Category Archives: Small Sats

PhoneSat Photos

Photo's assembled from packets sent to Earth by PhoneSats Graham (L) and Bell (R).  Images Credit: NASA Ames
Photo’s assembled from packets sent to Earth by PhoneSats Graham (L) and Bell (R). Images Credit: NASA Ames

If you were around the site a couple weeks ago before things got switched around you might remember the Antares post and the PhoneSats.  I’m just begining to get caught up on things.

The three PhoneSats named Alexander, Graham and Bell were launched as a part of the Obital Sciences Antares mission from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on April 21, 2013. Their brief but successful mission was to demonstrate the ability of a consumer-grade smartphone could be used as the main flight avionics for a satellite.

The mission was great on a vairiety of levels not the least of which being it started as a student-led colloborative between the International Space University, Strasbourg and NASA’s Ames Research Center. Funding came from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters and the Engineering Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center.

The PhoneSat website terms them NASA’s Smartphone Nanosatellite. Nanosatellite is a good description. They were tiny not just in size but also in cost, the budget (excluding launch) was only $3,500 each. Is this a record for low cost?

Short on size but long on performance (and fun), the three satellites orbited the Earth and successfully accomplish their main goal. The fun part of the mission involved the tiny satelittes taking pictures of the Earth as you can see above, and transmitting the “image-data packets” to mulitiple ground stations. This is where the second colloborative part of the mission came, collecting the transmitted packets via the Ham radio geeks out there, a group of which I am proud to be a part. About 300 of the data packets have been recieved so far.

Did I hear anything of PhoneSats? YES! The packets were transmitted on 437.425 Mhz. I didn’t record the transmission but there is no doubt it was from one of the satellites. I don’t have a dedicated radio for that particular ham band but what I did do was to set up a Software Defined Radio (QST, Jan 2013) receiver on a laptop I had . That took a little doing but it was pretty easy once I got my ducks in a row. I didn’t know how to record anything at that point. I’m going to be fully ready for the next incarnation of the PhoneSats expected later this year. Anyway the collected image packets were put together to produce the image above.  The image made the NASA Image of the Day too.

Alexander, Graham and Bell have deorbited (April 27, 2013) and burned up in the atmosphere as predicted, at least there has been nothing heard from them. We can safely assume prediction confirmed.

More results from PhoneSats including MP3 and WAV files.

If there are any fans of the Southern Kings and you haven’t see a score, you might not want to look!  They are being outclassed by the Waratahs so far in the match at Port Elizabeth and we’re almost 50 minutes in as I write this.  Match update.