The company plans to offer the imagery in several tiers, from a free video feed on its website to an API that will allow customers, including corporations, governments and individuals, to purchase imagery data from its database or make real-time requests for a look at a given spot on the earth. The cameras scan the ground under the ISS, which tracks the earth between about 51 degrees north and south latitude.

By the end of July, the company expects to be generating revenue from direct sales of its video and other data, CEO Scott Larson told reporters. Potential clients include government agencies, businesses in sectors that rely on data like agriculture, shipping and resource extraction, and financial arbitrageurs. The company is close to providing real-time data on activity at ports and mines, for example. And it already has a partnership with the United Nations to provide data for humanitarian concerns, like the food supply in Syria, and will develop a crowdsourced platform to monitor deforestation in the Amazon.

The Iris video camera mounted on the International Space Station.
The Iris video camera mounted on the International Space Station.
Image: Urthecast

As important as the hardware cameras and their gyroscopic stabilizers—the ISS, where astronauts jog, is constantly moving—is the software behind the effort. The the 30- to 70-second videos take place as the orbiting camera views a single spot from a 30 degree through a 60 degree angle, so converting it to comprehensible video requires significant processing. And that’s before you get to storing what is already a petabyte of data on cloud servers and building a platform and API to meaningfully access it.

But the company believes the wealth of information available in its imagery, along with the constant stream of updates, will be an extremely valuable asset, especially when combined with existing data sets about everything from geology to botany. And if you’re freaked out about being filmed from above, Urthecast’s executives say that their cameras can’t see faces or identify license plates–but also that 50 or more cameras on government satellites could be taking pictures of you every day.

Urthecast means to democratize access to this kind of data as much as it can, like other start-ups entering the $1.8 billion satellite imagery market, including Skybox (acquired by Google) and Planet Lab. ”The reality is, it’s hard to get imagery from space,” CTO George Tyc says. “Nobody at this point has video of this resolution.”

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.