iPhones in Space!

The final space shuttle mission will have a couple special pieces of equipment on board for special experiments - two iPhone 4s.

The iPhone 4's will be the first iPhones in space, and be running an experimental app called SpaceLab, designed by Odyssey Space Research, reports Venture Beat.

“I’m pretty sure this is the very first iPhone to go into space,” said Odyssey CEO Brian Rishikof.

The iPhone 4 contains an internal gyroscope, which is what caught the eye of Odyssey.

“For the kind of work we do, that suddenly made it a far more interesting platform,” Rishikof said.

Odyssey is developing software and simulations for guidance and navigation, which could use a gyroscope to potentially determine a vehicle's orientation in space.

SpaceLab’s four experiments:

     A “limb tracker,” which lets astronauts take a picture of the Earth’s limb (its curved edge). The app then estimates the iPhone’s altitude.
     A sensor calibration tool that uses camera images plus multiple sensors to calibrate the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometers.
     Latitude and longitude estimation using photos of the Earth and matching them to wireframes of coastlines.
     A test to see if space radiation affects computer memory by watching for unintended changes to single bits in the iPhones’ RAM.

Earthlings can also have a look at the public version of SpaceLab for iOS, for a $1.

Rishikof pointed out the iPhone will not actually be used for mission-critical guidance. And the iPhone will be put in airplane mode before liftoff.

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