We’ve all heard that today’s smartphone has more processing power then the computers that put Neil Armstrong (RIP) on the moon. NASA’s latest win: landing Curiosity on MARS and the excellent social media and online presence to go along with it; I’m not surprised that they are looking into off-the-shelf electronics to cut costs and keep the missions coming.
NASA’s latest project are nanosatellites which use a Google Nexus smartphone to run the orbiter as it has both the processing power and the sensors necessary to keep it flying around the earth. PhoneSat 1.0 is prototype which is only a 4-inch cube, but NASA has high hopes for the little guy and is looking to construct a fleet of them as they’ll only cost around $3500 in materials to build. The smartphone is a particularly key component because it already contains much of the core technology needed in a satellite: radios, a versatile operating system, a fast processor and multiple sensors.
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.
The next satellite is going to be using the Nexus S and will have a two way radio so it can be controlled from the ground. Imagine being able to control a satellite powered by a smartphone from your smartphone. Science is so cool!