$3,500 PhoneSat

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Scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center have built the most affordable satellite to date, a $3,500 device the size of a coffee cup that uses an off-the-shelf HTC Nexus One smartphone as a central processor. (A cheap off-the-shelf radio antenna handles communication with the ground.) PhoneSat 1.0, scheduled to launch by the end of this year, will beam back photos of Earth on an amateur radio band for 10 days, or until the battery dies. Subsequent iterations will be capable of much more: PhoneSat 2.0 will have a two-way S-band radio antenna (which most satellites use to communicate with the ground) and solar panels for extended power.

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