Since 2014, four high-definition cameras on the outside of the International Space Station ISS have been tracking what’s going on in space. “ISS Above” can bring this video stream (and a lot more information) right to your television screen. Normally, the cameras are filming our planet and thus offer a unique look at the Earth as usually experienced only by astronauts.
However, the Earth is visible in the video stream only when the ISS is above the Sun-lit side of the Earth during its 92-minute orbit around our planet at an altitude of about 450 kilometers (280 miles). That corresponds to about half of its orbit. During this time, the video stream is switched through all four cameras that are pointed forward in the direction of travel, straight down toward the Earth, and at an angle behind the station (two cameras).
Sometimes, parts of the ISS can also be seen, including docked Soyuz or Progress spacecraft, and sometimes you can even watch the approach and docking/release of spacecraft live. The device also shows you with blinking LEDs when the ISS is directly over your position. When there are currently no camera views available, you are shown when the space station will next be visible in the sky above you. It will also show you the ISS’s expected brightness, time, and location where you can see it? So, you can even wave to the astronauts. Alternatively, the box can send a tweet to the ISS at the moment of its fly-over.
The educational fun costs $147.50 and can be ordered directly in the USA. Delivery takes about a week. Unfortunately, for its initial setup, ISS Above requires a cable to the router and another cable to an HDMI monitor. So, first I had to purchase an extra-long network cable. Then the module started without a problem. It reports its IP address at which it can then be configured in your local network. You don’t need any special Linux knowledge to do this (the computer runs under a version of Debian). Then you can set up a WiFi connection and after that you won’t need the long cable anymore. The program can be controlled by your computer or cell phone. Alternatively, for an extra $22.50 you can buy an adapted TV remote. For me, ISS Above often provides a more interesting TV broadcast than most other TV channels. In principle, however, you could also watch all the images and video streams on the Internet using your computer.