NASA to launch smartphone-operated nanosatellites

August 31, 2012 by Salvador Rodriguez

NASA is relying on a small team of engineers at its Ames Research Center at California's Moffett Field to develop three nanosatellites operated by smartphones.

The space agency said it plans to launch the nanosatellites this year. The devices are being built with off-the-shelf hardware, which is reducing the cost of each prototype to $3,500.

Nanosatellites are cube-shaped miniature satellites. They're smaller and lighter than other satellites, measuring about 4 inches and weighing less than 4 pounds.

By going with commercial products, NASA said its engineers will launch the cheapest and easiest-to-build satellites ever to fly in space.

Out-of-the-box "smartphones already offer a wealth of capabilities needed for , including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers, and several radios," the agency said online. The agency is using phones running 's operating system.

NASA said it has built two types of smartphone satellites. The nanosatellites are being operated by cellphones, which provide the operating system and the communications capabilities.

The mission of the first, the PhoneSat 1.0, is simply to stay alive in space. NASA said the PhoneSat 1.0, which runs on the HTC Nexus One phone, will take pictures of the Earth and send them back, along with information about its health.

's PhoneSat 2.0 will have a few more capabilities. This nanosatellite will run on the Samsung Nexus S smartphone, and it will include a two-way S-band radio so engineers can control it from Earth. It will also include to extend its mission duration, and it will include a .

The three satellites - two PhoneSat 1.0s and one PhoneSat 2.0 - are set to launch onboard the Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket, which is expected to lift off from Wallops Island, Va., later this year.

Explore further: NASA, M2MI work on satellite development

Related Stories

NASA, M2MI work on satellite development

April 28, 2008

The U.S. space agency says it and the Machine to Machine Corp. have signed an agreement to make "nanosats" to improve space telecommunications.

Advanced communications testbed for Space Station

February 14, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- New and improved ways for future space travelers to communicate will be tested on the International Space Station.  The SCaN Testbed, or Space Communications and Navigation Testbed - designed and built ...

Recommended for you

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antonima
not rated yet Aug 31, 2012
A few pounds is worth a few hundred thousand dollars in fuel and equipment just to get into orbit. Im assuming that this is a fixed cost for some rockets, so they might as well bring the satellites along.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2012
The irony of the opening statement is palpable ;-)
NASA is relying on a small team of engineers at its Ames Research Center at California's Moffett Field to develop three nanosatellites operated by smartphones.
Interesting idea though, hope they have on board IPV6 for the S-band devices :-)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.