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Two iPhones to fly on last space shuttle mission

updated 01:25 pm EDT, Fri June 10, 2011

First iPhone in space will test guidance software

The final shuttle mission will be a first for the iPhone. When Atlantis flies to the International Space Station this summer it will carry two iPhones to test an app, SpaceLab for iOS from Odyssey Space Research. The Houston company makes spacecraft guidance software. When the iPhone 4 came out, the company's programmers realized it could be used for a space-based experiment to test a vehicle's positioning and orientation with the smartphone's new internal gyroscope, camera, and other sensors.

Odyssey CEO Brian Rishikof is fairly certain that these will be the first iPhones in space.

Astronauts will use the two iPhones in four experiments. The "limb tracker" makes an altitude estimate using a picture of the curved edge of the Earth. A sensor calibration test uses the iPhone's camera and other sensors to adjust the gyroscope and accelerometers. A spatial recognition test will attempt to match pictures of the earth with a database of wireframe images of national borders. Finally, the iPhone will be used to test for the effects of radiation on computers by checking for changes to single bits in the phones' memory.

The company emphasized that all of their experiments were being conducted and paid for as private research. The iPhones will not be used for navigation or any other NASA mission.

The public version of the app sells for $1. Rishikof noted that most iPhone users do not have access to space travel, so some of the features will be simulated.

The phones and the shuttle Atlantis are scheduled for launch on STS-135, tentatively set for July 8. This will be the last flight into space for Atlantis and the last mission for the space shuttle program. [via Venture Beat]

by MacNN Staff



  1. viktorob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    If I were you....

    Astronauts, if I were you, I will de activate the "Data Roaming" setting ... lol

  1. rickmiester

    Joined: Dec 1969


    For those of us on the ground

    you might want to check out the iPhone app "GoSatWatch" for real time tracking of the ISS and space shuttle. It does pass predictions with a sky view to tell you exactly when and where to look.

    I'm a bit of a nerd I know but seeing from my back yard the space shuttle in orbit chasing down the space station is something you won't forget.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: for those of us...

    I'm a bit of a nerd I know but seeing from my back yard the space shuttle in orbit chasing down the space station is something you won't forget.

    "Look! Up there! See that dot! That's the shuttle! And see how it's closing in on the other dot! That's the space station! Wow! You'll never see two dots move closer to each other again! "

  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Two phones.

    I wonder if one will be an AT&T model, and one will be a Verizon model?

  1. facebook_Clarence

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2011


    Makes sense

    It makes sense that they'd send an iPhone to space before trying the same with an Android phone. After all, they sent monkeys to space before humans.

    Of course, the astronauts are going to be a bit upset when their iPhone runs out of juice and they can't replace the battery.

  1. azakel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You're right, they have to try a virus free OS first so there are no issues, and only after all is done they can start experimenting on worst case scenarios, you know what i mean, their data being stolen while they are half way to the moon because he downloaded an app from the android marketplace and forgot to install AVG on his android.

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