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Can Android Revolutionize Spacecraft Design?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the but-wait-for-the-monthly-bill dept.

Android 110

An anonymous reader writes "NASA's Ames Research Center is working on a new project designed to drastically cut the cost of launching and operating small satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The project, known as PhoneSat, will see the Android powered Nexus One and Nexus S phones command their very own small scale spacecraft this year in a first of its kind research mission."

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Or are they? (0, Flamebait)

EGSonikku (519478) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124617)

We're the Nexus One and One S one of the devices found infringing in the Samsung V Apple trial? Apple is having an injunction hearing soon to get the infringing devices taken off shelves.

Not trolling, just curious. Wouldn't be an issue though I think, as there are no shortage of cheap non-infringing Android phones they could use instead.

Re:Or are they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124735)

non-infringing Android phones

Are there any non-rectangular phones? There are so many android phones I suppose there might be a few circles or squares out there.

I guess Samsung could make a rhomboid or trapezoid Nexus S. Not sure what to do about the corners though — at atomic scale all polymers are rounded.

Re:Or are they? (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124835)

Didn't Nokia release a rhomboid phone in 2003? (7600 3G. I'm sure they released one of a similar design for GSM before that as well.)
Didn't they also release a trapezoid phone in 2006? (N-Gage QD).

I'm pretty certain we're going to see a new slew of lawsuits against Samsung if they do this, this time from Finland.

Re:Or are they? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41126397)

I'm pretty certain we're going to see a new slew of lawsuits against Samsung if they do this, this time from Finland.

It won't help. These lawsuits are about protecting America and the American economy. They need these monopolies to survive.

Microsoft was granted a monopoly on computer operating systems, and that monopoly is still being protected decades later despite being immensely damaging to innovation and business around the rest of the world.

Apple will be granted a monopoly on mobile OSs for the same reason. A foreign company like Nokia will be given short shrift.

Re:Or are they? (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128289)

Microsoft was granted a monopoly on computer operating systems, and that monopoly is still being protected decades later despite being immensely damaging to innovation and business around the rest of the world.

Actually, knucklehead, Microshaft Winblows was the soggy glue that held the parts together long enough for an incredibly diverse ecosystem to develop; we affectionally refer to this as "the PC."

Re:Or are they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41128615)

Americans are also polite, insightful people who think past their shallowest thoughts before committing them to the web.

Re:Or are they? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131871)

Actually, knucklehead, Microshaft Winblows was the soggy glue that held the parts together long enough for an incredibly diverse ecosystem to develop; we affectionately refer to this as "the PC."

Actually, knucklehead, the incredibly diverse PC ecosystem (the ISA bus and clean-room reimplementations of the IBM BIOS) was built before version 1 of Windoze was launched (remember - the one that ran on dual-floppy machines). Another layer was added with the VL / PCI bus wars (about Windows 3 and 3.1). Since then (Windows 95 and more recent), the only significant advance in consumer architectures has been the replacement of "Plug'n'Pray" by the USB bus. Which is, of course, not restricted to PC hardware.

What were you doing in the 1980s? Potty training?

Re:Or are they? (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41132165)

...(the ISA bus and clean-room reimplementations of the IBM BIOS) was built before version 1 of Windoze was launched...

I think you might have misunderstood my use of the phrase "incredibly diverse ecosystem." I was hardly referring to the 80's when Compaq took on IBM. Hell, most of the hams and programmers I knew then owned Apple II's and C64's, not PC's.

Rather, I was referring to the mid 90's, when "x86" as a standard took off like a rocket and an astounding number of players hopped onboard what had previously been a far smaller domestic industry.

Re:Or are they? (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126737)

There's an android phone for kids I've seen that's "mostly" round, and my G'z One phone isn't completely rectangular: http://gzone.jp/ [gzone.jp]

Re:Or are they? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41127699)

A circular phone would be infringing. After all, if you round the corners on a circle enough, it'll turn into a circle (i.e., a circle is a square with round corners). And a square is just a rectangle with equal-length sides. I think a trapezoid or rhomboid is out too; these are just rectangles with two sides angled.

Re:Or are they? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124823)

We're the Nexus One and One S

Wow. Take that, Siri. Nexus One and One S have advanced to the point where they can troll Slashdot.

Re:Or are they? (2)

Analog Penguin (550933) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125465)

The Nexus One was made by HTC, so I doubt Samsung got into any trouble for it.

Better Be a Short Mission (1)

sanman2 (928866) | about 2 years ago | (#41125785)

... Because if that electronics isn't radiation-hardened, it's going to burn out quickly

Re:Or are they? (4, Insightful)

MacDork (560499) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125909)

They don't have to buy them in the US. Other markets will still have access to these smartphones. In the US, your choices will be limited by decisions made in kangaroo courts.

Not that you have much choice in the US anyway. Notice how the rest of the world had quad core phones back in April... Maybe Apple will "invent" quad core phones later this year. I wouldn't hold my breath on it though. They tend to deliver old hardware that's at least a year or two out of date on launch.

Re:Or are they? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126857)

They don't have to buy them in the US. Other markets will still have access to these smartphones.

For the moment maybe.

But Apple is basically following the well trodden path established by the RIAA/MPAA lawyers. They'll use the USA and its government as a base to extend their influence worldwide.

While we probably won't see Kim Dotcom style takedowns of manufacturers in the next few years, we will see raids of black-market phone resellers in countries who've been coerced into whatever the SOPA equivalent will be called.

Re:Or are they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41126557)

No. The thing Apple is upset most over, besides the similar physical characteristics, is the fact that Samsung's Touchwiz UI is a direct feature by feature rip of the iPhone UI

Re:Or are they? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127267)

to be honest iPhone UI is shit and therefore by extension so is Touchwiz.

Samsung should of just sold their phone with standard android interface it's alot better.

Re:Or are they? (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128269)

Wouldn't be an issue though I think, as there are no shortage of cheap non-infringing Android phones they could use instead.

It's a non-issue regardless; the recent court decision in Apple's favor won't apply, due to jurisdiction. :p

Already happening in the UK... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124655)

Perhaps try Dr Chris Bridges at Surrey Space Centre in the UK?
http://www.sstl.co.uk/divisions/earth-observation-science/science-missions/strand-nanosatellite

No. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124659)

No.

Re:No. (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125133)

Yes.

Yes (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126059)

Yes if it's plural "androids". We need truly autonomous robotic space vehicles and probes with the intelligence and mobility of an Apollo-era astronaut. ATM our space probes, already remarkable pieces of hardware, don't have the capability to fix themselves, much less build newer copies. The Martians rovers move at a pace that would shame a snail and they take such unimaginative pictures that, had they been taken on Earth, wouldn't merit a second glance on Facebook. As for the satellites above our heads, many can't even reorient themselves if for some reason they wobble or lose their orbit.

Re:No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41126885)

What idiots/macfags have modded this insightful?

Android is establishing itself as an exceptional option for controlling UAVs and other autonomous vehicles.

http://developer.android.com/tools/adk/index.html [android.com]

http://code.google.com/p/androuav/ [google.com]

http://code.google.com/p/aeroquad/ [google.com]

Re:No. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127167)

What idiots/macfags have modded this insightful?

Android is establishing itself as an exceptional option for controlling UAVs and other autonomous vehicles.

Obviously you're a freetard that has never worked on embedded systems that control billion dollar pieces of hardware. High school grade UAVs and high school robotics projects have about as much in common with multi-billion dollar satellites and Mars rovers as a cardboard boat and an aircraft carrier do. Keep on dreaming though.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127309)

If you knew so much about "embedded systems controlling billion dollar pieces of hardware", you'd know the difference between loss of view and loss of control.

Tosser.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127507)

Awesome come back freetard! Go break your wireless with a kernel update.

Really? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124709)

Please, do correct me if I'm wrong; but I was under the impression that the overwhelming majority of the cost of doing space work was in launching the things, with the relatively high salary and R&D costs of building sophisticated precision instruments in very short runs.

Is the cost of computing anywhere near that significant(especially in situations where you are willing to skip serious rad-hard gear), to the point where you would be better off using a commodity phone(with screen, consumer-pocket-resistant chassis, more GPU than you need for Quake3, etc.) rather than a slightly more expensive, but by no means all that esoteric, ARM SoC board designed for embedded applications? In the same vein, is there an advantage to using an Android environment(whose virtues lie primarily in UI and 3rd party applications) rather than a standard embedded linux or other OS?

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124887)

Please, do correct me if I'm wrong; but I was under the impression that the overwhelming majority of the cost of doing space work was in launching the things, ...In the same vein, is there an advantage to using an Android environment(whose virtues lie primarily in UI and 3rd party applications) rather than a standard embedded linux or other OS?

Android IS Linux. Its just that it has already been trimmed down to the bones and runs on very powerful, but low energy consuming hardware. So it saves them the need of making a linux version to do the same thing.

As for your other points, it seems from TFA that they will not actually be using the phones as we know them, but rather stripped down models sans screen, case, battery, etc. Probably wrapped in something to compensate for lack of radiation hardened componentry. But then again, the types of short duration, low orbit, small payload missions they are planning this for can probably risk the radiation for the duration.

In the case of our intrepid Nexus phones, the issue is being tactfully ignored. As these are test missions, NASA isn’t concerned about the long-term viability of these craft, and only expects them to last a few weeks or months. Due to their low orbits and lack of thrusters to increase their altitude during the mission, the Nexus-powered satellites will be falling back down to Earth within a year anyway. Even if they were built to better withstand the extremes of space, they would still just burn up in the atmosphere before too long.

I doubt they launch these things singly, they probably piggyback on other launches, but being the size of a coffee cup, they might be able to use cheap sounding rockets [nasa.gov] . There are a number of different models [nasa.gov] of these relatively cheap rockets that can launch low earth orbit small payloads.

Re:Really? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125363)

but still, I've found alot of Linux systems very reliable, never-reboot type things, but Android?! I love my Galaxy S but the number of times I've had to pull the battery to reboot the thing because its unresponsive is just too much. Choose a different distro!

Re:Really? (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125451)

I haven't had it for long, but my Galaxy S III has only ever hung when the UI shell hung. Oddly enough, the cause of most crashes so far has been Mongloid.

Re:Really? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128843)

It hung on me after a couple of months, but its getting a lot worse recently - particularly after I upgraded to the ICS update, now I have less free memory and I think that this is the problem - Java apps either swapping (as it can be dreadfully slow too at times) or just not realising its run out of ram and throwing a wobbly.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41125399)

Android is also a user shell and API built on top of the Dalvik VM.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124941)

Generally speaking yes, hardware is a very significant part of the cost. While I don't have a breakdown of how much is salary vs instrumentation vs bus vs computing and so on I can say that the price of the things we are launching, especially for scientific missions, is massively higher than the launch costs.

Re:Really? (5, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125243)

Please, do correct me if I'm wrong; but I was under the impression that the overwhelming majority of the cost of doing space work was in launching the things

Nope. A quick search shows that cubesats cost $40k to launch, and developing a cubesat reportedly runs from $25-50k, easily a significant fraction of launch price.

    http://www.space.com/308-cubesats-tiny-spacecraft-huge-payoffs.html [space.com]

Is the cost of computing anywhere near that significant [...] rather than a slightly more expensive, but by no means all that esoteric, ARM SoC board designed for embedded applications?

You really should read TFA. Cell phones are perfect because they include a compass, gyro, camera, etc. A LOT more than just an ARM SoC. Hell, they can probably sell the screens on eBay and make back a significant portion of their purchase price.

Thought TFA didn't say so, the power management in Android phones is probably better than what you'll get anywhere else... Standby and talk time are major advertised features, so manufacturers make sure it's working as well as possible. And with a satellite, electrical limits are a major issue.

In the same vein, is there an advantage to using an Android environment(whose virtues lie primarily in UI and 3rd party applications) rather than a standard embedded linux or other OS?

Android is a standard embedded Linux OS... It's basically just got a custom UI instead of X11. From the command-line, you wouldn't know the difference. Many people install Debian on their Android phones...

Re:Really? (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125425)

Still seems like a gimmick. You can drop by an off the shelf electronics supplier and get a processor, gyro and accelerometer for a fraction of the cost of a cell phone. Then put something on it smaller and more reliable than Android.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127981)

Testing that to make sure that it actually works as intended is perhaps not as easy. If you spend half a year doing that compared to buying a phone at $200 where you don't even have to lift a finger, then what's the point?

Re:Really? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128027)

More reliable than hardware that has been extensively tested by tens of millions of users over a period of years?

Phones get a lot of expensive EM and RF testing too, as well as very detailed power analysis. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars doing that, or you could just use some highly reliable off-the-shelf hardware someone else has already spent that money on.

Plus Android is a well known and understood platform that is easy to develop for, providing standard APIs for things like gyroscopes which raw Linux does not. RTFA, really.

RF testing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41128905)

Probably not as much as you think.

All they test is that it meets the safety standard, and that the wireless carrier will be happy. iPhone 4 is a case in point.

That said, they are impressive in terms of their design density. Lots of high gain RF in close proximity without oscillation or coupling problems doesn't come easy.

But the problem is that "environments" for phones don't match "environments in space". Not so much radiation (in LEO, it's almost a non-issue, except for the "latchup" problem for some CMOS), but temperature and vibe. The launch is not a benign environment (one ride-along opportunity has the pPod dispenser next to the engines at the bottom of the second stage.. oh yeah, that'll be a nice ride) vibration wise.

Re:Really? (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41129583)

Plus Android is a well known and understood platform that is easy to develop for, providing standard APIs for things like gyroscopes which raw Linux does not.

Please. Sensors like that are exported via /sys nodes. If accessing those scares you then you probably shouldn't be writing software for satellites. Android adds nothing except a layer of complexity.

Re:Really? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41132069)

Has your phone ever crashed and required a reboot? That's going to be a big oopsie for a satellite. Phones certainly haven't been tested in the conditions faced by a satellite. RF testing? For the cell phone component that's going to be completely useless (and hopefully you can turn off completely to save power)?

Phones are engineered to work in a fairly coddled environment, for a fairly short period, with a (catastrophic) failure rate dictated by how expensive it is to replace them under warranty and a soft failure rate determined by the tolerance for irritation your users have.

If you're launching expensive satellites then a phone is completely unacceptable because it's nowhere near reliable enough. If you're launching cheap microsats then you're still going to be better off with something designed for hardware interfacing, which is going to end up cheaper than a cell phone and MUCH easier to customize and interface. Digital design isn't THAT hard.

Re:Really? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#41132077)

PS: I read the article. I'm disagreeing with it.

Gyroscope APIs? If you can't figure out the datasheet for a a solid state gyro you shouldn't be designing satellites.

Re:Really? (1)

Timmmm (636430) | about 2 years ago | (#41125565)

developing a cubesat reportedly runs from $25-50k

Yeah in engineers salaries, solar panels, machining work, testing, etc. The cost of the computer is only a part of that.

Cell phones are perfect because they include a compass, gyro, camera, etc. A LOT more than just an ARM SoC.

The hardware in a phone doesn't cost anywhere near $25k. In fact buying the parts separately is probably cheaper than most phones (because you can miss out the screen, 3G, GPS, wifi, etc. on a satellite). Plus if you build it yourself you will save weight and have more flexibility. Something like gumstix combined with and one of invensense's new IMU chips would be much better than an Android phone. If you're spending $40k on the launch, why pinch pennies on the hardware?

The area where android phones really *are* great is UAVs! You basically just take a cheap android phone. Add an IMU, and PWM output board and you're done, and have 3G, GPS, wifi, cameras, for very cheap (£50 or less).

Re:Really? (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 2 years ago | (#41125691)

The hardware in a phone doesn't cost anywhere near $25k.

You're borderline illiterate if you think I said or implied anything like that.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41125697)

Android has several non-standard modifications to the kernel. Changes for some specific processor models like the asymmetric multi-core ARM units have not yet made their way into the standard Linux kernel in a general way. It is a mixed bag, some of the changes are good (like power mgmt), other architectural decisions have been bad (Java VM, but of course you needn't use this in a custom embedded project). The good and bad are about a wash on the consumer devices wrt power utilization assuming app developers can manage their own memory better then Java can. Maybe this just isn't true... The compass/gyro is a very inexpensive part but if you have a small development budget (like most folks not getting their funding in the name of war or HFT) then the cost of custom board development and testing may be a viable reason to use these devices in custom embedded applications.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127647)

Nope. A quick search shows that cubesats cost $40k to launch, and developing a cubesat reportedly runs from $25-50k, easily a significant fraction of launch price.

As an aerospace engineer that specializes in software, I would like to mock you openly for thinking that 'developing' a cubesat means developing the OS. You have to design a propulsion system, navigation, control, and a lot of other things which are a lot more complex than the newest linuxish buzzword.

That being said you do make a valid point about power consumption. I don't really work on satellites but it does make me wonder how much of an OS the average satellite has. And makes me slightly sad to think of the kind of computational power we 'need' nowadays relative to what we had to fly to the moon... *hack get off my lawn *hack!

Re:Really? (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41129637)

Android is a standard embedded Linux OS...

Compared to what's out there, it's rather non-standard. It doesn't use uClibc or glibc, it's got a custom IPC method nothing else uses, a wonky filesystem layout, etc.

It's basically just got a custom UI instead of X11.

There are many, many more differences.

From the command-line, you wouldn't know the difference

Yes you would. I've had to wander around the Android filesystem and wonder where the hell they put things. But that's what happens when a platform is built from the start to be proprietary and uses the open parts solely as a means to an end.

Many people install Debian on their Android phones...

They do... in a chroot with its own libraries and filesystem, sharing only the kernel with Android.

Re:Really? (1)

bitingduck (810730) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126559)

The cost is often 10 to 20% of the cost of the mission, but it has a lot to do with the cost of everything else. A fairly large launch vehicle can cost in the $100M range, so it makes it important that whatever you're putting on it is going to work, and it's worth spending a lot of money to do that. Think of it in terms of domestic travel-- if it cost $1M to fly from LA to New York, you'd probably spend more than that making sure you had the whole trip planned out in incredible detail. With it costing only a few hundred dollars, it's within reach of many people for a spur of the moment weekend trip.

Re:Really? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126657)

Please, do correct me if I'm wrong; but I was under the impression that the overwhelming majority of the cost of doing space work was in launching the things

You're wrong. Launch costs rarely, if ever dominate.

Re:Really? (1)

Tim the Gecko (745081) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128729)

that significant(especially in

fix

commodity phone(with screen

your

Android environment(whose virtues

space key

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41129007)

Because launch costs are so high, the cost of spacecraft are also high, because they absolutely have to work. You don't want to blow a $10-million dollar launch because you didn't spend an extra $100k for a proper test engineer, or an extra $25k on testing the craft in a vacuum chamber, or used a $2 dollar off the shelf component instead of a $20 radiation-hardened component, or winged it using Android instead of doing proper embedded software development and testing.

With cubesats, the launch costs are more modest, and so are the spacecraft: you can take a gamble that some stray cosmic ray will kill your satellite after a week. Big bummer, if it's your satellite, but you aren't out a lot of money. I'm not sure that using Android phones will make much of a dent in the cost of things. It reduces some costs - like jump starting the hardware and software development - but introduces other risks that reduce reliability. You can either accept the increased mission risk, or spend time and money testing and fixing things on the ground before launch. I think overall it could reduce the cost for the amateur scientist, but probably not for missions that require high reliability.

Our devices are a result of space research ... (1, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124717)

... will see the Android powered Nexus One and Nexus S phones command their very own small scale spacecraft ...

For how long? These are consumer devices. The hardware and software are not flight rated and not radiation hardened.

That said its a really cool hack but hardly something that will radicalize design. Its not like the space program wasn't already on the path of smaller, lighter and less power consuming electronics. Our modern computers and devices are a direct result of space research.

Re:Our devices are a result of space research ... (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125187)

TFA goes a long way toward answering your concerns.

They don't care. These are coffee cup sized, low cost, low orbit, short duration missions that will re-enter and burn up within a year.

They don't care about radiation damage risk, they are well below the radiation belts where the biggest risk is.

No. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124737)

Its a fucking phone.

Not ready (1)

Ivan Stepaniuk (1569563) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124739)

Many Android users have to remove the battery now and then to restart their phones when an offending application completely freezes Android. IMHO, if you need to run a custom (and only) app, it is not worth the hassle. As for the cost of the hardware, there are many cheap SBCs that could do the job running an OS more fit for the job, like Linux or any other free OS, maybe with real-time scheduling and proper GPIO to wire-up a satellite.

Re:Not ready (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124801)

Many Android users have to remove the battery now and then to restart their phones when an offending application completely freezes Android.

If my linux notebook freezes I'll have to restart to get it working. Or do I? The thing is that just because the inferface froze doesn't mean the machine is dead. All the services, still run, I can still ssh into it.

Re:Not ready (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130429)

Actually you don't need to remove the battery, only hold the power button for more than 8 seconds.

So this means... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124751)

The spacecraft's battery will die half way through its rated time, a simple grid UI will lag for its input, your spacecraft will get hijacked by malware from the NASA-Store, each spacecraft will have a different version driving costs up, and software updates in space will be at the mercy of At&t and Verizon?!

Re:So this means... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124893)

mod parent up, made I chuckle.

There's a reason NASA use purpose-built, radiation-hardened hardware in flight systems, a reason why they use in-house and real time flight system software, and a reason why they use older *proven* technology on the ground. It's because they don't want to have to sit there worrying about some rogue bit of software taking the kernel down at any point in the data chain, because mitigating against that after the fact, if even possible, would be obscenely expensive not only in terms of money, but also in lost data and transient data that just shoots through while the equipment is being repaired (or not, as the case may be). Commodity mobile phones aren't safe for flight science systems, end of story, because they're a: not hardened, b: not real time, c: not reliable and d: vulnerable to script kiddy software hacks.

Re:So this means... (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125269)

Commodity mobile phones aren't safe for flight science systems, end of story, because they're a: not hardened, b: not real time, c: not reliable and d: vulnerable to script kiddy software hacks.

Really?
If all your assertions are true, then explain why is it that this program is being done at NASA’s Ames Research Center where they employ real world class ROCKET SCIENTISTS, rather than kids who play them on slashdot?

Script kiddies in space? Really? You are going with that?
Not reliable? Did you even read TFA? Its a coffee cup sized payload, in low earth orbit, expected to re-enter in less than a year. How reliable does it have to be?
Real Time? Seriously? Its monitoring a sensor package, and radioing it back to earth. It has no thrusters to control. Just how much real time is needed?
Hardended? In low earth orbit (WAY lower than the ISS) protected by the Van Allen belts. Costing maybe a thousand dollars to construct. Who cares if it takes a direct hit? They are cheap enough to send up two dozen on a single sounding rocket.

At least READ TFA before pontificating on things you obviously know nothing about.

Pssst... (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 2 years ago | (#41125513)

NASA employs great people and okay people, just like other places. They're not magical.

Re:Pssst... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41125589)

But ALL of the employees given big budgets to do this type of thing are significantly more magical than your average self appointed expert posting on slashdot under the name of Tastecicles.

Re:Pssst... (-1, Troll)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126269)

oh, piss off.

Re:So this means... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41125737)

both of you are off base..
Yes, sending an android phone to mars would be dumb for all the reasons listed; but in the short duration LEO environment where failure is an option it's probably ok.
but the phone is a tiny part of the cost, and current cubesat widgets and components are probably a better technology match for the sensors desired. Note that they're not using the "phone" (i.e. the radio) part of the phone.. Heck Stanford has flown PICs in space on a small satellite and it's only a matter of time before an Arduino flies (if it hasn't already).

All this is, is that someone at Ames thought it would be a cool stunt (and a stunt it is), and scrounged up the funding to do the stunt. The odds of anything ever being used again, in another mission, is small. And that's the underlying problem with spacecraft.. Getting meaningful re-use is hard.

There ARE *serious* efforts on building constellations or clusters of small satellites. Things like "how do you communicate among the nodes" and "how does the cluster talk to earth" and "how do you do relative navigation" and "Just what science can we collect with such a cluster"

Re:So this means... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126265)

saywhatnow?? This is SLASHDOT, we don't read the fucking articles! You're lucky I skimmed the fucking summary.

Re:So this means... (1)

strikethree (811449) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131693)

At least READ TFA before pontificating on things you obviously know nothing about.

You must be new here.

(I have never said that tired meme before... but someone had to in this instance. Yes, I get the ironing(sic) of a 6 digit UID telling a 5 digit UID that meme. Shall we persue a rediculous ... never mind.)

Re:So this means... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131729)

Quit calling shit memes, this isn't the R word...

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124785)

If they try, Apple will sue them.

(captcha: clitoris. Well, that's a first for me :-P)

Radiation Tolerant/Radiation Hardened (2, Informative)

ajalics (9152) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124791)

All I can say is these devices are not built to be radiation tolerant to say nothing of radiation hardened. Keep in mind the laptops (not used for safety critical things) on the ISS have to rebooted daily because of Single Event Upset (SEU)s that lock them up.

Re:Radiation Tolerant/Radiation Hardened (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125261)

Please tell me those things at least have ECC.

Re:Radiation Tolerant/Radiation Hardened (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125395)

of course they have ECC, but they run Windows 95 because that was the only OS available at the time NASA started the ISS OS-validation program, :)

Re:Radiation Tolerant/Radiation Hardened (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 2 years ago | (#41127225)

They run Win95, have to reboot once a day, and blame it on some external factor?

For starters they should be happy they need to reboot just once a day!

Rocketscience? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124797)

There's an app for that.

What does Apple say? (1)

eexaa (1252378) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124855)

I guess someone's already building prettier iRocket. With more RAM and way more intuitive interface for space inhabitants.

Revolutionize Spacecraft Design? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124875)

Man, what can't these amazing phones do?! I mean, steampunk carrot ship designs are a dime a dozen, but Revolutionary War themed Spacecraft? Hell yeah!

Unfurl the solar sails and set a course for the Kaiser Sea of Mars!

A spacecraft being controlled by a tiny phone? (0)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124889)

Neil Armstrong is probably spinning in his grave...

What, too soon?

Re:A spacecraft being controlled by a tiny phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41125439)

There is a lot more horse power in the cell phone (hell even an optical mouse these days) than what went to the moon.

On the other hand, I wouldn't think anyone would actually use a phone for the control system.
- probably more than 2/3 of the circuits on the PCB on a phone is for the wireless which is useless for the satellite (different frequency/encoding etc). Why carry the extra weight/space?
- the PCB on the cell phones are very very thin for the obvious reason. Might also want to think about the chip packaging too. That's not the type of things you want for high g during launch
- there are no I/O on a phone as is. How are you going to do control without I/O? If you use USB on microcontrollers, might as well start using microcontrollers on their own.
- temperature range, radiation etc

OK, let me get this straight (3, Insightful)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124899)

1. They use touchpads in 2001.

2. They use PADDs in Star Trek.

3. Apple copies from #1 and #2.

4. Android is used to build real versions of #1 and #2.

5. Apple sues #4.

6. Profit!

Re:OK, let me get this straight (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41125093)

You're not straight. Android plainly copied Apple, just like all of OSS usually comes out with stuff second/third rather than first. Then they pulled a d-bag move and flooded the market with junk devices to inflate their marketshare; preyed on the sheeple who wanted to east least be cooler than their feature phones.

Why not use RTEMS and a hobby board with I/O? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124931)

That at least has a flight history and support for multiple space-hardened hardware platforms. You need more than "cool" when it comes to space based hardware and software.

A small step for man (1)

ozduo (2043408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124933)

a giant leap for malware

What a stupid article. And the answer is NO! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41124967)

Betteridge's Law of Headlines is an adage that states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines

Hipstersats (1)

BumpyCarrot (775949) | more than 2 years ago | (#41124995)

Phonesat 1 will post Instagrammed photos of Earth and tweets about how lonely it is. Phonesat 2 will retweet them.

Can MacOS Revolutionize Spacecraft Design? (0)

Wingsy (761354) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125049)

I'd say, judging by the number of MacBooks at the NASA Curiosity control center, that a more appropriate question would be to replace "Android" with "MacOS".

Re:Can MacOS Revolutionize Spacecraft Design? (2)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125317)

"Your navigation app "Orbiter" was remotely uninstalled, sorry for that, use our new Apple Car Navigation instead".

Question for /.: does timothy work for Google PR? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41125115)

timothy seems to be posting all these bullshit Android stories and pro-Google and anti-Apple stories as of late. Is he officially on Google's payroll or is he doing them the service for free?

Re:Question for /.: does timothy work for Google P (1)

hajus (990255) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125453)

Perhaps reality has a Google bias. :)

Re:Question for /.: does timothy work for Google P (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41126457)

One of the most evil companies around? I doubt it. You rarely see something negative on /. about that big brother of a company.

RaspberryPi in the Sky (1)

AuntieAlias (2703007) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125241)

If they're using Android, why not a RaspberryPi?

Re:RaspberryPi in the Sky (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#41125277)

If they're using Android, why not a RaspberryPi?

They are still back ordered :)

Re:RaspberryPi in the Sky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41128585)

...and they have "serious USB and Ethernet problems"...

I helped (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41125467)

I helped with the design, it was a fun project. The N1s will run AOSP with a few things turned off to save power; the phone is used as a CPU, camera and gyroscope - no radio.

Will the hype never end (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41125769)

People have been talking about using PDA's or smartphones to 'revolutionize' smallsats since 1996, that I can remember. Maybe earlier.

Almost the ENTIRE problem at this point is launch costs. But the people who want to work on the satellites have no clout to affect launches, so they putter around the margins like this.

battery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41125807)

The battery would die before launch.

What? (0)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#41126083)

Oh, look, it's another person suggesting that consumer level electronics be used for space-rated applications and saying it would be cheaper. Despite all those labels and warnings saying "this won't work below freezing or significantly above 50C.

You send certified space rated electronics up because once you send it up on the rocket, you're not going to go up and repair it if it doesn't work. If it doesn't work, you're out the full amount of money you spent, plus you have a hunk of junk orbiting the Earth creating a collision hazard for all the other valid pieces of tech in orbit. We spend money on space-rated electronics because in the long run it's actually cheaper.

This is a dumb idea.

--
BMO

Android powered rocketry already exsists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127633)

http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?a=headlines&p=display&news=2594

Android=Dalvik/Linux not GNU/Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41127725)

Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.

Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called "Linux", and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project.

There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine's resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU with Linux added, or GNU/Linux. All the so-called "Linux" distributions are really distributions of GNU/Linux.

As long as it's not in something carrying humans (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128279)

I'd hate to see someone have to trust their life in an OS that attracts malware like Android does.

Re:As long as it's not in something carrying human (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41128595)

Heh...don't be using Windows, MacOS, or iOS either then...

Ease of use is the anathema of security. Seriously. If it's "easy", there'll be a vuln to exploit somewhere and in comes the Malware to implement the exploits.

Stupid story (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#41128979)

We wouldn't give a stupid Apple fanboy wankfest a pass if these phones were running iOS, we shouldn't give this a pass because these phones run Android. Quite disappointed to see this on Slashdot.

Which service plan? (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 2 years ago | (#41132149)

It should be one with unlimited data, and good coverage, at least in outlying areas.

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