Instagram Some Photos In Space Thanks to NASA's PhoneSat Satellite

By Jon Partridge on at

It seems like everyone's doing something space-age these days, but if you don't fancy jetting off with Virgin Galactic, feel free to launch your own Android-powered satellite with NASA and feel just a little bit like Tony Stark.

PhoneSat, a project overseen by NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, wants to lower the cost of making and launching satellites, to the point where any old Joe with some sort of galactic dream can send one up into space. The thing is, the PhoneSat is, well, it's a blimmin' phone. With Android on-board too. Hmm.

Well, before you ask why they would be sending up a phone into space, NASA has pointed out that smartphones already have a whole host of features that satellites need, including fast processors, cameras, and all sorts of different sensors. The first version that NASA has designed costs $3,500 (£2,200), and is a half-pint-sized cube that is designed to withstand cosmic radiation with a HTC Nexus One acting as the brains. It's running Android, it's got an external radio beacon, external batteries, and a circuit that will reboot the phone if it stops transmitting data -- and it's all built from readily available materials off-the-shelf. Neat.

The cube has been tested under harsh conditions that simulate space, including "thermal-vacuum chambers, vibration and shock tables, sub-orbital rocket flights and high-altitude balloons." NASA's plan is to launch it this month with a simple goal of it staying alive long enough to snap a few photos back down to Earth. The next attempt will upgrade the guts to a Samsung Nexus S, and will include a whole host of upgrades including solar panels and a two-way radio system that will let researchers control the satellite from Earth.

Look forward in a few years to launching your own satellite, and Instagramming some pics of the Earth to use as your new Facebook profile pic. You know you want to. [PhoneSat via Wired UK]

Picture credit: NASA Ames Research Center