HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
REGISTER   |   LOGIN   |   HELP
Blogs
Guest Blogs
NASA's 'PhoneSat' Program Points to Satellites of the Future
6/18/2013

A swarm of advanced and affordable nanosatellites for a coordinated science mission demonstration.   (Source: NASA)
A swarm of advanced and affordable nanosatellites for a coordinated science mission demonstration.
(Source: NASA)

Return to Article

View Comments: Threaded|Newest First|Oldest First
Mydesign
User Rank
Platinum
Smartphones as Control System
Mydesign   6/18/2013 8:07:53 AM
NO RATINGS
1 saves
"NASA launched a novel project in April, putting into orbit three satellites that employ an off-the-shelf commercial smartphone as the control system"

Dylan, amazing. Smartphone as the control system!! Am curious to know about the communication between these Smartphones and remote tracking centre.

Elizabeth M
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Smartphones as Control System
Elizabeth M   6/19/2013 4:48:41 AM
NO RATINGS
I agree, it's quite amazing to see NASA using COTS products in such an expensive and complex piece of machinery...especially for the crucial control aspect of the satellite. But I have done some coverage of NASA and know they are trying to do more with less, so necessity could be the mother of invention here. It also shows what great minds can do when they don't want to reinvent the wheel.

Stephen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Smartphones as Control System
Stephen   8/29/2013 11:08:51 AM
NO RATINGS
Concider this is a $4000, 5" cubic, rotationally & axially unstabilized device (though with internal sensors that allow monitoring its motion/orientation) w/ only a 1 week lifetime before falling out of orbit, so COTS parts make sense. control is via a 2m VHF uplink (a simple yagi antenna aimed at the sat is sufficient) and data downlink is via 70 cm UHF, again a simple yagi aimed at the sat is sufficient.

It's really a proof of concept experiment, long term devices might used space hardened components instead, but the basic system architecture and firmware already exists in mass production -- no need to start from scratch.

It's no longer the 1980's!

 

tekochip
User Rank
Platinum
Game Systems
tekochip   6/18/2013 1:37:18 PM
NO RATINGS
Every time a new game system comes out we read the specifications out loud and compare the computational power to the original Super Computer.  "All this to play games"?  At least the off the shelf consumer electronics in this example will be doing something worthwhile.


Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Game Systems
Charles Murray   6/19/2013 6:59:36 PM
NO RATINGS
Good point, tekochip. It's not well known by many non-engineers, but games have always been at or near the state of the art in computational power. As you say, it's nice to know the technology is being put to a worthwhile use.

AnandY
User Rank
Gold
Vacuum condition
AnandY   6/19/2013 5:13:42 AM
NO RATINGS
Wow!!! commercial smartphones into the orbit. I am eager to know how NASA has successfully put the smartphones in to orbit? How was the smartphones behavior in the vacuum condition?

Mydesign
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Vacuum condition
Mydesign   6/20/2013 5:31:26 AM
NO RATINGS
1 saves
"I am eager to know how NASA has successfully put the smartphones in to orbit? How was the smartphones behavior in the vacuum condition?"

Anandy, even I have the same question about communicate mode and channel, from Smartphone to the remote station in earth. If am not wrong, smartphones won't have such high capability RF signal handling capacity.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Vacuum condition
Charles Murray   8/23/2013 5:27:46 PM
NO RATINGS
NASA did put the PhoneSats in orbit, MyDesign. Three went up on April 21, 2013 and worked very well for a week. We'll have a couple of photos from the smartphones early next week.

Mydesign
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Vacuum condition
Mydesign   8/27/2013 1:02:38 AM
NO RATINGS
1 saves
"NASA did put the PhoneSats in orbit, MyDesign. Three went up on April 21, 2013 and worked very well for a week. We'll have a couple of photos from the smartphones early next week"

Charles, that's great news. Would you able to share more details or link with respect to this news.

Stephen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Vacuum condition
Stephen   8/29/2013 11:14:29 AM
NO RATINGS
The Smart Phone is not chosen for its cell phone capacity but for its computer, firmware, sensors, and camera. Seperate inexpensive VHF & UHF FM radios are used for the digital communications and control.

AnandY
User Rank
Gold
Radiation exposure
AnandY   6/19/2013 5:28:43 AM
NO RATINGS
Phonesat is an inexpensive sat which takes the advantage of latest technology, but the smartphone's hardware is not built to take long-term radiation exposure and they will eventually start to breakdown. 

AnandY
User Rank
Gold
Launching cost
AnandY   6/19/2013 5:33:08 AM
NO RATINGS
Inexpensive, usuage of commercial smartphones seems like a great idea, but still the launching cost  will be expensive. How will this factor effect the Phonesat future?

sdoyle
User Rank
Silver
Re: Launching cost
sdoyle   6/19/2013 11:39:54 AM
NO RATINGS
I had that thought as well.  I think the way this becomes very inexpensive (in comparison to a previously typical satellite launch) is that you can launch a whole network of satellites with a single shuttle launche versus one, maybe two, satellites per launch.  Whether that work that way or not, the cost of the satellite is a major part of the overall cost and a reduction in cost in "orders of magnitude" is some serious savings!

Add in the consumer advances in rocket launches (Elon Musk, etc.) and that part will also experience an economy of scale in the near future as well.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Launching cost
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   6/19/2013 10:29:46 PM
NO RATINGS
The point of the story is that common electronics can be used to effectively do what only government run projects have done in the past.  Other concerns raised regarding radiation, performance in a vacuum are all very real issues to overcome, but the point is:   common 21st century electronics – available to everyone – are sufficient to power devices we all previously thought required GOLIATH sized budgets.

Remember, making ONE of something is about as expensive as making one-million of something, when you consider economy of scale.  Simple economics of mass production.

Mydesign
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Launching cost
Mydesign   6/20/2013 5:42:05 AM
NO RATINGS
1 saves
"The point of the story is that common electronics can be used to effectively do what only government run projects have done in the past. "

Jim, true. Simpler electronic devices can do complex works in similar manner. I think next time they may use Smartphone camera as gyroscope and earth surveillance.



Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Launching cost
Charles Murray   8/23/2013 5:31:45 PM
NO RATINGS
You're right, JimT. NASA wanted to show that satellites needn't cost tens of millions of dollars. When I visited NASA last week, they said that an average smartphone has a faster processor and more memory than any satellite now orbiting the Earth. Plaus it has gyroscopes and accelerometers. So it just make sense to build on the research done by private industry, rather than spend taxpayer money trying to duplicate those efforts.  

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Launching cost
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   8/26/2013 12:14:11 AM
NO RATINGS
Charles, glad you commented on this older post (you commented 8/23 on my 6/19 post) – it gave me a chance to see your recent NASA slideshow you published on 8/21.  I had missed that entire presentation due to a busy week, and it's already been washed into the wake of "older posts".

Stephen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Launching cost
Stephen   8/29/2013 11:17:01 AM
NO RATINGS
The key is sharing cost and payload space with others on the launch vehicle, and using relatively inexpensive commercial, non-man rated vehicles. Not to say the transport cost is trivial, but is can be manageable.

Zippy
User Rank
Platinum
There's an app for that
Zippy   6/19/2013 8:27:33 AM
NO RATINGS
Wonder if they left the "Find my phone" app on it?   :)

Jim_E
User Rank
Platinum
Re: There's an app for that
Jim_E   6/19/2013 12:09:19 PM
NO RATINGS
I hate to see the "roaming" fees charged by the phone's network provider.  ;)

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
SMART PHONES
bobjengr   6/27/2013 6:16:06 PM
NO RATINGS
Dalyn--absolutely amazing.  The best quote of the year--- "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.  I think this is great.  I worked in the aerospace industry for about 5 years. Working on the Titan II during my Air Force days.  This is the missile that launched the Gemini astronaugts.    A "typical" Smartphone today has more computing power than the entire capsule of the Gemini.  It's just amazing--amazing.  Great post.

Cabe Atwell
User Rank
Blogger
Re: SMART PHONES
Cabe Atwell   6/27/2013 11:04:19 PM
NO RATINGS
The PhoneSat project also gave rise to DARPA's SeeMe project of 'on-demand' micro-satellites for immediate surveillance by military personnel deployed on battlefields if I'm not mistaken.

C

Partner Zone
More Blogs from Guest Blogs
As an industry, we now need to up our game and provide contractors with easier ways to properly identify and report counterfeit products and build collaboration between manufacturers, design engineers, industry organizations, and government.
Itís your job to find the right people, ask the right questions, to dig deeper, and properly prepare your users so they can provide you the most useful and productive answers possible.
The shift to aluminum is gaining momentum and the demand from automakers for aluminum is soaring, "expecting to reach one billion pounds this year, up from 200 million in 2012, and to grow by more than 30% annually through 2020."
Einstein in a Box inspires critical thinking with the actual doing and experiencing. They take the statement "inquiring minds want to know" to a whole new level.
Negligence results when an engineer has failed to comply in ways in which a responsible engineer would in a similar situation. Avoiding negligence means that an engineer should not fail in his or her assigned duties.
Design News Webinar Series
3/27/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York / 7:00 p.m. London
2/27/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York / 7:00 p.m. London
12/18/2013 Available On Demand
11/20/2013 Available On Demand
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Apr 21 - 25, Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Next Class: April 29 - Day 1
Sponsored by maxon precision motors
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service