Final Space Shuttle Lifts Off With Two iPhones Aboard

Final Atlantis launch

Yesterday morning,  space shuttle Atlantis took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the final shuttle mission, STS-135. This launch marks the end of  more than a 30-year Shuttle program to explore and learn more about our universe and the solar system.

The STS-135 crew will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.  In addition, Atlantis is also carrying two iPhone 4’s  to the International Space Station (ISS) for experimentation. The iPhones are “space certified” and are loaded with a specially designed app called “Spacelab for iOS” that will let astronauts conduct experiements.

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 manualhorizon sensor. It will yield an estimate of altitude (height above the surface) and off axisangle, 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.

The iPhone 4’s hardware is expected to perform very well in zero-gravity, and is being tested as an alternative to much more expensive equipment.  Once the experiments are complete, the phones will be returned to Earth via the Russian Soyuz vehicle. Flight data will be analyzed and then shared via the SpaceLab app.

(Photo taken  by  Robert Scoble)


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Parth Dhebar

Parth Dhebar is a 18 year-old entrepreneur. He is the founder of Simple Reviews, a blog focused on reviewing iPhone and iPad applications. Parth is a recognized name in the industry, known for covering Apple news. He is an editor at Techie-Buzz covering news on Apple. You can follow him on Twitter @pdparticle.