By J. Nicholas Hoover
In October, NASA plans to send a two-pound, ten-ounce cube-shaped satellite the size of a coffee cup into space aboard a rocket launched from Wallops Island, Va. However, it’s not just the size of the satellite that likely will pique curiosity, but the fact that the on-board electronics will consist of the guts of HTC Nexus One and Samsung Nexus S smartphones running Android.
The effort, known as PhoneSat and run out of NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, is part of the space agency’s Small Spacecraft Technology program, which aims to support the development of new technologies to improve the capabilities of small spacecraft that weigh less than 100 kilograms, or about 220 pounds. Phonesat qualifies as a nanosatellite in NASA parlance, as it is between one and 10 kilograms.
NASA is developing two generations of PhoneSat satellites: the Nexus One-powered PhoneSat 1.0, which takes pictures and records its position during its time in space; and the Nexus S-powered PhoneSat 2.0, which will add solar panels and a GPS receiver and let engineers command the satellite from Earth via a two-way radio.