Canon DIGISUPER Lenses Capture Live HD Images of Space Shuttle Launch

While very few humans get the chance to travel on the space shuttle, even fewer get to be near the launch pad when astronauts begin their historic journeys. An array of Canon HD lenses, however, enabled the 24-hour all-high definition television network HDNet to take viewers where few have gone before to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, mission STS 115, on the morning of Saturday, September 9th.

HDNet, transmitting in 1080i HDTV to a wide range of cable and satellite television providers, relied on the triple-digit-zoom capabilities of the Canon DIGISUPER 100xs HD lens, as well as the superior HD optics of the Canon DIGISUPER 86xs and DIGISUPER 75xs long field HD lenses to ensure that the full power of the launch of the space shuttle—which could be the most complex machine ever built—was dramatically conveyed to television viewers. “A space shuttle launch is a magnificent thing to see, and there is no better way to see it than in HD,” says Philip Garvin, Co-Founder and General Manager of HDNet. “Our Canon lenses bring tremendous presence and resolution to HDNet’s coverage, and since NASA doesn’t allow people to be where they do allow many of the cameras and lenses, viewing it in HD is actually better than being there.”

Capable of a 1860 mm focal length and equipped with Canon’s innovative Shift-IS Image Stabilization technology, the DIGISUPER 100xs lens is charged with the special mission of tracking space shuttles as they accelerate into the cosmos for at least 176,000 feet, which amounts to 33 miles into the Earth’s atmosphere. “We have the Canon DIGISUPER 100xs lens deployed on a special rig that tracks the shuttle into the sky, and we switch to that camera and lens directly after liftoff,” Garvin explains. “When you combine the strength of that lens with the resolution of HD, it’s like you’re right up there with the space shuttle.”

The launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS 115 was a significant one, marking NASA’s first addition to the International Space Station in almost four years. During three spacewalks, crewmembers of Atlantis installed the P3/P4 integrated truss and a second set of solar panels that will double the orbiting outpost’s ability to generate electrical power from sunlight and add 17.5 tons to its mass.

With the Canon DIGISUPER 100xs lens on hand, complemented by the Canon DIGISUPER 86xs and DIGISUPER XJ75xs HD lenses at various locations on or near the launch pad, HDNet knew it would provide the best possible imagery to cover the beginning of this critical mission. “Canon optics are excellent—they always compare favorably in our evaluations,” says Garvin. “We also feel that we enjoy a great relationship with Canon’s engineering and sales staff. They absolutely deliver on their promise of prompt support, whether the event is a shuttle launch, NASCAR race, basketball, or football.”

The DIGISUPER 100xs lens is the world’s first triple-digit zoom lens and is one of four in Canon’s line of DIGISUPER long field lenses intended for both HDTV and SDTV production. This product line also includes: the DIGISUPER 86x lens (offered in the XJ86x9.3BIE-D standard version and the XJ86x13.5BIE-D telephoto version); the DIGISUPER 75xs lens (XJ75x9.3BIE-D); and the DIGISUPER 60xs lens (XJ60x9BIE-D).

Canon’s unique second-generation built-in Image Stabilization (or Shift-IS) system enables directors and producers to capture rock-solid images from telephoto distances with crystal clarity and deliver them virtually shake-free to viewing audiences. The DIGISUPER lens line also features Canon’s XS technology for improved optical performance and lighter weight, courtesy of Canon’s exclusive Power Optical System. And all Canon DIGISUPER lenses incorporate the company’s second-generation Digital Servo System, which provides microcomputer compensation of lens focus breathing (the inadvertent alteration of field of view when operating the focus control) as well as a host of other improved digital operational features for focus and zooming control. Canon’s DIGISUPER lenses deliver precision HDTV and SDTV production performance and heightened long-range zoom capabilities, features that have made Canon a standard of excellence in sports, entertainment, and studio production.

On location from astronaut suit-up to launch with Canon HD lenses, HDNet is helping to enlighten a whole new generation of viewers on the importance and majesty of space flight. “We feel strongly that our coverage has renewed people’s passion for watching launches, simply because it’s so amazing to see in HD,” Philip Garvin observes. “When you embark on a broadcast mission this important, you look for suppliers that will really go to work for you—Canon is one that we can count on.”

For more information on HDNet, visit