NASA’s top choice: Android

In recent news, Android is proud to have big shots amongst the long list of its fans as NASA plans to send a two pound light , ten ounce cubical satellite which is comparable to the size of a latte cup, in to the space with a rocket launched from Wallops Island, Va, in October. You also have access to historical satellite photos updated with a real-time position.

Still, it is not only the miniature size that is likely to raise curiosity among technophiles but also the fact that the electronics used on board are those that consist of the ones on the insides of HTC Nexus One and Samsung Nexus S smart phones currently using the Android platform.

It’s a good sign that Android popularity seems to be decreasing among cell phone spy app makers and android spy software gangs while increasing among the more credible and respected parties.


Teeny weeny and so much more

This ordeal has been called PhoneSat and is being worked out under NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley- a part of the space agency’s Small Spacecraft Technology program, which basically focuses on the support for the development of new technologies meant to advance the capacities of small spacecraft that weigh under 100 kilograms or roughly 220 pounds.

In NASA parlance, PhoneSat is regarded as a nano-satellite due to its light weight ranging between the 1 to 10 kilograms measure.

Two generations of PhoneSat satellites are being developed by NASA currently; the Nexus one powered PhoneSat 1.0 that is capable of taking pictures and recording its position during its time in space while the other one is PhoneSat 2.0 powered by the Nexus S, which aims at adding solar panels and GPS receiver while letting the engineers command the satellite from Earth using a two way radio.

The other specificity of PhoneSat satellites is their cost efficiency, as these are being built from consumer hardware the overall cost is itsy bitsy.  The cost of the constituents used in PhoneSat 1.0, including Nexus One phone, batteries, a radio beacon and a watchdog circuit meant for monitoring the condition of the phone, is barely $3500 and the entire cost of launching it is estimated by NASA scientists to be as teeny weeny as $50 000 which is next to nothing compared to typical satellite costs as much as 500 million dollars. This effort from NASA regarding PhoneSat has been going on since 2010 and ever since the program has begun they have put PhoneSat through a range of trials and tests including a high altitude balloon test.

Google employees have been among other sources aiding NASA in this effort and they have already helped with a serial data port and an image compression algorithm in this regard.

Small but consisting a plethora of uses

However, PhoneSat satellites are not going to be the first smaller satellites in space as the Space Shuttle Endeavour carried three “sprite” satellites along with it on its last journey in may, developed by Sandia National Laboratories and Cornell University, which aim to collect data about the solar wind from their throne on the International Space Station for three years.

PhoneSat satellites can come in handy for a number of types of research as various possibilities exist regarding this job ultimately. Some examples could be research on the sun, low Earth orbit observation and debris tracking.

Article by Guest Author: Natalie David

Natalia David has been a regular contributor as tech writer, expert for some time now. She provides tips and tricks about cell phone security and privacy. If you want to know more about Natalia you can follow her on twitter @NataliaDavid4

The DNetWorks Team