Here’s What Moving Traffic Looks Like From 250 Miles Up

Urthecast releases its first high-res video from the space station.

When we ran our article about a new generation of small, Earth-viewing commercial satellites in September 2013, the product that sounded most exciting was the high-res streaming video from orbit.

Now, finally, we’re getting a first look. This week the company released short clips of Barcelona, London, and Boston as seen by the Iris high-resolution video camera mounted to the International Space Station.  Here’s London, with moving cars and the wheel-like London Eye both easily visible.

NASA has been streaming low-resolution video of Earth from the station for some time now (according to Urthecast, the feed had 46 million views in less than a year), but this new video taken by Urthecast’s Iris camera is sharper, with a resolution of just one meter. That’s good enough to spot moving cars, but not individual people. Urthecast is still calibrating the camera and pointing system, according to company spokesperson Theras Wood, but once that’s done, sometime this summer, the system will be ready for paying customers to start ordering video.

Urthecast will post short (60-second) snippets of the high-res video on its site, but it won’t stream continuously. Wood explained in an email: “Because the camera points and shoots, it doesn’t take continuous video—it moves on to the next [target].”

If you want to see exactly what location the station is overflying at any given time, this handy site shows you the ground track in Google maps.