NASA’s Smartphone Nanosatellite
The coffee-cup-size Android-powered PhoneSat during a high-altitude balloon test (credit: NASA Ames Research Center)
NASA’s PhoneSat project will demonstrate the ability to launch the lowest-cost and easiest to build satellites ever flown in space - capabilities enabled by using off-the-shelf consumer smartphones to build spacecraft.
A small team of engineers working on NASA’s PhoneSat at the agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., aim to rapidly evolve satellite architecture and incorporate the Silicon Valley approach of “release early, release often” to small spacecraft.
To achieve this, NASA’s PhoneSat design makes extensive use of commercial-off-the-shelf components, including an unmodified, consumer-grade smartphone. Out of the box smartphones already 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.
NASA engineers kept the total cost of the components to build each of the three prototype satellites in the PhoneSat project to $3,500 by using only commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and keeping the design and mission objectives to a minimum for the first flight.