NASA’s Smartphone Nanosatellite
At the moment NASA are in the news with the Mars Curiosity Rover and with the sad news that the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, has passed away. He was 82. The cause was complications from heart surgery three weeks ago.
NASA do have many more projects on the go.
One involves micro satellites that use Android phones as their core component.
NASA’s PhoneSat project will demonstrate the ability to launch the lowest-cost and easiest to build satellites ever flown in space – capabilities enabled by using off-the-shelf consumer smartphones to build spacecraft.
A small team of engineers working on NASA’s PhoneSat at the agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., aim to rapidly evolve satellite architecture and incorporate the Silicon Valley approach of “release early, release often” to small spacecraft.
To achieve this, NASA’s PhoneSat design makes extensive use of commercial-off-the-shelf components, including an unmodified, consumer-grade smartphone. Out of the box smartphones already offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers, and several radios.
NASA engineers kept the total cost of the components to build each of the three prototype satellites in the PhoneSat project to $3,500 by using only commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and keeping the design and mission objectives to a minimum for the first flight.
Flies low-cost consumer electronics in space
NASA’s prototype smartphone satellite, known as PhoneSat 1.0, is built around the Nexus One smartphone made by HTC Corp., running Google’s Android operating system. The Nexus One acts as the spacecraft onboard computer. Sensors determine the orientation of the spacecraft while the smartphone’s camera can be used for Earth observations. Commercial-off-the-shelf parts include a watchdog circuit that monitors the systems and reboots the phone if it stops sending radio signals.
NASA’s PhoneSat 1.0 satellite has a basic mission goal–to stay alive in space for a short period of time, sending back digital imagery of Earth and space via its camera, while also sending back information about the satellite’s health.
To prepare for such a mission, NASA has successfully tested PhoneSat 1.0 in various extreme environments, including thermal-vacuum chambers, vibration and shock tables, sub-orbital rocket flights and high-altitude balloons.
Additional features, more capabilities
NASA’s PhoneSat 2.0 will equip a newer Nexus S smartphone made by Samsung Electronics running Google’s Android operating system to provide a faster core processor, avionics and gyroscopes.