Android and NASA – A Match Made in the Heavens?
It’s T-Minus 30 seconds and counting on a beautiful, sunny day. The launch vehicle stands on the launching pad, ready to take the latest NASA satellite into space. And you stand a mile away, ready to see this amazing event. You are handed a pair of binoculars so you peer into the distance to see the rocket, and… wait! What’s this? A green Android emblem on the side of the rocket? Is Google now in the space rocket business? What gives?
This may seem far-fetched, but NASA, in an attempt to cut budget while still achieving its core mission parameters, is ready to make this a reality. While the rocket may not have an Android emblem on the side, it will be an Android-powered mission. They have recently begun a PhoneSat project, combining a Google Nexus handset with a satellite. This project will be the cheapest and easiest satellite project ever, and will cost just $3,500 to build. Contrast that to the typical uber-billion dollar projects we’ve become accustomed to, and it seems like a win-win for NASA.
The first project, PhoneSat 1.0, will combine a Google Nexus One, with its sole purpose being to beam pictures of space back to ground control. At the same time, the tiny satellite will be monitoring its own health and keeping NASA informed about any ill-effects space has on its hardware. Assuming the mission is a success, future missions will utilize newer Google Nexus hardware, with PhoneSat 2.0 being run by a Nexus S and featuring a two-way radio (for controlling the satellite from Earth), solar panels for longer flight, and a GPS transponder for accurate positioning.
The goal of the PhoneSat project is to allow NASA mission designers to launch satellites for a vast array of purposes, which keeping the cost down to something very inexpensive. And by embracing agile development principles of “release early, release often” NASA will be able to respond to needs quickly.
Who else wants to get ahold of the OS build used to power the satellite?