Real-Time Coverage of Space Agency Activities and Missions

NASA TV, the television service of the United States government agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), was created in the early 1990s as a means of providing NASA managers and engineers with real-time video of its missions and events. Since that time, the service has expanded to three channels operating 24 hours a day. The content NASA TV offers ranges from regularly scheduled, pre-recorded educational and public relations programming to live or recorded raw footage, press conferences, rocket launches and International Space Station events like spacewalks, media interviews and educational broadcasts.


To make its content as widely accessible as possible, NASA has a continuous mission to bring its television channel lineup to online viewers. The agency went into the project build-out with a number of important criteria for selecting a partner to help achieve this goal, including solution extensibility, reliability, ability to meet technical requirements and, of course, cost of total acquisition, installation and yearly maintenance. Meeting these criteria was essential in enabling the high quality viewing experience expected from one of the world’s most distinguished agencies.


  • Beyond these general criteria, the selected solution also needed to meet NASA’s specific technical requirements, including the ability to:
  • Encode five unique HD channels simultaneously over a mixture of HD-SDI, IP and ASI inputs
  • Hot-swap between active inputs without halting a live video stream
  • Seamlessly failover from one input to another in the case of signal loss
  • Support multiple video codecs, including H.264 and MPEG-2
  • Pass compliant closed captioning data through to CDN partners
  • Provide the highest video quality for a given bitrate/profile
  • Setup, control and manage video over an IP network from a single, user-friendly interface
  • Comply with NASA security policies

Supporting Multi-Dimensional Views of the Universe

Elemental proved to meet the set of requirements NASA sought for the agency’s multi-channel live streaming application. Software-based solutions from Elemental perform simultaneous processing of multiple video outputs to format live video for any viewing device. Furthermore, Elemental video processing solutions are designed to integrate seamlessly into an end-to-end real-time video delivery workflow and keep pace with technology advancements.

Given NASA’s evolving set of technology requirements and an eye towards future needs, the fact that Elemental systems are software-upgradable is advantageous. Should new video codecs or captioning standards come to market, Elemental can simply add support for these new features and NASA can upgrade the systems it already owns. Additionally, the fact that Elemental has optimized its software for several types of off-the-shelf hardware architectures means that its solutions are higher performance than other encoding systems available. Furthermore, the density available with Elemental solutions allows NASA to process more channels using a single system, resulting in lower total cost-per-channel for the agency.

High demand for the live content that NASA makes available can cause surges of up to hundreds of thousands of viewers tuning in simultaneously in a short amount of time. These viewers may be watching NASA programming on any type of device, and each of the streams delivered to these devices needs to include proper closed captioning data. Elemental offered not only core video processing capabilities, but also the scalability and reliability to accommodate uneven demand and the feature set to meet end-user requirements.

Lastly, the ability to control Elemental’s Linux-based software through an intuitive web interface or REST/XML APIs provides operators with the ability to easily add streams or stop a live channel while others continue to run unaffected, all within a single interface. And should NASA wish to expand its live streaming offering, it can procure additional Elemental systems and the solution will scale seamlessly.

Reaching New Heights in Live Streaming

Today, NASA is able to widely distribute programs like the Education File, which provides special programming for schools; This Week @ NASA, which shows news from NASA centers around the country; and NASA Edge and NASA 360, hosted programs that focus on various projects and activities within the organization. As NASA continue its trek into the new frontier of live streaming, the agency is well positioned for future video delivery applications.