comment on this article

Experiment brings new meaning to satellite phone

Do we place too much store on technology? More accurately, do we place too much store on processing power?
Yes, it's certainly a bonus to have as much processing as you can afford when it comes to a desktop pc or a mobile phone. But after that, you get the feeling that designers are coming up with additional functionality just to use up the excess MIPs.

The recent news that an Android powered mobile phone is set to go into space is an example. The modified phone will be part of a small demonstration satellite being developed by Surrey Satellite Technology.
Using modified software, the device will control the satellite and there are also plans to use the camera's phone to take images of the Earth. However, sending the images back using gsm might be a challenge as it will probably be a bit out of range from a basestation.
There's a lot of processing power packed into a mobile phone – probably much more than is needed to control this particular satellite. But there's no reason why such a device – or certainly the internals – shouldn't be used for controlling a satellite; all things considered, it's an economic solution.
But think back to the late 1960s and the Apollo programme, which reached its climax with Apollo 11 touching down on the Moon in July 1969. The Apollo spacecraft got to the Moon and back using a guidance computer featuring one three input NOR gate, while Voyager – currently in the far reaches of the solar system – is controlled by a tape deck. In comparison, controlling a small satellite using a mobile phone looks a bit like overspecification.
But if ET does find the satellite, it will probably be a bit easier to phone home using an Android handset, rather than the legendary Texas Instruments Speak and Spell.

Graham Pitcher

Comment on this article

This material is protected by MA Business copyright See Terms and Conditions. One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not. For multiple copies contact the sales team.

Enjoy this story? People who read this article also read...

What you think about this article:

Add your comments


Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Related Articles

Moment of truth?

When it is reported that Apple has set about assembling a large team of ...

Thanks for the memory

Flash memory has become ubiquitous. It’s the technology that features in all ...

Rugged HMI panel

Arbor has released the IOT-500, an HMI panel engineered to provide the highest ...

Custom MMIC design

Plextek RFI CEO Liam Devlin discusses the technical and commercial ...

Between the layers

ZofzPCB is a free 3D Gerber viewer that allows designers to see inside the ...

Intel looks to IoT

Intel has built its business on domination of the PC market. Over the years, ...

Keeping standards high

Engineers – at least those who are worth their salt – ask questions. And those ...