BT delivers live Space Station link to London event

Paulo Nespoli, ESA astronaut
Neal Romanek
September 29th 2017 at 12:01PM : By Neal Romanek

The link will allow visitors to London's New Scientist Live event to interact with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli

Today, BT will be delivering a live broadcast link betwen the International Space Station and visitors to London's New Scientist Live event. BT's media and broadcast division will allow visitors to the event to interact with Italy's European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Nespoli is on a five month mission aboard the ISS which orbits 400km (250 miles) above the Earth.

The UK Space Agency's Libby Jackson, who was mission director from ESA’s Control Centre for Paolo and other astronauts, will host the broadcast, which starts at 2pm today, along with BT Sport pundit Craig Doyle. Four lucky participants will win the opportunity to ask Paolo a question.

BT’s bespoke OB truck, coupled with the BT Tower, will enable the broadcast. The vehicle can receive multiple HD and UHD feeds simultaneously, ensuring a high quality viewing and listening experience for New Scientist Live visitors in London.

The video and audio of Paolo, captured by the camera at the ISS, will start be transmitted via three satellites orbiting 36,000km from Earth, known as the Tracking and Data Relay System (TDRS). These satellites will transmit the footage to the Johnson Space Centre TV facility where they will then enter the Encompass Atlanta broadcast hub for connectivity to London over a fibre-optic global network. When the signal reaches London, it will be converted to UK broadcast standards and presented to BT’s Facility Line switch at BT Tower.

The signal will then be encoded and compressed to 90Mbps across the local fibre circuit to the ExCeL centre, then decoded back to a HD signal at 1.485Gbps by the BT OB truck, then presented to the on-site production vehicle for delivery to the New Scientist Live main theatre.

BT Media & Broadcast VP Mark Wilson-Dunn said: “This is an unusual but exciting ask for us, and a bit of a technical challenge given the route the feed takes via multiple satellites from space back to the UK. A stellar effort from our team, coupled with the very best broadcasting equipment and our world-class fibre network, will offer today’s visitors the chance to interact with Paolo on his mission.”