The Samsung Nexus S, the first commercial smartphone to be cleared for use in the International Space Station, will be used to further NASA’s exploration of space.
The smartphone, co-developed by Google and Samsung, will be an appendage to three small, free-flying satellites called Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which are used by astronauts to help aboard the shuttle.
SPHERES were created by a group of undergraduate students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in conjunction with the Department of Defense and NASA, in 1999. Present on the International Space Station since 2006, SPHERES are individual satellites self-contained with propulsion, power, navigation and computing. Each SPHERE was designed with an “expansion port,” with the idea that additional sensors would be added.
The Nexus S will enhance the satellites to act as remotely operated robots to conduct interior survey and inspections of the station, while capturing mobile camera images and video. These smartphone-equipped SPHERES will also study how robots can support human exploration and perform mundane tasks, such as running inventory, so the astronauts can to dedicate more time to science.
Supported with Near Field Communication technology, which allows information to be read off of everyday objects, the Nexus S sports a 4-inch Contour Display with Super AMOLED touch screen technology. The smartphone also features a 5MP rear-facing camera and camcorder, along with a VGA front facing camera.
Powered by Android OS 2.3, the Nexus S will be using Wi-Fi, as there is no cellphone service in low-Earth orbit.