Cassie Kelly | NASA | April 14, 2017
To witness a rocket leave Earth at 4.9 miles per second is always breathtaking for its ambition, brilliance, and wonder but one area where it’s fell short, though, has been the number of camera angles. At most there, are like, three. But what if you could have a 360-degree view from the launchpad?
“This will allow you to stand where otherwise you would surely die,” United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno said of the launch for a mission that will see a ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket send Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft — filled with more than 7,600 pounds of cargo — to the International Space Station, 220 miles above Earth.
NASA, Orbital ATK, and United Launch Alliance have joined to produce a 360-degree live broadcast the launch. It will be broadcast on youtube.com/nasatelevision at 11 a.m. Eastern., with the launch scheduled for 11 minutes later.
While 360-degree photos and video are a technological novelty, often used during a trip to the ice rink or parade, it’s another matter to use it to broadcast a rocket launch.
NASA’s promise is that anybody watching the 360-degree live stream will “experience the view as if they were actually standing on the launch pad,” which sounds incredible — but wouldn’t the cameras melt?
“We’ve done our calculations and trial runs, but anything can happen,” Bruno toldInverse when we asked.
According to ULA’s Christie Bell, the cameras will be 100 yards from the rocket, providing an up close view of the launch.
“100 yards is close, but is low and far enough away from the direct blast that the heat will dissipate,” Bell tells Inverse.
Orbital ATK’s Sarah McNulty said this is about as close as the cameras can get and the system is both weatherproof and blast-proof.
“We are a little bit anxious about it, but very excited to try something new,” McNulty says. “No one in the world has done something remotely like this. So, there’s a chance it could not go as planned.”
The team has tested the equipment during past rocket launches, specifically at the OSIRIS-REx launch last fall.
“We’ve been playing around with 360 tech for a while now,” McNulty says. “Then we thought, what if we could do it live?”
Bell said she hopes the live broadcast experience really brings the feelings of a launch to life, saying, “we’ll all have a chance to see how it works on Tuesday. You can see it, you can hear it, you can feel the excitement right in your home.”
The team has confidence that it will be successful. “If you don’t try then it’s not going to happen, period,” McNulty says. “We think its well worth the calculated risk in order to have a really cool thing for the public. We predict this will become a standard for future launches.”