Here is the phone that powers NASA space robots (hint: it runs Android)

Here is the phone that powers NASA space robots (hint: it runs Android)
NASA embarked on an ambitious project a couple of years ago - using a smartphone to power its space robot, the SPHERES satellite. The robots are helpers used in the International Space Station (ISS) to examine cameras and check sound and radiation levels.

The project is now live and there are two smartphones in space on the ISS helping with operations, but picking the right phone and preparing it for its journey was not a trivial task. Interestingly, after looking at the HTC Nexus One, the team decided to skip on it and actually use the next generation Samsung Nexus S. Here is why:

"We knew of other projects that were using the Nexus One, and HTC had done some interesting things in that phone that didn't make it ideal for us. It has to do with [HTC's] battery technology—it has to be a proprietary battery or it won’t boot up,” Mark Micire, research scientist and project lead of the Intelligent Robotics Group at Nasa said.

The battery requirement has a lot to do with they way batteries crash. Conventional alkaline batteries leakage is much easier to contain and that’s one of the modifications the NASA team did for the Nexus S - it made it run on them.

But then came the software challenges. Since not everything is publicly available, a lot of reverse engineering had to happen. Because of possible interference, NASA engineers had to put the phone in a constant airplane mode, and after some tinkering they found out that it was the TXRX amplifier that had to be removed to achieve that.

Ultimately, the Human Exploration and Telerobotics Project (HET) behind all that showed its respect for the big achievement that Android is saying “you just get so much that comes for free with the platform.”

"We made the right decision by going with Android because the ability to remove the lithium battery and have it run off of alkaline batteries I think would have been a lot more difficult with the Apple products... and having it work without a driver under Windows XP … It’s humbling to say that even NASA can’t outrun the advancements that are happening with the mobile phone,” said Micire.

source: Ars Technica

Related phones

Nexus S
  • Display 4.0" 480 x 800 pixels
  • Camera 5 MP / 0.3 MP VGA front
  • Processor Samsung Exynos 3, Single core, 1000 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB
  • Battery 1500 mAh(6.00h 3G talk time)

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22 Comments

1. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Why no Nexus 4, Nasa? WHY?

3. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

You must think Nasa does stuff in 1 day.. There is a lot of research in to this and if you did read the article they had to do reverse engineering and they need to be able to swap the battery for an alkaline one, is it that hard to read?

5. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

It is a joke dude, of course I've read the article.

13. wendygarett unregistered

Some people just can't take sarcasm

34. oFreddEo

Posts: 7; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

Wendy, you can suck my d**k! Litterally. Damb you fine! & f**k Apple!

15. Sentient6

Posts: 16; Member since: Dec 02, 2012

Stupid troll is a stupid troll.

17. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

I'm not a troll dude, I don't get it, why would you say that? Geez....... you are the first guy who called me a troll....congrats to you, HAPPY NOW? END OF THE STORY!

36. applesucker

Posts: 81; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

do you say its fake? well sorry because it's already launched into space

14. Nikolas.Oliver

Posts: 1574; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

then why don't they use galaxy nexus instead? galaxy nexus has removable battery, too

25. JonBjSig

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

Because the Galaxy Nexus hadn't even been conceived of yet when the project started.

2. ajac09

Posts: 1482; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

More proof of the flexibility of android over IOS ( and others). Also proof NASA is cheap haha

19. jsdechavez

Posts: 799; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

Well, they can't afford a flop much like these manufacturing companies. Their projects cost millions of dollars. And their feat among others means low-core (even single) computing is enough.

4. MrJerry

Posts: 403; Member since: Oct 05, 2012

Now even NASA starts reviewing smartphones lol

7. XperiaPrince

Posts: 108; Member since: Dec 25, 2012

Now the robots will laaaaaagggggg!!!!! I love android tough

8. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Go away troll.

6. shadowkiller

Posts: 8; Member since: Mar 20, 2013

pretty sure samsung paid them

11. umadddd

Posts: 29; Member since: Mar 14, 2013

butthurt level: over 9000

16. pixelado

Posts: 130; Member since: Feb 16, 2013

B... bu... but monkeys can use iPads!!!

18. Neurone

Posts: 54; Member since: Mar 05, 2013

Andriod rules even in space !

20. lolioslol

Posts: 182; Member since: Dec 10, 2012

Of course it runs Android, appfail cannot even get their novelty crap to work on the planet we are on. The thought of sattelites whizzing around powered by apple maps is terrifying!

23. _PHug_

Posts: 482; Member since: Oct 11, 2011

So NASA won't use HTC? Smart people

27. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Proprietary battery or it won't boot up. Quietly Brilliant "Exposed" . That's why Samsung sells more ...

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