Introducing the ICE Cubes Media Set, one of our in-house developments, to provide the capability to communicate and interact, from ground, with the ISS and/or its crew, for a range of activities including public events, educational sessions, media interviews, inspiration and outreach, as well as private conversations and health-related applications.
Built around a GoPro camera, the ICE Cubes Media Set is connected to the ICE Cubes Facility on board the ISS, in the Columbus module of ESA. The capability can potentially redefine the paradigm when it comes to the communication of the ISS crew with ground, due to its innovative setup relying on the data line used by the ICE Cubes Facility for transmission of commands, telemetry and scientific data of the payloads.
Another innovative aspect is that the audience on ground is connected in a video-conference through an internet connection established via our ICE Cubes Media Center located at the Space Applications Services premises, in Belgium. This approach makes it possible to address an audience connected in real-time and distributed world-wide without the need for any specific software or communication line/channel to be established.
A number of activities can be addressed through this setup, such as educational sessions and outreach, lectures given by astronauts, Q&A sessions with ground, scientific/technical demonstration of experiments in front of the camera (support to IoD/IoV), media coverage or communication with Mission Control Center for reporting about the activities.
Moreover, the system is also under testing for supporting private conversations between the astronaut in orbit and an entity on ground, such as real-time, one-to-one communication with medical staff or family. Enabling such private conversations with medical staff also opens new avenues for the utilization of novel techniques for health monitoring and evaluation (e.g. facial recognition software), which can also be combined with the ICE Cubes AI-Box hosted inside the ICE Cubes Facility.
This can become part of the health check protocols and evaluation process, providing real-time elaboration of data in parallel with the assessment of the medical staff on ground. A dedicated software solution would complement the Media Set & AI-Box combo, to enable for the automatic analysis in orbit, while providing real-time connection, for comparison and cross-checking.
Combining the Media Set with edge computing capabilities in orbit (ICE Cubes AI-Box) offers the opportunity to test new solutions and applications required by future deep-space longer term missions, where (near) real-time communication with ground (Earth) is not possible. Developing and testing such solutions is crucial for human spaceflight as we venture beyond LEO for longer periods of time.
Launched in Dec. 2021, the Media Set was successfully commissioned in early March 2022 on board the ISS and was used for the first time during Axiom-1, the first fully commercial mission to the ISS, this April.
Photo credits: ESA/NASA/SpaceApps/ICE Cubes
Special thanks to GoPro.