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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)

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Mydesign
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Smartphones as Control System
Mydesign   6/18/2013 8:07:53 AM
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"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
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Re: Smartphones as Control System
Elizabeth M   6/19/2013 4:48:41 AM
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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
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Re: Smartphones as Control System
Stephen   8/29/2013 11:08:51 AM
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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
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Game Systems
tekochip   6/18/2013 1:37:18 PM
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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
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Re: Game Systems
Charles Murray   6/19/2013 6:59:36 PM
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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
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Vacuum condition
AnandY   6/19/2013 5:13:42 AM
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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
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Re: Vacuum condition
Mydesign   6/20/2013 5:31:26 AM
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"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
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Re: Vacuum condition
Charles Murray   8/23/2013 5:27:46 PM
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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
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Re: Vacuum condition
Mydesign   8/27/2013 1:02:38 AM
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"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
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Re: Vacuum condition
Stephen   8/29/2013 11:14:29 AM
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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
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Radiation exposure
AnandY   6/19/2013 5:28:43 AM
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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
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Launching cost
AnandY   6/19/2013 5:33:08 AM
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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
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Re: Launching cost
sdoyle   6/19/2013 11:39:54 AM
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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
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Re: Launching cost
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   6/19/2013 10:29:46 PM
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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
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Re: Launching cost
Mydesign   6/20/2013 5:42:05 AM
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"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
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Re: Launching cost
Charles Murray   8/23/2013 5:31:45 PM
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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
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Re: Launching cost
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   8/26/2013 12:14:11 AM
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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
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Re: Launching cost
Stephen   8/29/2013 11:17:01 AM
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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
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There's an app for that
Zippy   6/19/2013 8:27:33 AM
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Wonder if they left the "Find my phone" app on it?   :)

Jim_E
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Re: There's an app for that
Jim_E   6/19/2013 12:09:19 PM
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I hate to see the "roaming" fees charged by the phone's network provider.  ;)

bobjengr
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SMART PHONES
bobjengr   6/27/2013 6:16:06 PM
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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
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Re: SMART PHONES
Cabe Atwell   6/27/2013 11:04:19 PM
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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

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