Rocket launch videos are typically captured from afar, putting you in the shoes of a spectator in the crowd. NASA’s live coverage of an Orbital Cygnus spacecraft’s ISS resupply mission, however, will take you to the launch pad itself. For the first time ever, the agency will broadcast a live 360-degree video of a rocket launch on the NASATelevision YouTube channel tomorrow, April 18th.
The agency, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance (developer of the Atlas V rocket that will ferry Cygnus to the space station) placed four fisheye-lens cameras on the pad, around 300 feet from the rocket. Nearby, a computer protected by a blast-proof box will stitch images together in near-real time. As with any 360-degree video, you can watch it on your computer and drag it around with the mouse cursor to get the full view. If you want to feel like you’re truly witnessing a rocket roar to life up close, though, you’ll have to watch it on a VR headset.
The broadcast will start airing around 11:01AM EDT, 10 minutes before Atlas V lifts off. It will be about a minute behind, since the computer needs to process the photos, but that’s still much better than ULA’s previous 360-degree launch videos, which were uploaded way after the events ended.