NASA is relying on a small team of engineers at its Ames Research Center in the Bay Area’s Moffett Field to develop three nanosatellites powered by Android smartphones.
The space agency said it plans to launch the nanosatellites this year. The devices are being built with off-the-shelf hardware, which is reducing the cost of each prototype to $3,500.
Nanosatellites are miniature satellites. They're smaller and lighter compared with other satellites, are cube shaped, measure about 4 inches and weigh less than 4 pounds. By going with commercial products, NASA said its engineers will launch the cheapest and easiest-to-build satellites ever to fly in space.
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," the agency said online.