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Media & Broadcast

Live broadcasts from space at New Scientist Live

At the New Scientist Live event at London ExCeL, BT’s media and broadcast division broke ground again by delivering a live broadcasting between London and the International Space Station (ISS), allowing visitors to interact with Italian European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, Paolo Nespoli as he orbited 250 miles above the earth.

Libby Jackson from the UK Space Agency and BT Sport pundit Craig Doyle hosted the broadcast, giving four lucky participants the chance to ask Paolo a question. This was achieved using our bespoke Outside Broadcast (OB) truck, coupled with the iconic BT Tower. The specialist, high-capacity vehicle was key to the monitoring and pre-production of the link as it was capable of receiving multiple high definition and ultra-high definition feeds simultaneously, ensuring a high-quality viewing and listening experience.

The broadcast as it happened

  • video and audio picked up by the camera at the ISS started its journey to the UK via three satellites orbiting 36,000km from Earth – the Tracking and Data Relay System (TDRS)
  • the footage was then transmitted from these satellites to the Johnson Space Centre TV facility
  • they then entered the Encompass Atlanta broadcast hub for connectivity to London over a fibre optic global network
  • when the footage reached London, the TV signal was converted from US TV standards to UK standards and presented to BT’s Emmy award winning Facility Line switch in BT Tower
  • the signal was encoded and compressed to 90Mbps across the local fibre circuit to the ExCeL centre and decoded back to an HD signal at 1.485Gbps by the OB truck
  • this was then presented to the on-site production vehicle for delivery to the main theatre at New Scientist Live.

This was quite an unusual but exciting ask for us, and a bit of a technical challenge given the route the feed takes via multiple satellites from space, back to the UK. However, thanks to a stellar effort from our team, coupled with the very best broadcasting equipment and our world-class fibre network, we were able to offer crowds the chance to interact with Paolo on his mission.

Mark Wilson-Dunn, Vice president, Media and Broadcast
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