Android is no stranger to outer space. The Samsung Galaxy S II got out of this world in July. And back in December 2010, the Nexus S was rigged up to a weather balloon and sent into the atmosphere to test the Nexus’ on-board sensors. According to the fellows in charge of the project, Android’s “robust” open development environment allowed them to “modify at any level necessary,” making Android and the Nexus S the perfect candidates for scientific exploration. While that project may have seemed more like a science project turned publicity stunt, it actually laid the groundwork for a much bigger affair.
Today, Google has released detailed information on how the Nexus S was sent into space with the shuttle Atlantis to participate in mission STS-135. Thanks again to the open development environment of Android, NASA engineers were able to upgrade three “volleyball-sized” SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) to be Android compatible. With the enhancements made to the satellites, the Nexus S can now monitor the SPHERES’ sensors and capture video footage for data logging. Eventually, the SPHERES will be fully controlled with an Android phone using the IOIO board and the ADK. And after that? NASA plans to use the Nexus WiFi connection to control the satellites from Earth. NASA is seeking new ways to interact with equipment in space, and Android is really coming through for them.
To learn more about Android’s adventures in space, watch the video below and head on over to NASA’s website. If you’re interested in the kinds of apps used on the mission, you can download the Sensor Data Logger below as well.