Space shuttle Atlantis carries some curious cargo: two iPhones(Read article summary)
Space, the final frontier. These are smart phones of the space shuttle Atlantis. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new apps and to boldly go where no iPhone has gone before.
The iPhone already connects people worldwide via e-mail, Words With Friends, and Twitter. But the new SpaceLab app for iOS extends the iPhone's reach into a brand new world, or rather out of this world.
The app, developed by Odyssey Space Research, is en route to the International Space Station aboard the Atlantis. These first space-bound iPhones are destined for the ISS as part of Mission STS-135, the last flight of NASAâ€™s 30-year-long Space Shuttle program.
â€śThe revolutionary iPhone 4 offers an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate serious functions previously reserved for more expensive, purpose-built devices,â€ť says Odyssey CEO Brian Rishikof in a press release. â€śThe potential for using iPhone 4 to both conduct and support in-space research and operations is enormous.â€ť
A team of two from Odyssey, a spacecraft engineering, analysis, and research company based in Houston, designed the app specifically for the iPhone 4â€™s cutting-edge capabilities including the three-axis gyro, accelerometer, Retina display, cameras, and A4 processor.
This technology will be used to conduct four experiments:
- Limb tracker experiment will measure the distance and exact location of the iPhone in relation to the Earthâ€™s center.
- Sensor cal, which calibrates the three-axis gyro and accelerometer to make subsequent measurements more accurate.
- State acquisition, which calculates the longitude and latitude of the spacecraft multiple times to predict the spacecraftâ€™s path of orbit.
- Lifecycle Flight Instrumentation will monitor and categorize how radiation affects the iPhone.
The goal of the SpaceLab app is to gather as much data as possible now to aid in developing more advanced mobile applications in the future.
â€śWe view this very much as the beginning,â€ť Rishikof says in a phone call with the Monitor. â€śWe intend to explore more capable and more operational applications in the future.â€ť
â€śMatt was committed like Iâ€™ve never seen anyone committed before,â€ť Rishikof says on the phone. Normally, a project such as this would have a two-year timeline between â€śgetting it defined and getting it flown.â€ť
Why the iPhone and not the iPad? â€śThereâ€™s no reason in principle why we couldnâ€™t have done the iPad,â€ť Rishikof says. Yet, the compact size of the iPhone gives the device less mass and volume, and therefore a smaller footprint when calculating measurements. â€śIn the future, the iPad is definitely on our list,â€ť he says.
Curious about the new app? Earth-based users can download a home version for 99 cents from Appleâ€™s App Store. IPhone owners can conduct the same experiments as the orbiting astronauts, with certain features simulated to account for Earthâ€™s gravity.
Once the iPhones arrive at the space station, they will live in the NanoLab, a small research platform housed on the ISS, for several months.
â€śWe did fly two phones,â€ť Rishikof says. â€śYou never know whatâ€™s going to happen, in case one malfunctions.â€ť Another benefit of sending two phones, he says, is the chance to execute twice the number of experiments, which creates double the data.
The iPhones are expected back on Earth in the fall, after hopping aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. The collected data will then be analyzed and shared via the SpaceLab iOS app.
â€śIâ€™m really into space education,â€ť Rishikof says. â€śWe need to engage people in the activities that are going on in the space program.â€ť