Google Goes to Outer Space: NASA’s Mini-Satellites Powered by Android Phones [PHOTOS]

  on August 28 2012 4:11 PM

Google faces greener pastures other than going global with its products. The top search engine company will soon go to outer space as NASA plans to send mini-satellites that are powered by Android phones.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the PhoneSats are tiny cubic satellites roughly 10 square centimeters in size that is around the size of a coffee mug.

The PhoneSats are built from off-the-shelf consumer technology. The low cost, small size, and general availability of parts make these little cubes great candidates for the future of satellites.

The main purpose that these mini-satellites will serve is to survive at the outer space for a short time and capture digital imagery of the Earth.

"NASA's PhoneSat 1.0 satellite has a basic mission goal-to stay alive in space for a short period of time, sending back digital imagery of Earth and space via its camera, while also sending back information about the satellite's health," NASA's exact explanation for the revolutionary device.

As of now, NASA has built and tested the first variation of the satellites PhoneSat 1.0, which featured a Nexus One as its on-board computer and also used the phones camera.

The satellite has already survived trips to near-space via high-altitude balloons and sub-orbital rocket flights.  It's also passed a rigorous regiment of vacuum thermal chamber, vibration table, and shock table tests.

The next variation, PhoneSat 2.0, will use the Nexus S for its Android-powered brain, is currently in the development stage and will boast additional features like the capability for two-way communication as well as magnets to stabilize its orientation.

The Android phone's "avionics and gyroscopes" will be applied to assist in satellite control, according to NASA's mission description.

Originally, the PhoneSat 1.0 was supposed to be launched before the PhoneSat 2.0 is completed. However, it seems that the current plan is to launch the two simultaneously. The PhoneSats are currently planned to launch in 2013. By that time, new versions of Android phones will power the successor of the two, PhoneSat 3.0.

Why did NASA chose Android than other softwares in powering their mini-satellites? Our take is that Android is easy to use compared to other operating system. Moreover, engineers can tweak the  software in order to control and navigate the mini-satellites.

See the slideshow for some of the photos of NASA's Android-powered mini-satellites.

Join the Discussion