PhoneSat 1.0 during high-altitude balloon test. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center
The fast-paced proliferation and popularity of mobile devices here on Earth, like smartphones loaded with powerful operating systems, will find a new niche market– this time in space, thanks to NASA’s trailblazing PhoneSat project.
To be rocketed into space early next year, PhoneSat is set to showcase use of lower cost, off-the-store-shelf, commercially available technology that enables space commerce, educational activities and citizen-exploration.
“PhoneSat demonstrates a philosophy of taking a creative idea, then building and testing that inspiration in a very rapid way…as opposed to long planning processes typical of larger spacecraft programs,” said Andrew Petro, NASA program executive for Small Spacecraft Technology within the Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Petro said PhoneSat is an out of the box activity, one novel pathway being explored for small-sized satellites that, quite literally, “chip away” at lowering the cost of constructing future spacecraft.
PhoneSat takes advantage of commercial products already imbued with speedy computing chips, lots of memory and ultra-tiny sensors like high-resolution cameras and navigation devices.
That’s a mix of attributes akin to what spacecraft require, Petro said. “Those are already built into a smart phone and that’s what we’re taking advantage of in the PhoneSat Project, which could ultimately lead to very low-cost satellite designs.”