Android phones to power NASA's new mini-satellites
Google's Nexus One Android phones will be controlling a new fleet of mini-satellites from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a tech site reported over the weekend.
NASA's "Phonesat" project is part of a larger experiment called the Small Spacecraft Technology Program, which integrates small consumer electronics into nanosatellites, PC World said.
"The PhoneSat launch has no firm date, but three PhoneSat units will be rocket-bound sometime in late 2012," PC World said.
It said a team at NASA’s Ames Research center in Moffett Field, California, is working on the project.
PC World said the project seeks to decrease development costs for future NASA small-spacecraft projects.
The team behind the project plans to use the PhoneSats in future missions involving moon exploration, low-cost Earth observations, and testing of new technologies and components for space flight.
Another mission scheduled for 2013 plans to use the PhoneSat 2.0 to conduct heliophysics measurements, it added.
Phonesats 1 and 2
PC World cited data from NASA’s Space Technology Program showing the team has built two nanosatellite prototype models.
The first model, PhoneSat 1.0, has "minimal functionality" as the team merely wanted to see if the mini-satellite and smartphone setup can survive a short stint in space.
The satellite will be inside a 10-by-10-by-10-cm CubeSat shell, about the same size as a coffee cup.
It will also include external batteries and an external radio beacon, while a monitoring system can reboot the Nexus if necessary.
"A major gauge of success will be whether the satellite can send back operational health and picture data while in space," PC World said.
Initially, three units will be made, each weighing only four pounds. An Antares rocket, a low-Earth-orbiting rocket that can carry up to 15,000 pounds, will carry them.
Meanwhile, the PhoneSat 2.0, will use a newer Samsung Nexus S, and it will include a two-way S-band radio, solar arrays, and a GPS receiver.
"The radio will command the satellite from the ground, while the solar panels will enable the unit to embark on a mission with a long duration," PC World said.
Also in the PhoneSat 2.0 are magnetorquer coils, electromagnets that interact with Earth’s magnetic field, and reaction wheels to control the unit’s orientation in space.
PC World quoted NASA public relations representative as saying the PhoneSat 1.0 and 2.0 are scheduled to launch aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket later this year.
Since 2010, the PhoneSat team had been preparing for the launch. In JUly 2010, two Nexus Ones were launched on rockets to see how the phones can perform under high speeds and high altitude.
"One rocket crashed and destroyed the smartphone; the other landed with the Nexus One perfectly intact. PhoneSat 1.0 has also been tested in a thermal-vacuum chamber, on vibration and shock tables, and on high-altitude balloons, all with great success," PC World said. — TJD, GMA News
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