ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) - 08.05.15

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) automatically takes images of Earth through a small telescope with an off-the-shelf digital camera mounted in the International Space Station’s Destiny module. When ISERV is running, it captures 3 images per second that cover approximately a 19 km x 11 km area each. The goal is to improve automatic image capturing and data transfer, but the images taken in the experiment could also help environmental scientists, disaster responders and other Earth-based users.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Burgess Howell, B.S. Geography, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Burgess Howell, B.S. Geography, National Space Science and Technology Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

Jaganathan Ranganathan, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, National Space Science and Technology Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory - U.S. Agency for International Development (NL-USAID)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
May 2012 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous ISS Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • There is a significant and persistent need for image data to support environmental decision-making, and to assess and monitor the impact of disasters and other significant events of the Earth surface. The unique attributes of the International Space Station (ISS),both in terms of orbital characteristics and available human and infrastructure support, make it a highly desirable platform from which to acquire these data.

  • ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) acts as a means to gain experience and expertise in automated system tasking, data acquisition, and data transfer to the ground station and onward to scientific use and archive. The images acquired through this learning process are expected to have high utility for environmental management personnel as well as agencies dealing with the aftermath of disasters and other significant events.

  • Experience and expertise gained through this research provides assistance in the design, fabrication, and deployment of a similar but much more capable imaging system to be externally mounted on ISS. Lessons learned during this relatively low-cost research helps define a more efficient path to the external instrument.

The ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) is a fully automated image data acquisition system that flies aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and deploys in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) rack within the Destiny module. ISERV functions as a mechanism by which scientists in NASA's SERVIR (Spanish, "to serve") project gain experience and expertise in rapid instrument tasking, automated image data acquisition, and rapid data downlink. While the core purpose of the project is to gain proficiency in these operations in order to inform design criteria and address engineering concerns for a similar but significantly more capable external instrument to be flown aboard ISS at a future date, useful image data is expected to accrue in the process.

ISERV's main component is the optical assembly which consists of a 9.25 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, a focal reducer (field of view enlarger), a digital single lens reflex camera, and a high precision focusing mechanism. A motorized 2-axis pointing mount allows pointing at targets approximately 23 degrees from nadir in both along- and across-track directions. The T61p WORF laptop provides system control, image storage, and data downlink functions. Utilizing a Canon EOS 7D DSLR, ISERV images a 13 km by 9 km footprint from a nominal 350 km orbital altitude, capturing up to 390 km² of image data per second in 3-second bursts.

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Space Applications
ISERV allows scientists in the SERVIR project to gain experience in rapid system tasking and data downlinking, which can help them plan a future automated Earth-imaging system to be mounted outside the ISS. The project can also help other experiments by testing ways to make data gathering and file sharing faster and more efficient. ISERV also provides a highly visible platform that demonstrates NASA's interest and participation in Earth observation for  the benefit of society.

Earth Applications
NASA’s SERVIR project is a partnership between the space agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and uses satellite and ground-based data to monitor the Earth and help developing countries enhance their environmental decision-making process. SERVIR is also chartered under the United Nations to quickly collect and distribute images and information after natural disasters. By improving automated photography and data downlinking to Earth, ISERV can help SERVIR provide additional information more quickly and more often.

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Operational Requirements
During ISERV's initial operational phase, approximately 60 individual data acquisitions take place, spaced roughly equally over the course of 3 to 6 weeks, that length of time depending upon variables such as visibility of test targets, local meteorology at test targets, etc. ISERV's secondary operational phase consists of an extended period of operation, acquiring data at regular and irregular intervals as necessary to initialize, develop, and refine operational procedures, and as targets of opportunity (disaster areas, etc.) may become available.

Via the T61p laptop, ISERV transmits Health and Status (H&S) data and additional payload telemetry packets once per second to the WORF Rack Interface Controller (RIC) for downlink. In addition, the T61p laptop downlinks the image files resulting from data acquisitions via a direct logical connection to the ISS Local Area Network (LAN). The file transfer rate is set by ground command at up to 6 megabits per second.

Operational Protocols
ISERV acquires image data, stores the data, and downlinks that data according to control scripts uploaded from scientists at Marshall Space Flight Center. In response to commands, the telescope system slews (moves) either along- or across-track, or both, as necessary to the ground target within the instrument field of view at a specific time. Per a timing sequence within the control script, ISERV acquires single or multiple digital images that are momentarily stored in the camera's CompactFlash memory, then transferred to the WORF laptop hard disk for storage and downlink at the earliest available opportunity. During initial operations, this process is carried out to calibrate instrumentation, and to characterize the as-built performance of the optical system. During secondary operations this process is carried out to initialize, develop, and refine operational procedures necessary for optimization of the acquisition and downlink process with the goal of reducing the amount of time required for each step.

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Results/More Information

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Related Websites

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