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By GCN Staff

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Image of Earth pieced together from data transmitted from NASA PhoneSats

NASA's PhoneSats send travel pics to fans on Earth

On April 21, NASA sent three PhoneSats -- Alexander, Graham and Bell – into orbit to test the feasibility of small, inexpensive satellites assembled from off the shelf components. For the week the miniature satellites were in orbit, they transmitted health data (battery levels, temperatures, magnetometer sensors, accelerometer sensors) and used their cameras to take pictures of Earth. The PhoneSats then used a UHF radio beacon to transmit data and images via bit-encoded packets to multiple ground stations.

Each of the picture packets carried a piece of the larger image. As the data became available, NASA invited ham radio operators to help piece together larger photos from the data packets using PhoneSat’s decoder. As packets were decoded radio operators then uploaded them to the PhoneSat website.

On the second day of the mission, Bell and Graham took 100 pictures and transmitted .webp images  that were then converted into .png files using Google’s webp converter. The  Webp formatted images, according to Google, are smaller (file size) and richer images than  .jpg or .png files.

"Three days into the mission we already had received more than 300 data packets," said Alberto Guillen Salas, an engineer at Ames and a member of the PhoneSat team. "About 200 of the data packets were contributed by the global community and the remaining packets were received from members of our team with the help of the Ames Amateur Radio Club station, NA6MF.”

NASA researchers working with ham radio operators demonstrated "citizen science," NASA officials, said, crowd-sourced science research conducted in whole or in part by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, NASA officials said.

According to NASA, the PhoneSats “deorbited” on April 27 and burned up in Earth's atmosphere as predicted.

Posted by Susan Miller on May 06, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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