New NASA Satellites Have Android Smartphones for Brains
NASA is aiming to launch a line of small satellites called “PhoneSats” that are cheaper to make and easier to build than those it has produced in the past. To achieve this, engineers are using unmodified Android smartphones — in one prototype, HTC’s Nexus One, and in another, Samsung’s Nexus S — to perform many of a satellite’s key functions.
As NASA explains on its website, these off-the-shelf smartphones “offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers and several radios.”
“This approach allows engineers to see what capabilities commercial technologies can provide, rather than trying to custom-design technology solutions to meet set requirements,” NASA adds.
The total cost for building one of these prototype satellites costs a mere $3,500. Three are expected to launch aboard the first flight of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket from a NASA flight facility at Wallops Island, Va., later this year.
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