Sunday, 5 May 2013

NASA Smartphone Satellite Nexus One Reached Space and Sends Picture Of Earth in Return

Scientists have built a Google Nexus One smartphone into a satellite due to launch into space on 25 February. Barring software changes, the Android phone is completely unmodified and will be used in the heart of the orbiting spacecraft during its six-month mission. Riding a mini satellite PhoneSat named Strand-1, Nexus One will be assigned to take pictures of the earth from space and collecting data from satellites. Read More.....

Not only will the mission test how commercial, off-the-shelf tech can survive in the vacuum and conduct experiments, but it'll squeeze in some fun courtesy of apps developed by winners of a competition held last year. An app called 360 will let folks back on terra firma request their own snapshots of earth taken with the phone's shooter and pin them to a map. Ridley Scott might like to say no one can hear you scream in space, but another application loaded onto the device will put that to the test by playing user-submitted shrieks and recording them with the handset's microphone as they playback. Hit the break for more details and a brief video overview of the satellite, or jab the more coverage links to partake in the app shenanigans.

The 5-megapixel camera will be the only part exposed, as it will be used to take pictures of Earth and the Moon. And the satellite, at least initially, will be controlled by a Linux-based cubesat computer developed by the Space Science Centre, part of the University of Surrey.

To carry out their duties, the Nexus One is made by HTC and Google has been tested at various temperatures to ensure their product does not melt when they arrive at the Earth’s orbit. The image is taken using the camera of the phone and also an application called 360. The results of these shots will also be sent to Earth.

The agency launched a rocket containing three of its PhoneSats, cubical satellites four inches on a side with that old classic the Nexus One tucked within.They have GPS, motion sensors, and a camera built-in. So, the project cost less than $10,000 using off-the-shelf technology. A custom-built system might have cost upwards of a million dollars. The module was equipped with extra lithium-ion batteries. Data, along with photos from the smartphone camera, are still being analyzed.

The photos above come straight from the phones’ five-megapixel cameras themselves. That part was successful, though the pictures aren’t exactly detailed. Between the transmission artifacting and the smartphone grade cameras it gets a little messy.

A major concern was whether smartphones could withstand space temperatures. “On Earth here, there’s not many situations where your phone will reach to 40, 50 degrees Celsius, and so I think we were pushing the limit, but we were really interested in seeing if this would really work,” said Watson Attai with the PhoneSat engineering team.

The mission successfully ended Saturday, April 27, after predicted atmospheric drag caused the PhoneSats to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, NASA said.

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