Monday, April 22, 2013

Test flight of commerical rocket launches NASA cubesats into orbit

Test flight of commerical rocket launches NASA cubesats into orbit, Three smartphone based cubesats (2 PhoneSat 1.0s and early prototype of PhoneSat 2.0) were carried into space today aboard an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The PhoneSats were the secondary payload on the rocket which also carried a the equivalent mass of a spacecraft, a so-called mass simulated payload, into Earth's orbit.

PhoneSat is a demonstration project of NASA Ames Research Center in an effort to reduce the cost of building small "cubesat" satellites for education and research. NASA's prototype smartphone satellite, known as PhoneSat 1.0, is built around the Nexus One smartphone made by HTC Corp., running Google's Android operating system. The Nexus One acts as the spacecraft onboard computer. Sensors determine the orientation of the spacecraft while the smartphone's camera can be used for Earth observations.

Commercial-off-the-shelf parts include a watchdog circuit that monitors the systems and reboots the phone if it stops sending radio signals.NASA's PhoneSat 2.0 will equip a newer Nexus S smartphone made by Samsung Electronics running Google's Android operating system to provide a faster core processor, avionics and gyroscopes.

PhoneSat 2.0 also will supplement the capabilities of PhoneSat 1.0 by adding a two-way S-band radio to allow engineers to command the satellite from Earth, solar panels to enable longer-duration missions, and a GPS receiver.

In addition, PhoneSat 2.0 will add magnetorquer coils – electro-magnets that interact with Earth's magnetic field – and reaction wheels to control the satellite's orientation in space.

The successful Antares flight paves the way for a demonstration mission by Orbital to resupply the space station later this year. Antares will launch experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory carried aboard the company's new Cygnus cargo spacecraft.Orbital is building and testing its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

After successful completion of a COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA's $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with the company.

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