NASA is Bringing Android Out of This World—Literally
After the recent news about Android reaching the Pentagon, there’s a new government agency which will be using Android too! Although it really isn’t anything new, it’s still pretty exciting to know that Android has taken things to a completely new height—in fact, it is out of this world (literally).
Scientists over at NASA are currently developing ‘helper robots’ which are powered by Android. Called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experiemental Satellites), these volleyball sized helpers are capable of flying around the International Space Station, thanks to its tiny CO2 thrusters. A Samsung Nexus S is attached to each and due to its low-power computer and camera, it is transformed into a ‘Smart SPHERE.’ NASA has certified the phone model to use on the space station, each with a connected SPHERES free-flyer through a cable and a wireless network connected to the computers at the space station. This provides data path to the ground.
Considering the Nexus S is still being used by many consumers in the world, NASA made a few changes to the handset in that its GSM antenna can no longer be found. This reduces interference. Also, the handset has been powered by a AA battery in lieu of its usual Li-Ion battery.
“Android is a very important feature for our team,” said Mark Micire, a software engineer in the Intelligent Robotics Group. “The availability of the Android source code allows us to customize the smartphone to be used as a compact, low-cost, low-power computer, rather than just as a phone. And because the platform is open-source, we anticipate that the public will be able to develop Android software that can be used in our experiments. In the future, you are going see smartphones used for all sorts of embedded processing applications, from robotics to sensor networks and equipment control.”