With their launch dates inching ever closer, the internet is abuzz with news about the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note 2, the new flagship phones of Apple and Samsung. And while the impressive new upgrades these phones will be bringing are worth talking about, neither the iPhone 5 nor the Galaxy Note 2 are going to be exploring the final frontier anytime soon.
The Verge reports that NASA, in an attempt to work around their shrinking budgets, is planning to launch to PhoneSat project using Google Nexus devices:
“The goal of which is to build the lowest-cost and easiest to assemble satellites ever placed into orbit. To create such a thing, engineers have turned to off-the-shelf consumer gadgets for parts, harnessing the internals of Google’s Nexus hardware as the brains of the operation.”
The project will start with the modest PhoneSat 1.0 which will be powered by a Google Nexus One and will “stay alive for a short period of time and beam pictures of space back to ground control.” The Nexus One satellite will also be monitoring its own health and will beam down information to NASA scientists, advising them of any effects space may have on the device.
The follow-up to this will be PhoneSat 2.0 which will use a Google Nexus S:
“A Nexus S will serve as its core, with other upgrades including a two-way S-band radio (allowing engineers to control the satellite from Earth), solar panels to enable longer flights, and a GPS transponder. Building on PhoneSat’s foundation will permit mission designers to more affordably launch satellites for a variety of purposes, according to NASA. Examples include testing new technologies / components for space flight and conducting inexpensive observations of Earth.”
What’s even more amazing is that the PhoneSat project will only cost them $3,500 per satellite. NASA is hoping that their new approach at satellite construction will allow them to release new technology for less and at a faster rate, allowing them to remain the leading space agency.
Three PhoneSat units are scheduled to make their trips to outer space later this year. By then, we’ll have a better understanding of how viable this project will be but it’s exciting to know that our handheld devices have advanced to a stage where they’re being considered as possible tools for space exploration.