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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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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.