NASA is using Nexus S phones on the International Space Station as an upgrade for a trio of volleyball-sized SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). The SPHERES were originally developed by MIT for testing spacecraft guidance, navigation, and control algorithms in space. The Android-powered phones transform the SPHERES from test platforms into free-flying robots that can perform tasks the astronauts used to do, like recording sensor data and capturing video footage.
In this talk, I will describe how the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames modified and certified stock Nexus S phones for use on the Space Station. This involved hacking the hardware and destructively testing several units. I will also show video and data that we captured from operating the phones in space. Finally, I will talk about the software we have written to remotely operate the Smart SPHERES from Mission Control in Houston.