Friday, 22 April 2016

Space Apps working with IT Services

Pedro Ribeiro of Computer Science writes about live-streaming at the Space Apps Challenge.

This year is the fifth edition of NASA's International Space Apps Challenge. For the fourth time the local event, on Saturday 23 April, is being hosted by the Department of Computer Science at York. We expect up to 60 attendees to sign-up, making this the biggest edition of the Challenge at York. Attendees form teams and collaborate with other locations and or virtual participants all across the globe. On Sunday 24th April, teams present their solutions to our panel of academics and industrial representatives, with the winning teams receiving prizes locally, but also competing globally with other locations. The global winners get a chance to attend a NASA launch.

Traditionally, locations have been encouraged to live-stream from their sites, so that people all over the world can get a feeling for what it is like to compete at each location during the weekend. York is no exception, and so we have live-streamed our event every year and published recordings of every team presentation on our YouTube channel. The facilities provided by YouTube to do live streaming are fantastic and accessible to everyone. Here at York we have, year after year, improved on our solution, starting with standard webcams, and ending with a multi-cam Raspberry Pi-powered solution.

An excerpt from last year's live stream:

We are very grateful that this year IT Services have offered to supply us with a dedicated 8-core virtual machine to accommodate our video mixer and live streaming solution. Essentially our set-up consists of Raspberry Pi cameras streaming H264 (encoded in hardware) to a local server, where we can conveniently decode the stream, overlay additional text and graphics, and re-encode it in a format suitable for YouTube. This year we are aiming to have a fully fledged streaming capability by having a live video mixer hosted on the IT Services-provided VM. This is something that can only be successfully achieved by allocating dedicated resources to the task. The video mixing software we use is called Snowmix (with an underlying dependency on gstreamer) and has originally been developed by Copenhagen Suborbitals, an amateur space agency, who specifically developed this piece of software to cover their rocket launches.

We plan to start our live-stream on Saturday morning (23 April), provided everything goes according to the plan. Much testing has been done over the last few weeks, but of course, in the spirit of a hackathon we are also raising the bar for ourselves and trying new ideas.

If you would like to join the Challenge at York you can do so by registering at:

The event is free, but the number of places is limited, so hurry!

You can follow us on Twitter @SpaceAppsYork or at, and of course you can watch the live stream at the link below once the event is underway:

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