On-board mobile phone to power low-cost satellite

September 27, 2012, University of Queensland
Mobile phone technology to power satellite
Phonesat during testing at near space altitude (approx 30km) late last year. Credit: NASA

(Phys.org)—A University of Queensland staff member is sending a satellite into space more powerful than the Curiosity Rover which recently landed on Mars.

The satellite, which measures 10cm x 10cm, is controlled by an on-board mobile phone five times more powerful than its larger space-faring cousin. It also has a camera four times more powerful.

Michael Kehoe, a UQ staff member with (ITS) and a final year student of the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (ITEE) recently completed a five-week internship with in California.

He was tasked with designing a satellite that used a mobile phone as its on-.

"This is a that will be used for a range of later designs," said Mr Kehoe.

"The satellite uses an attitude determinate control system (ADCS) written by fellow UQ graduate Jasper Wolfe to stop the satellite from spinning and alter its path in orbit," he said.

"Because it uses a common mobile phone as its central processor, I've been able to incorporate some really fun ideas into the satellite. I'll be able to take temperature, and heading readings using the phone's sensors and photos using the phone's camera."

Despite being controlled by a mobile phone, the satellite is not able to phone home.

"Unfortunately there's no reception in space, so we'll be using a high-powered radio link to receive data from the satellite," said Mr Kehoe.

Tracking of the satellite is being set up in America with NASA and in Australia, with the assistance of ITEE. Tracking equipment on top of the Parnell building will monitor the satellite from launch on November 25 to re-entry 12 days later.

The project provides a proof of concept for low cost, rapid design iteration space craft. Total component costs for the satellite are $7800, opposed to Curiosity's $2.5 billion.

"An example of why this is important can be seen in the Curiosity Rover which landed in August on Mars," said Mr Kehoe.

"Design work started eight years ago and used cutting-edge technology at the time, but by launch date a common had more processing power and better camera. If we can shorten the time it takes to build spacecraft, we can decrease cost and increase the quality of what goes into space."

Explore further: ICO comm satellite to launch in May 2007

More information: open.nasa.gov/plan/phonesat/

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5 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2012

Apple owns the patent on the concept of using a mobile phone in orbit.

They are gonna sue his ass for trillions in lost sales.

not rated yet Sep 27, 2012
Oscar 1 was built in a basement in 1961, only four years after Sputnik was launched.

Now I'll admit spacecraft development costs can get out of hand. But it's not because of the on-board processor. It's because space qualified hardware is expensive.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 27, 2012
It's not the processor that costs a lot of money, it's the processor that can travel through space for a couple of years, enter the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, be dropped by a sky crane and then transmit usefull data for another couple of years.

How much would the tiny satellite cost if it had a nuclear reactor to power the phone?
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2012
And how much would a cell phone cost if you were only going to build one (as opposed to the millions over which development costs are amortized)?
not rated yet Sep 28, 2012
On the other paw, use of available resources rather than designing from the ground up.. Unlimited budget and long range goals vs. shoestring budget and short term goals. Maximizing potential functionality and resources with extremely long range goals in mind is evolution. Nature is very frugal. Some of our best and most innovative ideas are copied from nature.

Bottom line, both approaches are good and were successful. (We have liftoff!) No need to attack or defend. There is room for improvement on all sides and the show is not over yet.

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