NASA to launch inexpensive Android ‘phonesats’ into space

Android….in….space! This morning, Will Marshall of NASA showed the Android Open Conference plans for a sub-$10,000 Nexus One “phonesat.” Given that the cost of satellites usually measure in the tens or hundreds of millions or so, that’s a rather spectacular cost savings.

Marshall says that this will be the fastest processor to govern a satellite. For reference, Mars Explorer used a 33MHz processor. It sends signals back via amateur radio packet system, rather than ground tracking. The launch video is embedded below:

Great anecdote: when a launch failed, the entire payload fell without parachute into desert. The data was left intact.

William launching 3 Android phonesats in December, in space for 3 weeks. As O’Reilly Media’s Gina Blaber pointed out, they’re “iterating Silicon Valley-style.”

For more, check out the short documentary below about the PhoneSat suborbital test launch in the Black Rock desert:

PhoneSat Rocket Launch Documentary from Ben Howard on Vimeo.

You can follow @NASA_Phonesat on Twitter — there’s no official website yet – and, according to Marshall, eventually check out code on Github, where NASA is open sourcing some software behind it. (And yes, that’s a big deal.)

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

2 thoughts on “NASA to launch inexpensive Android ‘phonesats’ into space

  1. This is so cool. Good find, Alex. Besides how intrinsically awesome it is that the government is sending up DIY-ish satellites, it’s going to be great to see some code at github.com/nasa.

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