16 January 2021

PetaPixel: “Canon is Letting You Photograph Earth from its Camera Satellite”

As a showcase of its CE-SAT-1 Earth-imaging satellite, Canon is allowing anyone to take their own photos of Earth from space as part of a demonstration for CES.

The Canon CE-SAT-1 is a microsatellite – roughly the size of a wine barrel – that the company launched into space in June of 2017 and is equipped with a modified Canon EOS 5 Mark III camera. From its orbit, the camera is capable of photographing a ground area of around 3.7 miles by 2.5 miles. The satellite is also equipped with a 40cm Canon Cassegrain telescope with a 3720mm focal length and a Canon PowerShot S110 that is used for wide-angle images.

As part of a CES demonstration and showcase, Canon has set up an interactive website that allows you to hover over specific locations on Earth – such as New York, The Bahamas, Dubai, and Japan – from an altitude of about 310 miles. Unfortunately, the demonstration does not allow for free-roaming.

Jaron Schneider

Cool idea! I had no idea Canon launched an actual satellite in space, equipped with one of its dSLR cameras.

Canon microsatellite Japan

I have played around with the demo and saved a couple of pictures. There are some significant limitations: you can watch and capture only a small set of locations, and inside the fixed field of view you can zoom the satellite’s camera in and out and reframe to change the composition. But, to be fair, it is only a free demo, and allowing people real-time access to the camera would be complicated. Satellites move fast in low Earth orbit, so the field of view would rapidly change, and half the time the camera would be pointed at the night side of the planet, reducing the chances of capturing a noteworthy photo – not to mention the amount of time flying over featureless ocean.

Canon microsatellite San Jose

I would certainly love a live feed and to be able to decide which area to photograph, but I imagine people would compete fiercely over the time slots when the satellite passes over interesting regions with city sprawl or complex terrain patterns. Selling access to the camera could actually become an alternative source of income for Canon, or whoever operates the satellite, in addition to its primary mission. Considering how few people will have the chance to photograph Earth from space, this is as close as the rest of us can get to this experience.

Canon microsatellite Antarctica

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