Android wins the space race; first smartphone in orbit

It may not be a race that everyone is aware of, but it seems that Google has won the race to put the first smartphone in orbit. According to the BBC, a research team at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) wants to put a smartphone to see if the electronics currently embedded in high-end phones can survive in harsh conditions. The purpose of the experiment would be to eventually use ideas and innovations from the smartphone world to lower costs of spacecraft design.

The phone will be an Android phone, and SSTL wants to use the open-source nature of Google’s mobile OS to customize a version for their own spacefaring needs. This wouldn’t be the first time Google has sent a phone to extremely high altitudes, but it would be the first time a smartphone makes it into outer space proper.

As part of the experiment, researchers aboard the spacecraft will use the Android device to control a small satellite, and snap pictures of Earth. It will also serve as a backup to the main computer system aboard the aircraft, at least for the first leg of the flight. While the phone will not be able to communicate with other devices on Earth (3G towers don’t have that kind of transmission power yet, and probably never will), the mission will use the craft’s communications systems to send back data from the device.

All joking aside, this is a serious endeavor for SSTL, and it shows what kind of power really sits behind that unassuming glass touchscreen we all take for granted. If a smartphone can run a spacecraft, imagine the kind of applications that developers could create for such an excursion. It makes us wonder why we’re still trying to 3-star every level in Angry Birds when we can be controlling satellites with the accelerometer. A word of caution to SSTL, though: You better bring some spare batteries; satellite control drains battery life like a beast. 

Image Credit: dvice

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How are they going to design the arm to allow them to power off the phone and/or remove the battery to get things working again?

If you can fire your mobile phone into the air at a speed of 11km/s, you won't need a rocket.
Some sort of rail-gun setup should do it.

From the NeoWin summary: "(3G towers don't have that kind of transmission power yet, and probably never will)"

Yeah, and 650k will be enough memory for anybody. The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity used transmitters capable of direct communication with earth and only used as much power as a common home incandescent lightbulb. They were able to achieve this through advances in digital signal processing that continue today.

It's really hard to say how far future transmitters will be able to reach, but it's probably safe to say that efficient transmitters designed for ground-based communications will probably also be designed to avoid a lot of watsted radiation skyward.

Neb Okla said,
From the NeoWin summary: "(3G towers don't have that kind of transmission power yet, and probably never will)"

Yeah, and 650k will be enough memory for anybody. The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity used transmitters capable of direct communication with earth and only used as much power as a common home incandescent lightbulb. They were able to achieve this through advances in digital signal processing that continue today.

It's really hard to say how far future transmitters will be able to reach, but it's probably safe to say that efficient transmitters designed for ground-based communications will probably also be designed to avoid a lot of watsted radiation skyward.


those explorers sent their data through satellite hubs.
Next to the fact that both Mars as the Moon dont have an atmosphere, and energy can pass through space without the cost of energy.(vacuum, no drag/gasses)

Shadowzz said,

those explorers sent their data through satellite hubs.
Next to the fact that both Mars as the Moon dont have an atmosphere, and energy can pass through space without the cost of energy.(vacuum, no drag/gasses)

In fact, while they are capable of communicating via Mars orbiting satellites, they are also capable of direct communication as I stated.

The Mars Exploration Rovers are equipped with 40 watt radios capable of direct communication with earth. This radio is used for critical commands such as rover instructions and telemetry data.

Of course, one reason that we use radio to communicate with the space probes is that Earth's atmosphere interferes very little with electromagnetic radiation (radio signals) of the frequencies used.

Further reading:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/mars-rover6.htm
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov...ressreleases/20040122a.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F...electromagnetic_opacity.svg

roadwarrior said,

Again, people are confusing "edge of space" with "orbit". Two very different things.

Ah ok, thx for pointing that out.

Nagisan said,
The question is who will be the first to get a signal up there, AT&T or Verizon?

Haha, first cellphone carrier in space. Let the race begin!

Setnom said,

Haha, first cellphone carrier in space. Let the race begin!


If we're talking US carriers they better fix their coverage down here first. >.<

GS:mac

Nagisan said,
The question is who will be the first to get a signal up there, AT&T or Verizon?

Neither, it will be Telstra, they have coverage better than _anyone_.

Glassed Silver said,

If we're talking US carriers they better fix their coverage down here first. >.<

GS:mac


wont carries get picked up onto other carriers networks when you fall out of reach of your own?
Here in Europe all carriers together cover pretty much everything, never having any problems with reach.
And believing AT&T's annoying commercial, almost entire US is covered in red curtains

Shadowzz said,

wont carries get picked up onto other carriers networks when you fall out of reach of your own?
Here in Europe all carriers together cover pretty much everything, never having any problems with reach.
And believing AT&T's annoying commercial, almost entire US is covered in red curtains

Coverage is a joke in the US, and I don't know about carriers helping out each other in Europe, in Germany, where I live they don't unless you mean the emergency calls, those always work on ANY network...

GS:mac

Nagisan said,
The question is who will be the first to get a signal up there, AT&T or Verizon?

Well, since AT&T can't provide service down here, I'm not putting any money on them...

I remember seeing a YouTube video of a little kid with his dad attaching a iPhone to a weather balloon and putting that up in space, to the point where you could see the curvature of the earth etc.

So... ?

Tom said,
I remember seeing a YouTube video of a little kid with his dad attaching a iPhone to a weather balloon and putting that up in space, to the point where you could see the curvature of the earth etc.

So... ?


It says "proper" as in through the normal means of space travel. A weather balloon is sadly not a normal means of space travel.

Nagisan said,

It says "proper" as in through the normal means of space travel. A weather balloon is sadly not a normal means of space travel.

WHAT?
I PAYED 10 GRANDS FOR THIS "SPACE TRIP"...
You tellin' me I won't be one of the first orbit tourists?

GS:mac

Tom said,
I remember seeing a YouTube video of a little kid with his dad attaching a iPhone to a weather balloon and putting that up in space, to the point where you could see the curvature of the earth etc.

So... ?

Yeah! I remember that, that was awesome!

Tom said,
I remember seeing a YouTube video of a little kid with his dad attaching a iPhone to a weather balloon and putting that up in space, to the point where you could see the curvature of the earth etc.

So... ?


Sending a weather balloon to the edge of space is not the same thing as putting something in orbit.

UndergroundWire said,
Yes. Take that Soviet Union of Apple. LOL.

Seriously who cares. (Coming from an Android User).

Its the other way around. Google is about sharing everything so just like Communist Soviet Union, who was also the first to put man in space.

UndergroundWire said,
Yes. Take that Soviet Union of Apple. LOL.

Seriously who cares. (Coming from an Android User).

I guess Windows Phone 7 will have to start planning a trip to the bottom of the ocean if they are ever going to compete

ILikeTobacco said,

Its the other way around. Google is about sharing everything so just like Communist Soviet Union, who was also the first to put man in space.

Maybe the first man that able to come back from space

ILikeTobacco said,

Its the other way around. Google is about sharing everything so just like Communist Soviet Union, who was also the first to put man in space.


You don't have it fully correct. The soviet union wasn't the peaceful let's share everything hippie commune at all. It was a complete dictatorship that had communist ideals to keep the populace pacified to an extent when the sword wasn't needed.

stokhli said,

You don't have it fully correct. The soviet union wasn't the peaceful let's share everything hippie commune at all. It was a complete dictatorship that had communist ideals to keep the populace pacified to an extent when the sword wasn't needed.

so much stereotype..

ILikeTobacco said,

Its the other way around. Google is about sharing everything so just like Communist Soviet Union, who was also the first to put man in space.

It was just a stupid joke. Relax buddy.

UndergroundWire said,
Yes. Take that Soviet Union of Apple. LOL.

Seriously who cares. (Coming from an Android User).

I agree. Not to mention that it hasn't happened yet. Don't you technically win AFTER you do it? LMAO Not that I personally care, but it seems odd to me to not wait until after they do this...