THE UNITED STATES National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched three Android smartphones into space to see what they can do.
NASA calls it the Phonesat project, and it aims to demonstrate "the ability to launch the lowest cost and easiest to build satellites ever flown in space - capabilities enabled by using off-the-shelf consumer smartphones to build spacecraft".
The project's main goal is to prove that a satellite can be built for less than $1,000 using off the shelf equipment.
NASA picked three Google Nexus One handsets to go into space, apparently because that was the highest specification smartphone available when the project was the planning stages.
These Nexus One smartphones are currently hurtling around earth at an altitude of about 150 miles, the LA Times reports, having embarked on their mission on Sunday. The Android smartphones, which are encased in 4in metal cubes for protection, will take photos of earth and send back messages to NASA so the space agency can see whether smartphones can supply the "brains" of future satellites.
"Out of the box smartphones already offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers, and several radios," NASA explained.
Once the phones return back on earth, hopefully, in two weeks, that won't be the end of NASA's experiment. It has already planned its Phonesat 2.0 mission that will launch a higher specification Google Nexus S smartphone into orbit.
Unlike the ageing Nexus One, the Nexus S will be launched into space equipped with a two-way S-band radio that will allow NASA engineers to control it remotely. It will also feature solar panels to ensure that the mission will last longer, and magnetorquer coils - electromagnets that interact with the earth's magnetic field.