April 28, 2013 AT 12:00 am

Can You Hear Me Now? Cellphone Satellites Phone Home

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Can You Hear Me Now? Cellphone Satellites Phone Home : NPR.

Smartphones can check e-mail, record videos and even stream NPR. Now NASA has discovered they make pretty decent satellites, too. Three smart phones launched into space this past Sunday are orbiting above us even now, transmitting data and images back to Earth. The PhoneSats, which cost just a few thousand dollars each, could usher in big changes for the satellite industry.

The PhoneSats started as a project among young engineers working at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. Jim Cockrell, the project’s manager, says it began as a hallway conversation. One noted that smartphone microprocessors are cheaper than those in satellites. So why not just use a smartphone as a satellite?

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