Android smartphones to power NASA’s fleet of miniature satellites

We’ve seen Android serve as the basis for so many innovative ventures, but NASA’s latest project could top them all. A team from NASA’s Ames Research center in California has began construction on a group of miniature satellites composed entirely of Nexus smartphones. The project, properly titled “PhoneSat” is just a small part of the larger Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP)  that aims to build nanosatellites by using  small consumer electronics.

NASA has confirmed that the team has already built two nanosatellite prototype models. PhoneSat 1.0 is the first of the two, and offers limited functionality. The goal for this model is to simply observe and determine if a mini-satellite with a consumer smartphone can survive a short period of time in space. However, one of the most important aspects in determining success is if the satellite can actually send back actual health and picture data from space. In addition to sporting a Nexus One, the body of the satellite will include an array of batteries, a watchdog circuit to monitor the system (and reboot the phone, if necessary) and an external radio beacon.

PhoneSat 2.0 serves as the “advanced model”, and will attempt to improve on the functionality of PhoneSat 1.0 by utilizing a Samsung Nexus S. In addition to the smartphone, the satellite’s design will feature a two-way radio, a GPS receiver and solar arrays. The solar arrays will offer continuous power, while the two-way radio will act as the command center. Under the satellite is a group of magnetorquer coils, which are electromagnets that interact with Earth’s magnetic field. Naturally, these coils are attached to a set of reaction wheels to operators can control the unit’s movement in space.

Currently, the PhoneSat has no clear launch date, but it’s expected for both models to launch upon the maiden flight of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket later this year.

Source: PCWorld

About the Author: Colton Kaiser

Born in southern California, Colton is a self-proclaimed tech enthusiast. His first Android handset was the Motorola Backflip, though his passion for technology began when he received his first Windows 95-powered PC for a Christmas present as a child. Dumbfounded by the capabilities of the machine, he discovered an inherent fascination for software and electronics. Colton wrote for numerous news publications before establishing his own popular technology-oriented website. When he's not writing about or playing with the latest gadgets, he enjoys watching football and destroying friends in his fantasy league, preferably while eating Mexican food. Colton currently attends the University of Redlands, where he plans to major in journalism.

  • Jim Macdonald

    Can you hear me now? ,,,,, Can you hear me now? …. Can you….

  • Brandon Dean

    You would think they would use a phone with more power under the hood, like a Galaxy Nexus. But maybe a Nexus One is all the power they need to do a short list of tasks