We recently reported on NASA’s plans to fly low-cost satellites based on consumer smartphones. NASA plans to fly three PhoneSats based on Nexus One smartphone and Android operating system in 2012. In 2013, it plans to launch a constellation of 14-20 Ethersats, based on the Nexus One satellite bus that’s being tested on PhoneSat missions.

This isn’t the first time NASA has flown Android smartphones in space, however. In 2011, the SPHERES robots aboard the International Space Station were upgraded to use Nexus S smartphones. NASA modified the phones by removing the GSM cellular communications chip to avoid interference with ISS electronics, so the phones are permanently in airplane mode, and replaced the standard lithium-ion battery with AA alkaline batteries.

Smartphone processors are 10-100 times faster than the radiation-hardened chips normally found in space systems, so the new brain provides a significant upgrade to the robots’ capabilities.

NASA astronauts have also used the Apple iPhone 4s, running a custom app called Spacelab for iOS developed by Odyssey Space Research. Citizen scientists who want to experiment with the Spacelab for iOS app can download it from the iTunes App Store for $0.99. The app that’s available on iTunes is identical to the version that was flown to ISS on the last flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the same flight that carried the Nexus S smartphones for SPHERES. The Spacelab for iOS app contains a gravity check that allows ground-based users to perform simulated experiments that mimic the tasks and objectives of the flight experiments.

 

Written by Astro1 on April 22nd, 2012 , Innovation, Nanosatellites

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