Above the Clouds Computing – Phones in Space


Research students at Southampton University have devised an ingeneous way of conducting outer atmosphere research .

Collecting data for atmospheric science projects would normally require manned research aircraft at £10,000 per hour – but the Southampton team found another way. They took a helium balloon, instruments, and a HTC Windows 7 Phone, and sent them 60,000 feet into the air.

On the test flight, which took place on the 4th March in the Cotswolds, England, data was beamed back by the phone to the Cellular Network and the team’s own handsets. Tracking data was sent to an application running on a Windows Azure server, which calculated its course and predicted a landing site on a Bing Map.

The project is part of the University’s ASTRA (Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft) program and paves the way to using relatively low cost helium balloons as launch vehicles for instruments that are able to take measurements and samples from the upper atmosphere. It also demonstrates how Windows 7 Phones – choosen in this case for ease of application development – can be harnessed as mini computers for scientifict experiments.

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