Final Space Shuttle Lifts Off With Two iPhones Aboard


This morning at 11:29AM EDT, space shuttle Atlantis took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the final shuttle mission, STS-135.

The launch marks the end of the more than 30-year Shuttle program to explore and learn more about our world, the solar system, and the universe.

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.

Atlantis is also carrying two iPhone 4's to the International Space Station (ISS) for experimentation. The "space certified" iPhones are loaded with a specially designed app, SpaceLab for iOS (downloadable from the App Store [iTunes]) that will let astronauts conduct several experiments:

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 “manual” horizon sensor. It will yield an estimate of altitude (height above the surface) and “off axis” angle, 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.

Once the experiments are complete, the phones will be returned to Earth via the Russian Soyuz vehicle, as early as this fall. Flight data will be collected, analyzed, and then shared via the SpaceLab app.

The three-axis gyroscopes and accelerometers in the iPhone 4 are expected to perform very well in zero-gravity, and are being tested as an alternative to much more expensive equipment.

Earthbound users can replicate some of the tests by downloading the SpaceLab app, but, understandably, some tests must be simulated to account for the presence of gravity.

Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 11:06AM EDT on Sunday. For more information and to follow STS-135, visit NASA's main space shuttle website.

(Photo courtesy Flickr/Robert Scoble)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
121 months ago
I hope they remember to put the phones into airplane mode.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
121 months ago
I dread to think what the roaming charges would be like! :D
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
121 months ago
Well at least it wont shatter when they drop it.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
121 months ago

According to Android Central, there are a few Nexus S phones on board too.

http://www.androidcentral.com/nexus-s-hitching-ride-back-space-final-shuttle-flight

You'd still be trying to scroll without a lag by the time the space shuttle returns. lolol
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
121 months ago
Is there anything left that the iPhone hasn't been used for?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
121 months ago
It's a pity that...

It's a shame that the president has decided to abandon such an important program for our country and its morale.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Samsung Mocks Apple for Ditching Power Adapters With iPhone 12 Lineup

Thursday October 15, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Samsung on its social channels is mocking Apple for removing the power adapter from the iPhone 12 lineup and other iPhone models, pointing out the fact that the Samsung Galaxy smartphones continue to ship with a power adapter. "Included with your Galaxy," reads a Samsung Facebook post that features a picture of a power adapter. Apple notably is no longer providing power adapters or...

iPhone 12 Pro Pre-Orders Already Selling Out With Delivery Times Pushing Into November

Friday October 16, 2020 6:35 am PDT by
Apple today opened pre-orders for the 6.1-inch models of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro through its website and the Apple Store app, and estimated delivery times are already slipping into November for select configurations in the United States. Customers ordering a SIM-free/Pacific Blue/128GB version of the iPhone 12 Pro, for example, are already facing an estimated delivery window of...

HomePod Mini Cable is Non-Detachable, Ends With USB-C Connector for Use With Included 20W Power Adapter

Friday October 16, 2020 12:45 pm PDT by
While not detailed in the tech specs, MacRumors can confirm that Apple's new HomePod mini features a non-detachable power cable that ends with a USB-C connector for use with the 20W power adapter included in the box. With the switch to USB-C, the HomePod mini could potentially be powered by a wider range of devices and peripherals, ranging from MacBooks to USB-C battery packs with enough...

Apple's New MagSafe Charger and Cases Begin Arriving to Customers

Saturday October 17, 2020 10:10 am PDT by
Apple's new MagSafe charger and cases have begun arriving to some customers earlier than expected, and images of the accessories have started to surface on Twitter. The photos provide a first look at the products in real-world use. As of writing, some MagSafe cases are also available for pickup at select Apple Stores in countries like the United States, Canada, and Germany. Filip...

New Google App Feature Lets You Hum a Song to Search for It

Saturday October 17, 2020 4:05 am PDT by
Google has added a new feature to its Search app that allows you to hum a song that's stuck in your head, and then use the company's machine learning algorithm to try and identify it. In the Google app or using the Google Search widget, tap the mic icon and say "what's this song?" or click the "Search a song" button. Then start humming the tune for 10-15 seconds. When you're done, the...

Brazilian Certifications Suggest iPhone 12 Mini Features 2,227mAh Battery and iPhone 12 Has 2,815mAh Battery

Friday October 16, 2020 1:08 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone mini has the shortest battery life out of all the iPhones in the iPhone 12 lineup due to its small size, but Apple has not provided public information about the battery's capacity. A regulatory filing from Brazil, however, suggests the iPhone 12 mini has a battery capacity of 2,227mAh. The same regulatory information says the iPhone 12 features a 2,815mAh battery, which is...

Apple Offering Free AirPods With iPhone 11 Purchase in India as Part of Diwali Celebration

Friday October 16, 2020 12:35 pm PDT by
Apple today launched a new Diwali promotion in India that will see the company providing customers with a set of AirPods with the purchase of any iPhone 11 model. The new iPhone 12 models are not part of the promotion. Apple is offering the standard AirPods With Charging Case free with purchase, but customers can choose to upgrade to the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case or the AirPods Pro....

Apple Event to Unveil First Apple Silicon Macs Could Happen on November 17

Friday October 16, 2020 2:24 am PDT by
Apple will hold another digital event on November 17 to announce its first Apple Silicon powered Macs, according to frequent leaker Jon Prosser. Apple has already said that this year it intends to introduce the first Mac powered by an Apple Silicon chip instead of an Intel processor. One thing it hasn't revealed is the date it will be announced. According to Prosser's source, that date is No...

Apple Online Store Down Ahead of iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Pre-Orders

Thursday October 15, 2020 11:15 pm PDT by
Apple's online store is down ahead of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro pre-orders, which are set to begin at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time in the United States. "You're... early," reads the Apple Store message when attempting to visit the U.S. website. "Pre-order begins at 5:00 a.m. PDT. Enjoy the extra sleep." Apple used to do new device pre-orders at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, but since last year, has...

When You Can Pre-Order the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Every Time Zone

Thursday October 15, 2020 10:55 am PDT by
Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro are set to kick off on Friday, October 16 at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time, which is a new launch time that Apple adopted as of last year. Apple is planning to make the new devices available in multiple countries around the world simultaneously, so we've made a guide to let MacRumors readers know when pre-orders will in their country. Pre-orders...