NASA has managed to create a fully functional super cheap tiny satellite made out of off-the-shelf Android hardware. NASA has named it “PhoneSat”. It has managed to dial home from orbit, meaning all systems are working.
IT COST THE SPACE AGENCY JUST $7,500
PhoneSat 2.4, a cube approximately four inches square, weighs only about 2.2 pounds, and was developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. PhoneSat uses a Nexus S smartphone made by Samsung Electronics running Google’s Android operating system. Using two-way S-band radio, it enables engineers to command it remotely. It’s part of NASA’s effort to explore cheaper satellite technology.
“The smartphone provides many of the functions the satellite needs to operate, such as computation, memory, ready-made interfaces for communications, navigation and power, all assembled in a rugged package before launch,” says NASA.
The tiny satellite PhoneSat 2.4 was launched two weeks ago. It will test a system for changing the satellite’s orientation in space as well as measure how well off-the-shelf components perform over the course of a year.
It is part of NASA’s next Small Spacecraft Technology mission, the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN). This mission is composed of eight identical PhoneSats that will be deployed during a launch from Kauai, Hawaii in 2014.
“This mission will demonstrate the concept of using many small spacecraft in a coordinated cluster to study the space environment and space-to-space communications techniques. During EDSN, each cubesat will make science measurements and transmit the data to the others while any one of them can then transmit all of the collected data to a ground station. This versatility in command and control could make possible large swarms of satellites to affordably monitor Earth’s climate, space weather and other global-scale phenomena.” – NASA
The first batch of PhoneSats launched in April and the next version is scheduled for February.