February 18, 2016

"Pete Klupar, director of engineering at Ames Research Center, was fond of pulling a government-issued smartphone out of his pocket during speeches and wondering aloud..."

NASA: ...why the phone, which had a faster processor and better sensors than many satellites, cost so little in comparison —after which he slipped the phone back in his pocket and carried on. by William Bryan via NASA Spinoff

'An Ames researcher named Chris Boshuizen took Klupar’s musings to heart. Having seen the phone schtick before, Boshuizen and his colleague Will Marshall once interjected during a talk by Klupar when he began to muse aloud about satellite costs. “We said, Pete, don’t put that back in your pocket,” Boshuizen recalls. “We’re going to make that into a satellite.

'By September 2013, a NASA team originally led by Boshuizen and Marshall successfully launched its first PhoneSats into low-Earth orbit at a cost of just $7,000 each. Named Alexander, Graham and Bell, the three mini-orbiters took pictures from space and beamed the data back to Earth, demonstrating for the first time that a consumer-grade smartphone could be used to power a satellite in space. Successive generations of PhoneSats, launched by NASA and housed inside of CubeSats, have since demonstrated increasingly greater capabilities.

'Meanwhile, Boshuizen and Marshall — joined by Robbie Schingler, another research scientist at Ames — left NASA to found Planet Labs Inc., a company focused on using cheap, off-the-shelf commercial components to build ever-smaller satellites.

'“Instead of doing it the old-school Apollo way, with a lot of system design and analysis and then building the thing at the end, we decided to do it the software way, which is building a minimum-viable prototype first just to show that we have a working model, then going on from there,” Boshuizen says of the process they used to create their satellites, a strategy the company calls “agile aerospace.”'

"Flock of Nanosatellites Provides a Daily Picture of Earth" here

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