Late in 2012, we heard that NASA planned to put HTC Android smartphones into as a key component of the small and inexpensive satellite systems. There are a set of rigorous standards that any device that travels into space have to go through to prove that they’re durable enough for the trip. If you wondered exactly what getting those Android smartphones ready to go into space required, some new details have now surfaced.
The satellites that use the Android-powered smartphones are called the SPHERES satellite. The smartphone will be using is the Nexus S. These satellites aren’t typical satellites that float around out in space, they are being used inside the ISS to research applications including telerobotic cameras, and other needs. There are two Nexus S smartphones on the ISS right now.
If you’re wondering why the Nexus S was chosen to be used in space, it was due in part to the easy disassembly. The team of researchers behind the project said that the device has literally six screws on the outside to take it apart. The smartphone was forced into permanent airplane mode before it could be launched into orbit. The team of researchers behind the project used high-resolution tear down photos from iFixit to determine which chip they needed to remove to put the phone into permanent hardware-based airplane mode since the normal airplane mode used software.
The team also had to workout a way to get the device to work using only AA batteries. The next step was to prove to the flight safety crew that the smartphone wouldn’t cause interference aboard the ISS. The phone, for its part just assumes it has no cellular service and operates normally otherwise. The team also had to get drivers for the smartphone that would work with the ThinkPad T61p laptops running Windows XP SP 3 that are currently aboard the ISS. There were a number of other things that had to be done in order to get the Android devices aboard the space station, but those are some of the biggest.