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Mobile phones in space, Potentially lowering the cost of spacecraft design?
jasedm
post Jan 25 2011, 06:47 PM
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An interesting mission outlined here proposes to blast a high-street mobile phone into orbit, to determine whether its processing power would be adequate to control a satellite in orbit.

Assuming the components within an ordinary handset can survive in space (it will be partly shielded by the satellite's casing) this might have appreciable effects on cost for some unmanned missions in the future.
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tasp
post Jan 25 2011, 07:09 PM
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I am of two minds about this. While I am extremely impressed with the rapidity of the advance in the sophistication of cell phones (for instance the new Sammy Fascination has a built in HD camcorder, a cool thing to have on a space mission), my last cell phone, an LG touch screen model, was 'twitchy', and that is in the relatively benign environment of the earth's surface. Having the command and control system of an orbiting satellite experience 'twitchiness' is probably not a good thing. I note the article was impressed with the Android system, it's flexibilities and open architecture are deemed as pluses. But I can't help but wonder if the 'gee whiz' aspect of all this might be encouraging an over optimism in the robustness of these devices in applications outside of their designers purview. My current cell phone, not a touch screen, btw, doesn't even have a camcorder function, my first phone that was not more capable than it's predecessor, (this was my reaction to the twitchy LG model, to back down on the technology until the reliability catches up with the designers imagination).

Like all new ideas, it's great if it works, and a bear if it don't.
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hendric
post Feb 1 2011, 03:31 PM
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Well, the software on a typical mobile phone is not really designed to deal with speeds in the km/s range. Doppler effects would begin to be significant at those speeds, and need to be accounted for in the frequency control of the analog front end.

Typical mobile phones aren't even designed for industrial/military spec temperatures, let alone deep space temps and potential radiation environments. They *might* be OK beneath Earth's protective magnetosphere, but I think the chances of sending an Android phone to Mars, let alone the moon, are pretty much nil.

Another concern is that the handset would be "skipping" across cells so fast that it would never be properly registered in any of them. This is actually one of the primary reasons why cellphones are turned off on planes - not because of the FAA, but because of the FCC:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones...t#United_States

Maybe they will use satellite phones? They already have to compensate for the first issue, the last issue is irrelevant, and they'll just take their chances on the second one? The article however states they will use a "standard" phone, so it will be interesting to see how they handle those three problems above.


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djellison
post Feb 1 2011, 03:56 PM
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QUOTE (hendric @ Feb 1 2011, 07:31 AM) *
Another concern is that the handset would be "skipping" across cells so fast that it would never be properly registered in any of them.


Oh - it wont be talking to cell towers. The signal strength for cell towers drops off with altitude very very quickly. It'll simply be a computer that speaks to other spacecraft components.
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hendric
post Feb 1 2011, 07:02 PM
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Ah, duh. Helps if I read the full article. smile.gif


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Space Enthusiast Richard Hendricks
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"The engineers, as usual, made a tremendous fuss. Again as usual, they did the job in half the time they had dismissed as being absolutely impossible." --Rescue Party, Arthur C Clarke
Mother Nature is the final inspector of all quality.
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stevesliva
post Feb 1 2011, 07:36 PM
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COTS ARM-based architectures in space doesn't have the same ring to it.

But with smartphones already integrating so many disparate things: phone chip, GPS, camera, wifi, 3G, etc, along with volatile and nonvolatile storage... I can see how it would be a great start for a cheap satellite architecture. And then, since it's so cheap, you just make it triply redundant, rather than rad-hard.
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