Telling the NASA Story: A Look Behind the Scenes

KSCTV personnel records a NASA launch broadcast at the NASA News Center.
Chris Swanson, part of the KSCTV team, stands behind the camera while recording one of the launch broadcasts hosted at the NASA News Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA

What goes into telling the NASA story? At the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, it’s more than pointing a camera and letting it roll. Behind the cameras are dedicated men and women continuously preparing to tell captivating stories like never before. With astronauts once again launching from American soil through the Commercial Crew Program, and preparations underway to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, we want you to have a first-class seat to all the action!

NASA has remained committed to capturing and sharing some of our nation’s greatest achievements with the rest of the world, and recent technology upgrades have allowed us to bring those to you in a whole new way.

Technical Upgrades for TV

A new fiber circuit, connecting video feeds from Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A to the NASA News Center, provides different camera views to better showcase human spaceflight and future launches. Along with being the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission in May 2020 also marked the first time this circuit was used. Additionally, teams at Kennedy implemented a live feed system just before launch, providing live footage of NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on their 10-mile ride to the launch pad prior to liftoff.

A behind-the-scenes look at the camera setup for a launch broadcast hosted at the NASA News Center at Kennedy Space Center.
A behind-the-scenes look at the camera setup for a launch broadcast hosted outside of the NASA News Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA

New fiber optic communication lines allow us to bring you UHD (ultra-high definition) coverage from unique locations, such as the Launch Control Center, countdown clock, crew quarters, crew walkout, Banana Creek viewing site, and even the launch pads. With these connections in place, commentators can host launch broadcasts and briefings outdoors in 4K resolution, placing you right in the middle of the action. We’ve used exterior sets to bring you some of our biggest launches, including Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test, NASA’s Mars 2020 launch, SpaceX’s Demo-1 mission – which earned NASA and SpaceX an Emmy – as well as Demo-2, Crew-1, and Crew-2.

A behind-the-scenes look of master control during a NASA launch broadcast.
Amber Jean Watson, a member of the KSCTV team, processes imagery during a NASA launch broadcast at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA

Additional video and visual upgrades include a UHDTV video router that supports existing HD and future UHDTV imagery, painting a crystal-clear picture of everything going on, and a character generator that TV crews can use to create and display graphics showcasing the health of the rockets in real-time. Extra circuits also provide KSCTV (Kennedy Space Center TV) personnel with UHD video feeds of launch crews and VIP guest interviews.

KSCTV personnel working inside master control during a NASA launch broadcast.
KSCTV team members work in the TV master control room at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a launch broadcast. Photo credit: NASA

While the visuals are important, what you see isn’t the whole story. More partnerships and collaborations throughout the country make behind-the-scenes communication critical to providing seamless coverage. With an expanded intercom system, we’re now able to communicate with teams at remote locations such as NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston or SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The system connects the TV producer, on-camera talent, camera operators, and master control team to bring you joint coverage from every angle.

Through these expanded capabilities, people all over the world can observe and be a part of NASA launches, missions, and scientific discoveries – an experience that is truly out of this world. This may not be rocket science, but it brings the rocket science to the palm of your hand.