Science is awesome. Just recently, NASA basically landed a rover the size of a car on Mars which is Millions upon Millions of miles away. Quite a feat and Curiosity, the name of the rover, is far more advanced than the previous with better cameras, lasers, and so on.
Over the last few years, NASA has been developing very cheap mini-satellites and plans to launch the lowest-cost satellites ever launched into space. Dubbed the “PhoneSat”, they are just a 10x10x10cm cube and come in at a cost of $3500 to build. Smartphone technology has advanced significantly in the last several years and these mini satellites will be powered by the Nexus One and Nexus S.
PhoneSat 1.0 is powered by the Nexus One and will be the first to go up. If that proves to be successful, they’ll then send up PhoneSat 2.0 which is powered by the more powerful Nexus S. They’ll weigh in at just 4 pounds.
They’ve put the satellites to the test from high altitude balloon tests, to thermal vacuum chambers, to shock and vibration tables. The tests go to show that the phones can withstand the forces of space and are said to launch into orbit aboard the Antares rocket later this year. Why lower performing phones and not the latest and greatest? Well, with anything that goes into space, it requires a lot of testing.
A few months is far from enough time. Also, the reality is that these phones are more powerful than many satellites already in orbit and have been floating around for decades. This will usher in a new wave of cheaper satellites which is great all the way around. The goal is to soon use PhoneSats for space exploration, Earth observations, test new components and hardware, even moon exploration.
Very exciting stuff and we look forward to seeing how well the satellites perform once launched into space. No word on if the Verizon guy will go up with it to see how good the signal is.