NASA Using Smartphones as Low-Cost Amateur Nanosatellites

NASA’s Antares rockets took three smartphones on its voyage to space, the first of its kind to become PhoneSats – smartphones used as tiny satellites. The program set a record by using the cheapest satellites in the history of the space program (possibly the cheapest in the history of man made satellites).

Michael Gazarik, NASA Associate Administrator

Smartphones offer a wealth of potential capabilities for flying small, low-cost, powerful satellites for atmospheric or Earth science, communications, or other space-born applications. They also may open space to a whole new generation of commercial, academic and citizen-space users.


Smartphones come with fast processors, great cameras, GPS technology, and radios – components that are extremely useful for satellite operation. For about $3500 to $7000, engineers can upgrade smartphones to miniature data-collecting devices capable of orbit. For this mission, Nasa chose the HTC-Nexus One with Android’s operating system with calling and texting disabled (so no, you can’t call the satellite phone). The phones were launched on April 22 and have since deorbited and disintegrated in the earth’s atmosphere. NASA is hoping to relaunch another set of satellites later this year so stay tuned!

You can see a map of the satellite’s short-lived trajectory on the project’s page.

Here are some photos that the phones were able to capture while still in orbit.