Space Shuttle Atlantis takes off with two iPhone 4s in tow

Tue, Jul 12, 2011


After 30 years of service, the space shuttle Atlantis last Friday took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its final mission.

And just what will the shuttle be taking up to the International Space Station (ISS)? Why two iPhone 4s of course. Why? Why to experiment of course!

The crew will be conducting 4 experiments in total and will make use of a SpaceLab for iOS app that Odyssey Space Research developed specifically for experimentation on board the US National Laboratory on the ISS. Keep in mind that the iPhone isn’t being used as a publicity stunt, but rather as a replacement for much more expensive testing equipment.

The four planned experiments are as follows:

Limb Tracker – This navigation experiment will involve taking photographs of the Earth and matching an arc to the horizon through manipulation of an overlay. This performs the function roughly equivalent to a “manual” horizon sensor. It will yield an estimate of altitude (height above the surface) and “off axis” angle, a measurement of the angle of the image with respect to the Earth’s center.

Sensor Cal – This sensor calibration experiment uses a series of photos of a reference image, combined with propagated information using three-axis gyro and accelerometer measurements to calibrate the gyros and the accelerometers (i.e. bias and scale coefficients). This will improve the knowledge and accuracy of subsequent measurements.

State Acq State Acquisition – This navigation experiment uses a series of photos of a reference image and of the Earth, combined with information from the three-axis gyro and accelerometer, to estimate the position of the spacecraft (latitude and longitude). The position estimation is generated by manipulating and matching a wireframe overlay of the Earth’s coastlines to the acquired Earth image(s). Performing multiple sequences, separated by a known amount of time, can permit estimation of the spacecraft’s orbit parameters.

LFI Lifecycle Flight Instrumentation – This experiment will characterize the effects of radiation on the device by monitoring certain areas of memory for Single Bit Upsets – an unintended change in value of a memory location caused by exposure to radiation.

And if you just so happen to want to get your astronaut on, the app is available for download from iTunes here.

And in the interest of fairness, the crew also took up an Android-based Nexus S with them as well. No smartphone wars in Space, apparently.

You might remember that back in October 2010 (or maybe not), that the daughter of astronaut Scott Kelly asked for an iPhone so that she could, so she says, “keep up with your trip.”

Oh those plotting teenagers!

via Odyssey Space Research


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