Did you know your smartphone is more powerful than most computers in space right now? A few smart folks at NASA realized this as well and thought...hey...why don’t we turn a Phone into a satellite. And so Phonesat was born. NASA is taking Google Android phones and turning them into cheap spacecraft. And by cheap I mean under $10,000. EACH. Phonesat Website Phonesat Open NASA Government Plan VIDEO: first test launch of a PhoneSat
Proving the Concept
The first version of Phonesat is pretty simple...NASA used off the shelf Cubesat hardware, batteries and a Google Nexus phone to prove the concept works. They’ve tested them at high altitude and in a vacuum chamber. They know the Phonesats will work in space. They’re just not sure for how long. Some experts say weeks, others say a few years and future experiments will send them into orbit to find out. Unfortunately, radiation in space will fry most electronics. The question is...will an Android phone last long enough in orbit to be useful? NASA will also share what they learn so that others can build on their work. Their goal is to build a satellite platform powered by Android and help others develop software to operate spacecraft. So instead of writing software to make the camera communicate with your radio, you can focus on doing something cool with the camera.
A Potential Revolution
If successful, this could be a breakthrough for spacecraft design for 2 reasons. 1 - most electronic equipment is custom made for each spacecraft. This makes each piece of hardware incredibly expensive since the costs from design, testing and certification are all paid for by one project. But costs for designing, testing and manufacturing commercial hardware are spread out over hundreds of thousands..... or millions of units. This makes each piece much cheaper. And 2 - Creating a satellite Operating System based on Android that anyone can use and modify will open up spacecraft development to the hundreds of thousands of web developers out there. Just imagine...instead of writing a new app, you could program your own satellite using a free Operating System.