If you won’t be in the path of the total solar eclipse on August 21, don’t worry. NASA, in partnership with the two-year-old online video platform Stream, will have you covered.
In what could be the space agency’s most-watched livestream on record since the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover in 2012, more than 50 high altitude balloons with video equipment attached to them will beam back crisp, live images of the eclipse from an altitude as high as 100,000 feet, according to a press release from the company.
The Curiosity rover landing garnered 100 million views, Stream said. NASA refers to the livestream as a “Megastream,” and will likely call on other views from its space-based solar observatories as well as Earth-bound telescopes to round out its complete, multi-platform coverage of the event.
The upcoming eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse to be livestreamed using a high altitude platform. Such an altitude is safely above any clouds that could interfere with viewing the event as it crosses the U.S., with the path of totality slicing across the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Southeast.
According to Stream’s CMO, Will Jamieson, there will be 57 teams launching balloons at dozens of sites across the path of totality in order to provide the best possible look at the celestial event.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is close enough to the Earth to completely cover the sun. According to NASA, the sun’s corona is revealed to the naked eye during the maximum phase of a total eclipse.
Stream’s plan might sound outlandish, but it’s actually an extremely low cost option, with $4,000 covering the hardware to livestream down from the balloon to the ground station, the ground station costs, and the balloon itself.
Jamieson said the company has had contracts with sporting leagues, large conferences and media companies, but this is its first contract with NASA.
“NASA’s been one of my favorite brands ever,” he said.
The South Carolina-based company has its own in-house media server, eliminating the need to involve a third party, he said. Its main competitors are other enterprise servers like Ooyala, Jamieson said.
Universities across the country are participating in the livestreaming project in cooperation with various NASA programs.
“We have spent the last three years researching and building the camera payloads and ground stations in preparation for eclipse day. The live-video distribution was the last technical hurdle we needed to overcome, and the partnership with Stream allows us to focus on the payload technology while they handle the video,” said Angela Des Jardins, director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium and leader of the Eclipse Ballooning Project, in a press release.