Smartphone-powered microsatellite coming
The Android operating system may have come under threat after last week’s California patent trial, but a couple of Android smart phones are about to out of this world.
NASA, the U.S. space agency, said this week a small team of engineers is working on two microsatellites powered by standard smart phones to be launched into space later this year.
The project, dubbed PhoneSat, is part of a movement to put small satellites — measuring about 10 cm (4-in) on each sdie — into space with modest goals.
In NASA’s case, the agency said in a news release PhoneSat 1.0 satellite has a basic goal – to stay alive in space for a short period of time. It will send back digital images of Earth and space via its camera, as well as information about the satellite’s health. It will be powered by a Nexus One smartphone made by HTC Corp.
PhoneSat 2.0, powered by a Nexus S made by Samsung Electronics, will have a two-way S-band radio allowing engineers to command the satellite from Earth. It will also have solar panels to enable longer-duration missions, a GPS receiver and magnetorquer coils – electro-magnets that interact with Earth’s magnetic field – and reaction wheels to actively control the satellite’s orientation in space.
The idea is to show lightweight satellites can be used to gain valuable information from space.
NASA said the total cost of the components to build each of the three prototype satellites will hit a mere US$3,500 by using only commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and keeping the design and mission objectives to a minimum for the first flight.
The two satellites are scheduled to launch aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va., later this year.