NASA needs help with its Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) and has turned to Google to see if they can fix them with some of those 3D-mapping Project Tango smartphones they had built.
The satellites – oddly shaped ball-sized robots – usually hang around the International Space Station using measured CO2 blasts for propulsion. However, with the help of Project Tango’s 3D-mapping technology and motion-tracking cameras, these SPHERES could potentially handle some duties usually intended for astronauts, and even tackle some tasks outside of the space station.
“We wanted to add communication, a camera, increase the processing capability, accelerometers and other sensors,” said Smart SPHERES project manager Chris Provencher in an interview. “As we were scratching our heads thinking about what to do, we realized the answer was in our hands. Let’s just use smartphones.”
NASA plans to ship the Project Tango phones to the ISS by way of a cargo spacecraft by July 11.