Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NASA builds $3,500 PhoneSat satellite using a smartphone

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Historically, sending anything into space has been a very expensive endeavor regardless of whether its a new satellite or a manned spacecraft. However, NASA has been working to cut the cost of building and launching new satellites, and has turned to off-the-shelf components to drastically lower the price. The end result is a satellite that costs just $3,500 to build.

The NASA project investigating these cheap satellite designs is called PhoneSat. The team is based at the Ames Research Center and has been rapidly prototyping a number of cheap satellite designs. The key to keeping costs down is using components that are widely available and combine a number of features into a single device.


The heart of the PhoneSat satellites is a smartphone. Using a smartphone makes a lot of sense as you are only spending hundreds of dollars to purchase one, and in return you get a fast processor, a fully-functional and reliable operating system, cameras, GPS, radio, and several supporting sensors on board. There’s also the added bonus of easily being able to upgrade the software in the phone to add new functionality.
While using common components may keep the build cost to a minimum, it also means launching a PhoneSat is cheap too. A typical PhoneSat satellite weighs less than 4 pounds and takes the form of a cube no more than 4-inches wide.

NASA has been testing PhoneSat 1.0 ready for a launch into orbit using a Taurus II rocket later this year. It relies on a Nexus One smartphone and Android OS, and will have the simple mission of capturing images of Earth. PhoneSat 2.0 is also in development and will replace the Nexus One with the more up-to-date Nexus S smartphone. Unlike v1.0 which will just take photos, v2.0 will allow for commands to be sent using a two-way S-band radio and will employ magnetorquer coils to allow for orientation adjustments.

NASA’s work into developing a cheap satellite design will be shared with everyone through the NASA Open Government Plan. That means anyone wishing to launch their own satellite can use PhoneSat as a blueprint. There’s also big plans for the development of future PhoneSat iterations beyond v2.0, which is set to launch in June 2013. For example, there’s already work underway to give PhoneSat 3.0 a foldable design and to carry out a mission focusing on dispersed sensor heliophysics.

Source:Internet

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