PhoneSat is an ongoing NASA project of building nanosatellites using unmodified consumer-grade off-the-shelf smartphones and Arduino platform and launching them into Low Earth Orbit. This project is part of NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology Program and was started in 2009 at NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, California).
When the project started, a typical smartphone had a faster CPU and more memory than the average satellite, one or two cameras, multiple acceleration and rotation sensors, a compass, a GPS receiver, radios, and a Li-Ion battery, all of which had benefited from significant research and development efforts and economy of scale in the telecommunications industry to reduce cost.
The construction cost of the first version of PhoneSat satellite was reported to be US$3,500 and that of the second version was reported to be below US$7,000. The chassis is a single standard CubeSat bus and sized 10 cm × 10 cm × 10 cm (around 4 inches per side). Control software and firmware was made open source whenever possible.
PhoneSat 1.0 uses a Nexus One smartphone (HTC) as the onboard computer running the Android 2.3.3 operating system. This version has no solar panels and runs from energy stored in 12 lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries. 2 PhoneSat 1.0 satellites, named Graham and Bell, were built. Graham is the basic PhoneSat 1.0 model. Bell is a PhoneSat 1.0 model with an Iridium transceiver mounted at one end (the Iridium component formed its own space mission, see TechEdSat 2). The basic mission goal of PhoneSat 1.0 was to stay alive in space for a short period of time, sending back digital imagery of Earth and space via its camera, while also sending back information about the satellite's health. To prepare for such a mission, NASA tested PhoneSat 1.0 in various extreme environments, including thermal-vacuum chambers, alpha and beta radiation testing (no neutron testing), vibration and shock tables, sub-orbital rocket flights and high-altitude balloons.
PhoneSat 2.0 is built with a Nexus S smartphone (Samsung), running the Android 2.3.3 operating system. There is a two-way S band radio added by engineers to communicate with Earth, four Li-Ion batteries, solar panels to recharge the batteries, and a GPS receiver. To control satellite orientation, several magnetorquer coils and reaction wheels were added. Alexander is also known as PhoneSat 2.0 Beta or PhoneSat v2a. The reason for the strange simultaneous launch of PhoneSats 1.0 and 2.0 beta is that the PhoneSats 1.0 launches were delayed until 2.0 beta was ready to launch.
PhoneSat 2.4 and 2.5 included a two-way S-band radio, allowing engineers to command the satellite from Earth, and a system to control the orientation of the cubesat in space.
The PhoneSat bus was used in several other projects, including the EDSN nano-satellite constellation and the KickSat which inspired the Breakthrough Starshot initiative. The PhoneSat concept, and most of the team, established a NASA Technology Transfer to create Planet Labs in San Francisco. PhoneSat 3.0 onwards replaced the phone circuit boards with an Intel Edison and continue to be launched as a hosted payload on the TechEdSat series at NASA Ames. The costly S-band radios have been replaced by cheap commercial WiFi dongles, and the faster processing speed allows software experiments such as improved satellite-to-satellite communications architectures for delay tolerant networking, atomic clock timekeeping experiments and on-orbit trajectory prediction, control and targeting necessary for TechEdSat's SPQR exobrake.
Three NASA PhoneSats were launched aboard the Antares 110 A-ONE rocket at 21 April 2013, 21:00 UTC from MARS LP-0A. Two were PhoneSats 1.0, named Graham and Bell; and one was a PhoneSat 2.0, named Alexander. They were named after Alexander Graham Bell. They have masses of 2.8 pounds (1.25 kg), 2.9 pounds (1.3 kg), and 3.14 pounds (1.426 kg). All three had deorbited before 27 April 2013, according to the PhoneSat team, several pictures were downloaded from them by radio amateurs and NASA Ames PhoneSat team.
PhoneSat -- a project overseen by Nasa's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.. The first version of Nasa's satellite -- PhoneSat 1.0 -- costs about $3,500 (£2,200) to build....containing an HTC Nexus One phone running the Android operating system