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High Definition Earth-Viewing System (HDEV)

Currently, live views from the ISS are streaming from an external camera mounted on the ISS module called Node 2. Node 2 is located on the forward part of the ISS. The camera is looking forward at an angle so that the International Docking Adapter 2 (IDA2) is visible. If the Node 2 camera is not available due to operational considerations for a longer period of time, a continuous loop of recorded HDEV imagery will be displayed. The loop will have “Previously Recorded” on the image to distinguish it from the live stream from the Node 2 camera. After HDEV stopped sending any data on July 18, 2019, it was declared, on August 22, 2019, to have reached its end of life. Thank You to all who shared in experiencing and using the HDEV views of Earth from the ISS to make HDEV so much more than a Technology Demonstration Payload!

The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment mounted on the ISS External Payload Facility of the European Space Agency’s Columbus module was activated April 30, 2014 and after 5 years and 79 days was viewed by more than 318 million viewers across the globe on USTREAM alone.

To learn more about the HDEV experiment, visit HDEV's experiment investigation page.


  • While HDEV displayed beautiful video of the Earth from the ISS, the primary purpose of the experiment was an engineering one: monitoring the rate at which HD video camera image quality degraded when exposed to the space environment (mainly from cosmic ray damage) and verify the effectiveness of the design of the HDEV housing for thermal control. This evaluation is still on-going.
  • HDEV’s secondary goal was to provide high definition video of Earth to the public. The streaming video was first distributed through USTREAM, then also on YouTube, in addition to all of the individual websites which embedded the displays from USTREAM and YouTube. Over 318 million viewers watched the USTREAM feed alone.

Outreach & Education:

  • High school students helped design and fabricate some of the cameras’ structural and support components for the HDEV flight system through the High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program.
  • In Germany, the Universities in Bonn and Bochum, in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center and with an agreement with the ISS program, saw an opportunity in using the HDEV views of Earth to leverage the educational activities in space of the ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and follow-on astronauts. 'Columbus Eye – Live-Imagery from the ISS in Schools' published a learning portal on HDEV including easy-to-use image processing tools and augmented reality applications for teachers and students.
  • Free on-line 6-8th grade curriculum was developed in partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) by a commercial group, ISS Above. They also developed a device which shows the current location of the ISS, when it is approaching and overhead, and information about the ISS crew and activities. They also had included a live feed from HDEV on UStream to supplement video from the ISS.

HDEV Operations:

  • The four cameras of the HDEV experiment were oriented in different directions and with different views relative to the ISS travel direction. They were positioned as: 1 looking forward, 1 looking nearly straight down, and 2 looking back. This provided several different viewing angles to the viewer.
  • The cameras were programmed to cycle from one camera to the next, and only one camera could work at a time. As they cycled, each camera had to turn off and the next camera turn on before the HD video started, taking about 8 to 10 seconds to change.
  • The HDEV payload will be retrieved on a spacewalk to be loaded onto a cargo vehicle for a destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere in 2020.

ISS Tracker

  • Black = on the nighttime side of the Earth
  • Gray = The ground support computer has stopped sending video to USTREAM and will be reset shortly.
  • Moving spots of light in the dark = lights on the surface of the Earth. This camera can see cities at night (if not cloudy)
  • Non-moving spots in the image = damaged or bad pixels