On the surface of Earth, smartphones play a big part in our every day life. As it turns out, there's a lot they can do in orbit as well. That's why NASA has been developing tiny satellites that have Android phones for brains.
PhoneSats, as NASA calls them, are tiny cubic satellites roughly 4 cubic inches in size, around the size of a coffee mug. Built from off-the-shelf consumer technology at a cost of less than $3,500 a unit, these cubesats are remarkably inexpensive as far as space-faring tech goes. The low cost, small size, and general availability of parts, make these little cubes great candidates for the future of satellites.
So far, NASA has built and tested the first variation of the satellites, PhoneSat 1.0, which featured a Nexus One as its on-board computer and also used the phones camera. PhoneSat 2.0, which will use the Nexus S for its Android-powered brain, is currently in development and will boast additional features like the capability for two-way communication, and magnets to preserve its orientation.
Originally, the PhoneSat 1.0 was to launch before its successor was completed, but now the two are planned to launch simultaneously, bringing some everyday tech to space in a way it's never been before. The PhoneSats are currently planned to launch in 2013. By then, hopefully we'll be squeezing new phones into PhoneSat 3.0. [NASA via PC World]