US space agency NASA has launched three smartphone-powered satellites into orbit around the earth. Each satellite uses a standard HTC Google Nexus One handset, which runs the Android operating system, although they’ve been given an external battery and a more powerful radio.
This project, known as PhoneSat, has been created to see if consumer smartphones can be used as the main flight avionics of an inexpensive satellite. The total cost of components for the three ‘nanosatellites’ - so-called because each one is a cube that’s just 4 inches square - is less than $7,000.
All three satellites are now sending information about their health back to Earth via radio and are also set to take pictures of Earth using their cameras. Data can be received by amateur radio operators using the 437.425MHz band.
Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington, said “It’s always great to see a space technology mission make it to orbit - the high frontier is the ultimate testing ground for new and innovative space technologies of the future. Smartphones offer a wealth of potential capabilities for flying small, low-cost, powerful satellites for atmospheric or Earth science, communications, or other space-born applications. They also may open space to a whole new generation of commercial, academic and citizen-space users.”
Alexander, Graham and Bell - the three satellites - are expected to remain in orbit for up to two weeks.
Earlier this year the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited launched a similar device into orbit, combining a smartphone with a separate Linux computer for its STRaND-1 CubeSat.