The Erasmus Recording Binocular (ERB1) was the first fully digital stereo camera used on the International Space
Station. One year after its first utilisation, the results and feedback collected with various audiences have convinced
us to continue exploiting the outreach potential of such media, with its unique capability to bring space down to
earth, to share the feeling of weightlessness and confinement with the viewers on earth. The production of stereo is
progressing quickly but it still poses problems for the distribution of the media. The Erasmus Centre of the European
Space Agency has experienced how difficult it is to master the full production and distribution chain of a stereo
system. Efforts are also on the way to standardize the satellite broadcasting part of the distribution.
A new stereo camera is being built, ERB2, to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in September
2008: it shall have 720p resolution, it shall be able to transmit its images to the ground in real-time allowing the
production of live programs and it could possibly be used also outside the ISS, in support of Extra Vehicular
Activities of the astronauts. These new features are quite challenging to achieve in the reduced power and mass
budget available to space projects and we hope to inspire more designers to come up with ingenious ideas to built
cameras capable to operate in the hash Low Earth Orbit environment: radiations, temperature, power consumption
and thermal design are the challenges to be met.
The intent of this paper is to share with the readers the experience collected so far in all aspects of the 3D video
production chain and to increase awareness on the unique content that we are collecting: nice stereo images from
space can be used by all actors in the stereo arena to gain consensus on this powerful media. With respect to last
year we shall present the progress made in the following areas: a) the satellite broadcasting live of stereo content to
D-Cinema's in Europe; b) the design challenges to fly the camera outside the ISS as opposed to ERB1 that was only
meant to be used in the pressurized environment of the ISS; c) on-board stereo viewing on a stereo camera has been
tackled in ERB1: trade offs between OLED and LCOS display technologies shall be presented; d) HD_SDI cameras
versus USB2 or Firewire; e) the hardware compression ASIC solutions used to tackle the high data rate on-board; f)
3D geometry reconstruction: first attempts in reconstructing a computer model of the interior of the ISS starting
form the stereo video available.
Three-dimensional media is a unique and efficient means to virtually visit/observe objects that cannot be easily reached otherwise, like the International Space Station. The advent of auto-stereoscopic displays and stereo projection system is making the stereo media available to larger audiences than the traditional scientists and design engineers communities. It is foreseen that a major demand for 3D content shall come from the entertainment area.
Taking advantage of the 6 months long permanence on the International Space Station of a colleague European Astronaut, Thomas Reiter, the Erasmus Centre uploaded to the ISS a newly developed, fully digital stereo camera, the Erasmus Recording Binocular. Testing the camera and its human interfaces in weightlessness, as well as accurately mapping the interior of the ISS are the main objectives of the experiment that has just been completed at the time of writing.
The intent of this paper is to share with the readers the design challenges tackled in the development and operation of the ERB camera and highlight some of the future plans the Erasmus Centre team has in the pipeline.