The average person doesn’t really give much thought to satellites. We know they’re there but the hows and whys of their functioning are usually left to the professionals and a few enthusiasts but NASA have been experimenting with ways to make creating and maintaining satellites cheaper that hits a little closer to home – the space agency has been using Android smartphones as a base for their newest orbiting gadgets.
NASA’s newer PhoneSat, which uses one of Samsung’s Nexus S smartphones as part of its construction, is the first to incorporate a two way S-band radio that has allowed NASA to communicate with the little floating cube. The smartphone satellite has ‘phoned home’, as it were, with NASA receiving the signal that everything is working just fine up in space. This is notable because it has confirmed that using off-the-shelf bits and pieces is a viable option for some satellites in order to reduce costs.
NASA’s associate administrator for space technology Michael Gazarik said of the project “NASA is committed to opening up the high frontier to a new generation of explorers who can take advantage of these sorts of small satellites to do science and technology development at a fraction of the cost of larger, more complex spacecraft.”
The next version of PhoneSat, which will be lofted by a SpaceX rocket, will enter space in February 2014.
Image: NASA Ames Research Center/Dominic Hart