First Of Its Kind ‘Outer Space Camera’ Captures Astronaut Spacewalk For VR


ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide stepped outside the International Space Station today for a spacewalk unlike any other.

What is special about this one is that you will soon be able to join them as Felix & Paul Studios’ new Outer Space Camera captured a real spacewalk in an immersive 3D, 360-degree virtual reality format. 

While Pesquet and Hoshide laid the groundwork for more additions to the solar arrays outside the ISS, an international team collaborated to capture some footage for new episodes of Felix & Paul Studios and TIME Studios EMMY Award-winning Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. The team had one shot to get it right, and time for just a single short simulated space walk inside the ISS ahead of the actual capture outside the station. Felix & Paul Studios co-founders Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël directed the filming from the Canadian Space Centre. The camera was mounted and powered by the Nanoracks’ Kaber MicroSatellite Deployer and maneuvered by The ROBO team at NASA and the Canadian Space Agency who were responsible for moving Canadarm2 to capture the shots. In parallel, TIME Studios documented the filming operations as part of a making-of documentary they are producing on Space Explorers: The ISS Experience. The entire spacewalk was planned to happen over seven orbits, during which the crew experienced seven sunrises.

Unfolded 360° still, produced from the 3D 360° VR source footage. View of the International Space Station, from a forward position, with a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft docked to Node2.

Outer Space Camera

The Outer Space Camera has already been capturing footage ahead of the spacewalk. With 16 sunrises that can be seen every 24 hours from the ISS (which travels at 17,100 miles per hour), this footage will be integrated into the series as well. The Outer Space Camera is made for a literal out-of-this-world environment.

The Outer Space Camera inside the International Space Station, ahead of the spacewalk

Lajeunesse explains that the camera “is constantly exposed to extreme temperature variations.” External temperatures range from -250° F to +250° F.  “No atmosphere means radiation…sun heat and deep space cold…microgravity [means] no dissipation of heat which is challenging when you are cramming together not one camera but multiple high res sensors, so we had to develop a heat dissipation system. We had to develop a way to manage light exposure and minimize flares.

The camera is a customized Z-Cam V1 Pro camera with nine 4K sensors. Nanoracks has specially hardened the camera to allow it to withstand harsh conditions such as solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation, charged particle (ionizing) radiation, plasma, surface charging and arcing, temperature extremes, thermal cycling, impacts from micrometeoroids and orbital debris (MMOD), and environment‐induced contamination from micrometeoroids and orbital debris (MMOD), and environment‐induced contamination. It also has custom lenses that can manage being directly exposed to the Sun. 

In history, just about 230 astronauts have had the opportunity to do a spacewalk. Not even all astronauts that visit the ISS get the chance, but our chance to step into the actual footage is coming soon.

Lajeunesse says what was captured today “in the vacuum of space” will be integrated into the upcoming third and fourth episodes of Space Explorers: The ISS Experience, available in VR for Rift, Quest and Quest 2, and in mobile 360° on 5G-enabled tablets and smartphones through telecom partners including LGU+ (South Korea), KDDI (Japan), AIS (Taiwan), Orange (France) and Deutsche Telekom (Germany.) As well, the best of that imagery will also be integrated into THE INFINITE – a large-scale traveling interactive exhibit produced in partnership with PHI Studio, which will premiere in the US December 2021.

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