Thursday, September 01, 2011

Android in spaaaace! (Part 2)

Back in December, Android ventured into near space, thanks to a weekend of DIY work, a couple of Nexus S phones, some weather balloons and the help of this little guy. After this first adventure, we knew it was only a matter of time before Android went further into space.

On the last manned space shuttle, Atlantis, NASA sent two Nexus S phones along for the ride as part of the STS-135 mission. The goal is to use Nexus S on the International Space Station to explore how robots can help humans experiment and live in space more efficiently.



NASA is using Nexus S phones to upgrade a trio of volleyball-sized SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), originally developed by MIT. The phones help the robotic satellites perform tasks the astronauts used to do, like recording sensor data and capturing video footage. In the future, the phones will control and maneuver the SPHERES using the IOIO board and possibly the Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK).

A couple of our engineers built an open source sensor logging app that NASA decided was perfect for running diagnostics with the SPHERES. You can download the same app yourself from Android Market. NASA was interested in Android because it’s an open source platform, which makes it easy to customize the software on the phone to meet the specifications required to fly in space and work with the SPHERES. Nexus S was also a good fit because of its various sensors and low-powered, but high-performing, processor.

You can learn more about the project on NASA’s website. We loved being a part of the final Space Shuttle mission and working to bring the power of the Android platform to space exploration.