's sensitive enough where we're expected to be able to capture aurora in real time.

So when the station's heading in the right direction, that is the right time of year, with some aurora activity, we should be able to capture that.

Especially as we're entering a solar maximum, that timing is fantastic.

Oh my god.

So we'll see.

It's a bit of an experiment.

That's our experiment side of things.

Will that happen?

So the other thing, yes, we have an a deer camera as well.

So we'll maintain really good views of the Earth below the space station.

Again, very similar to really what we're hoping is that astronauts who've been up there will look at this, and it will be much more of an equivalence to what they see with their own eyes.

It'll never be the same because our eyes are just so spectacularly good at dealing with the dark to the light, the number of f-stops or whatever if you put them into camera terms.

But nevertheless, we expect to go back to really good views, a selection of views.

Finally, our extra special thing because, hey, adding an extra camera is easy for us to do on our payload.

It doesn't cost that much extra to do it.

We realized when we discovered the port on the shelf, otherwise known as Bartolomeo, we were going to be plugged into.

We realized we were going to be on the sort of left side of that left side, on the port side of that.

And that would give us a really commanding view of the forward docking port.

So our final view is a somewhat panoramic view of the forward docking port.

So we will be able to capture 4K views of dockings and undockings to PMA2 forward.

So that's-- So what's coming up is Boeing CFT, crew flight test, all of the SpaceX dockings that happen at that port.

So we've got those three views.

We are immune to loss of signal.

So Maria, you're used to seeing the light feed.

And every now and again, you'll see a slate come up saying, sorry, we don't have views right now.

We've lost signal with the station.

Happens frequently throughout each orbit for very valid technical reasons.

However, we're recording on our payload.

So we can record up to 60 hours of 4K video across all of those cameras.



For the very first time we can do that.

NASA's feed, they are not recording on the station.

Those cameras are downlinking.

I'd be happy for anyone at NASA to correct me if I've got that wrong.

But my understanding is the mode that they have those Nikon D4s running in is 720p.

So it's low resolution, high def.

And when there's a loss of signal, they lose that data.

It's only being recorded on the ground and streamed out.

So we can record everything even with loss of signal.

So we can downlink it later if we need to do something like that.


So yeah, so that's that cool thing that we can do those recordings.

So here's the thing.

So we launched on SpaceX 30.

I was there watching it go.

Just an amazing, amazing pinch me moment.

I believe it.

I believe it.

On the OSP2.

And it took a day and a half to reach the station docked.

And we are one of three customer payloads that are going into a sub plate of the Bartolomeo platform.

I don't know.

Let's get really techie here.

So there's the Bartolomeo platform, which is pretty huge.

That's already installed.

That was installed over a year ago, maybe even two years ago.

They had some initial problems running out.

Some of the data and power lines to it took a couple of spacewalks to get that resolved.

We-- and mostly the Bartolomeo thing, what they're going for is big, huge payloads that take up a significant chunk of the shelf.

We are a little itty-bitty thing.

So how many "U's" are you?



I wish I could tell you.

I'll hold up my hands, which will make no sense to anyone listening to this.

Do I know the actual-- so yeah, I should grab this on the top of my head.


No, no, no.

It's not a quiz.

Just get the dimensions.

It's not tiny, but it's not-- I was Googling Bartolomeo because I was curious.

If I could just guess, it would be like 3U.

So a "U" is 10 centimeters.


So 10, 10, 10.

Yeah, it could be 3U by 3U by 3U.

No, a "U" is a cube.

So you know what I mean.

So it may be a little bit bigger than that, but it may be 30 centimeters by 30 centimeters by 30 centimeters.

So I Googled Bartolomeo while you were mentioning it because I was curious about it.

And it says it takes payloads from 3U upwards.

So that would make sense if it was about 3U.

And the littler ones like us, we go on a sub-platform that goes by the term "argus."


And "argus" is a plate that will get attached to Bartolomeo.

And so this is how it worked.

We were supposed to go up last year, and we were supposed to go up on NG20, Northrop Grumman's NG20.

But apparently there was a problem with a prior Northrop Grumman Cygnus launch, where they had a problem with the batteries.

We sort of think, oh, yeah, that's resolved.

It was resolved.

But the end result is that they had to refly some stuff that spoiled on a prior resupply mission because the batteries apparently they couldn't keep stuff cold, so it died.

So they had to refly stuff, which meant they had to bump stuff off.

And one of ours that was bumped off-- we were bumped off NG20 because of that.

That's my understanding.

It's just the reality of spaceflight.

There's a problem with a launch of a commercial resupply at this time.

And then that does have an impact on future launches.

So what NASA had to do was get very creative with how they fit everyone into the future launches.

So they ended up splitting apart our subplate called August that launched on NG20.

So that's still in Cygnus.

So NG20 is still docked to the station.

And because there's so little space inside to receive new payloads, it's remained there until it's needed, which is now.

So NG20 launched in whenever that was.

Was that November or December anyway?

It was sometime late last year, later last year.

So it's remained docked, and our plate is in there.


Now SpaceX 30 has arrived with the three customer payloads that will be connected into that.

And the way this works is an astronaut has to get those components, plug them together inside the station.

So this August plate is still-- although it's smaller than Bartolomeo-- it's still quite large.

So I'm looking forward to seeing the downlink when that's happened.

It'll likely not be on a private downlink.

But the astronauts have to be worked through all of this using procedures that Airbus has written.

And it will be supported by the flight controllers at Johnson Space Center working them through the procedures.

So that'll be very exciting.

And the most important part of our procedure, and that is going to be called take off the lens caps.

Oh my god, yes.

Every photographer knows.

Why is it all black?

Oh my god.

So in a little bit more detail, we actually have six lens caps.

How do we have six?

Why do we have six?

I just mentioned three before.

We have two each of every camera for redundancy.

So it's-- so we have two of the forward, two of the nadir, two of the docking port.

So they're transparent because the critical thing is that this was NASA safety review.

You have to make sure there's no chance of a broken lens causing debris inside the space station.

Of course.

So, yeah.

Firstly, they'll do it.

Shards of glass kind of a problem.

Yeah, they'll do a visual inspection without taking the lens cap off.

And then when they-- yeah, when it's all OK, they'll then remove the lens cap.

Yeah, that makes it a lot clearer.

Clear like that.

That must be cool.

You've never seen that before.


So once they've determined all of that's OK, what happens?

This is inside the station.

Then what happens is between now and then, the robo team with the CSA.

Canadarm, too?

Canadarm, yeah.

So the robo team, what they will then do is so the astronauts will push it into the Gem Airlock, Japanese module.

It will then be sort of slid out of the Gem Airlock.

And then the Canadarm will come along, dock to the Argus plate, and then take it around to the front of the station and plug it in to Bartolomeo.

So no astronaut time needed.

It will, apart from inside the station, at that point, it will be a robotic installation.

And the final bit will be connecting the power and data line, just one line that will come in.

And then from that point, we'll then go into full-on test, doing everything that we need to do in order to test this.

So to make sure it's working.

This is how the space sausage is made.

It's truly-- I mean, but it's not just astronaut time inside, but it's also Canadarm outside.

It's like, you get all of it.

You get all the good stuff.

So yeah, as I'm here, I want to give the biggest thank you to everyone who's involved in this, because I'm not sure it's so well-known.

Yeah, you're sending a camera.

That's cool.

Look at the output.

But no, what it takes to go from initial idea through to getting it on there and the number of people that are involved.

But what I never realized is I have a personal friend who is a flight controller, and he's the flight controller position.

It may not be him, but who does the actual work with the astronauts?

So these are-- I would say that the bit that gets the work done are the workers doing all of this.

We acknowledge astronauts.

We acknowledge some of the senior people involved in the ISS program and all of that.

And everyone does their part.

But what we absolutely need the support on is all of those folks from the robotine through to the flight controllers, through to the payload readiness manager who works for Boeing.

It's just unbelievable.

So thank you, everyone, who has played a part in that.

You have my gratitude for all of what you do.

And clear admiration as well.

I mean, truly, it is really remarkable how many people it takes to-- I mean, this is not a simple thing.

But it is truly just an amazing team effort of so many people who often, as you said, don't get that acknowledgement publicly.

It's remarkable.

It truly is.

So firstly, everyone, go to sen.com.

That is where you'll see footage from our current satellite ETV A1.

And that's also where you will see the footage from Space TV One when that becomes available.

It's entirely free to the public.

There is an app.

It's currently on iOS only, but it will be going to-- on Android soon as well.

But the website is also very, very good at handling things too.

So it's very mobile-friendly.

And lots more features will be coming along.

And thank you so much for inviting me on the show.

This has been a blast.

Liam, it's always great to say it's a blast when we're talking about space.


I never even got that until just now.

It's a blast.

I just registered on sen.com as you were talking about it.

It was that quick.

So that's not just me saying it.

It really was very quick.

So it's boy, and it's beautiful.


[MUSIC PLAYING] That's it for Team I as Deep Space for April the 20th, 2024.

We'd love to know what you think of this podcast.

You can email us at space@ntuk.com, or submit the survey in the show notes.

Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

This episode was mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound designed by Elliot Peltzman.

Our associate producer is Liz Stokes.

Our executive producer is Jen Ivan.

Our VP is Brandon Kauff.

Our host is the wonderful Maria Valmarziz.

And I'm Alice Carruth.

Thanks for listening.


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