Astronauts to Take Two iPhones to the Final Frontier

Two iPhone 4s will be lifted off into space on the shuttle Atlantis for the mission tentatively scheduled for launch on July 8.

Sadly for the astronauts they won’t be using the iPhones to kill time by playing Angry Birds or FaceTiming with loved ones, but instead will be using the phone to conduct experiments.  Odyssey Space Research out of Houston, Texas, designed an app specifically for this mission, SpaceLab for iOS, that can be downloaded for $0.99.

Four experiments will be performed while on board the International Space Station:

  1. Limb Tracker- a navigation experiment which involves taking photographs of the Earth and matching an arc to the horizon through manipulation of an overlay.  This is roughly equivalent to a “manual” horizon sensor to estimate altitude.
  2. Sensor Cal (sensor calibration)- This experiment will calibrate the iPhone’s camera, accelerometer and the three-axis gyroscope by taking a series of photographs of a reference image.  Information from this experiment will help create an auto-calibrationfunction for future flights.
  3. State Acq (state acquisition)- This experiment will help astronauts to figure out where they are positioned in space and estimate longitude and latitude.
  4. LFI (Lifecycle Flight Instrumentation)- This experiment will study 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 iPhones will stay on board the ISS for several months until returning to Earth.  The first opportunity to come back will be in the fall of this year with the Russians.

All the data will be collected, analyzed and then shared via the app for those of us on Earth.