After putting into orbit satellites based on an off-the-shelf smartphone, NASA looks at future for lower-cost spacecraft.
The idea of basing a
satellite on a smartphone wouldn't be possible without advances made in
smartphones over the past few years, Frost noted. "We've driven consumer
electronics to the point where they are just amazingly capable little
devices and ridiculously affordable for what they can do," he said.
has been at the forefront of aerospace technology for more than 25
years. He joined the Army/NASA joint rotorcraft division in 1997. In in
years at NASA, both electronics and spacecraft technology have come a
"I'm part of the generation that first started to get
their hands on the first computers," Frost said. He added that some of
the earliest projects he worked on as an engineer still used analog
control systems. The fundamental revolution, he said, beginning with
Apollo, was the move to digital flight control.
A swarm of advanced and affordable nanosatellites for a coordinated science mission demonstration.
of the digital revolution is "flying these smartphones and other systems
that have amazing computational power, ridiculously low power consumer,
and are insanely inexpensive," Frost said.
"I see the revolution
in electronics as being the thing that has most fundamentally
transformed what we can do and what we will be able to do in the
future," Frost said. "There are other things coming along that will be
very exciting and powerful, but I don't know that they will dominate the
landscape the way microelectronics can."
DoD spent billions to build something close to smart phones but never got close. And guess what? These things are already here, without a dime of public money!
Anyway add a few accessories, smart phones will make good micro or nano satellites. Radiation will be problem that will shorten the service life. But given almost weightless and almost free of cost you can afford lot of redundancy.
Add a nice camera and the military will be able to spy on other places around the world and cover large areas per picture when there are multiple units working together. I also wonder about security, Android is not impregnable and a hacker just might call up and get access. Things to think about. Sometimes non-commercial systems make better sense.
Interest idea but limited use in current forms ... this can be considered an incremental update for preliminary demonstration purposes ... As always, serious engineering needs to be done for real Space products that work 24/7 for years on end.
Crowdsourced debugging - an interesting paradigm shift. Rather than spending a fortune in development and testing of a one time use system, select a system that has been used by millions and is known to work. Were any modifications required for vacuum and space temperature conditions? Interestingly, those very changes would introduced the greatest risk of an unexpected failure since they were untested byb the "crowd".
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I was wondering about the temp and vacuum conditions on the interconnects? I would be very curious to see how they put a standard smartPhone into low / middle earth orbit and have it work. I think that this is a very exciting development and would love to see high school/college satellite projects get some payload space on future launches. What a great way to encourage students in STEM related areas and promote space!
The DoD has ben discovering this phenomenon for many years now, applying commercial off the self components in many, many systems. Computers are the most obvious example of COTS content. It shouln't surprise anyone that the migration from military-specific mainframes, of the 1970s and early 1980s, to commerial PCs in the mid 1980s to today, would move on to commercial smartphones.
I would expect that for space applications, you have to do someting to defend against radiation. Not sure how long a commercial smartphone would last out there. I'll bet, not as long as the Voyager spacecraft have been working!!