These images of Earth were reconstructed from photos taken by three smartphones in orbit, or “PhoneSats.” The trio of PhoneSats launched on April 21, 2013, aboard the Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and ended a successful mission on April 27. The ultimate goal of the PhoneSat mission was to determine whether a consumer-grade smartphone can be used as the main flight avionics for a satellite in space.
During their time in orbit, the three miniature satellites used their smartphone cameras to take pictures of Earth and then transmitted these “image-data packets” to multiple ground stations. Every packet held a small piece of the big picture. As the data became available, the PhoneSat Team and multiple amateur radio operators around the world collaborated to piece together photographs from the tiny data packets.
The PhoneSat project is a technology demonstration mission funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters and the Engineering Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center. The project started in summer 2009 as a student-led collaborative project between Ames and the International Space University, Strasbourg.
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