Looking to find ways of creating cheaper satellites using off-the-shelf components, NASA has launched three PhoneSat craft into orbit, each powered by a Google-HTC Nexus One smartphone.
NASA’s program is looking to build a full satellite that costs less than $10,000, and its drive to cut costs sees the UHF antenna of these mini-sats being made from a piece of a carpenter’s tape measure.
The stock Nexus One handsets have also been slightly adapted for their extra terrestrial activities, with two of the phones in the PhoneSat 1.0 craft having larger, external lithium ion batteries, with the third packing solar cells.
All the electrical gubbins are encased in 4-inch metal cubes and are currently whizzing around the earth at an altitude of about 150 miles.
The mini-satellites are designed to burn up on re-entry within the next two weeks, but while they’re up there their mission is to take photos of Earth and send back periodic radio messages.
Launched by an Orbital Science Corp’s Antares rocket on Sunday from the Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia, NASA have already received over 200 packets of transmitted data from Amateur Radio operators around the world.