The only exception I can think of is laptops on the ISS and on the space shuttle, but those were within the shielding of the craft. On top of that, those laptops are hardened against radiation. I believe they took off the shelf Lenovo Thinkpads and added some shielding.
To be safe, I imagine they gave the phone a tinfoil hat.
The article doesn't mention anything about radiation hardening, though. Are they just not worried about it, because the idea is to make the satellite as cheap as possible?
Also, the reasons for not making launches cheaper has been "why is it important to make launches cheap? Isn't the total cost dominated by the cost of the satellite anyway?"
Also, ground processing and all can get very expensive because it requires so many people and clean rooms etc and can be delayed. It depends if you think it's part of the satellite or the launch cost.
Overall you need to start somewhere if you want cheaper spaceflight. If there are cheaper satellites, then that's a big incentive for developing cheaper means of launching (and launching much more often too!).
It's partly a chicken and egg style thing. Launches are extremely expensive and far between and the big standing armies and facilities sit unused but have to be trained, maintained and paid. It's hard to break that circle, but it will be done, probably through some totally new technology that is first seen as just toys.
Doesn't look like anyone's reached space yet but:
Interesting discussion on some guys who reached 100,000 feet:
Edit: actually they're launching via rocket -
"Three NASA PhoneSats systems (two PhoneSat 1.0's and one PhoneSat 2.0) are scheduled to launch aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va., later this year. "
None of this is about orbit. Orbit == high velocity and altitude. Although high-altitude balloons regularly go about 40km that's still in the stratosphere and nowhere near space and the velocity is nowhere near what's needed.
These phone-based cubesats are a good idea. There have been plenty of phone-based balloon flights and there's no reason not to use them in satellites if you have some way of recognizing failure because of cosmic rays.
Remember, everyone, space isn't that far away—if they put in a highway, you could drive there in about an hour. It's easy to think about space being very far away from us and untouchable, but it's actually quite close and just out of our reach. Keep reaching, fellow humans.
He's just being accurate. 'Ballooon reaches spaaaace!!1' articles upset H-A-B-ers more than most.
The other advantage in having NASA lead the way in the cheap satellite area, it will be easier for others to take advantage of cheap launches when they are eventually available. And possibly help create demand.
The cubesats (this is one) were developed as a way to prototype ideas and to get a larger segment of people involved in space activity. They are squeezed in to other launches. They're a very special case.
The phenomenon of cheaper, experimental missions is fractal. There are technology demonstration missions at many different price points (up to the 100s of millions of dollar range) that may have fairly modest science goals, but they're trying to show that some exotic bit(s) of tech (autonomous landing, laser communications) can work in space.
Edit: For innovation on size, check out KickSat
Because at the end of the day, "Radiation hardening" just means, "Less likely to experience one of these errors but oh hey a solar flare is inc..." Satellites just sort of float until their orbit decays, they are de-orbited, or they are lost.
You wouldn't do this for a spy satellite you need to send you images of the sky in realtime for end-of-the-world missile guidance, but for something that's doing science missions it's probably way more important to make something light and cheap that a russian mission can drop out the back of its launch.
Lead is good for gamma (and X) rays, but very very terrible for cosmic radiation which is protons and neutrons (nucleons).
For those you want water.
It works like this: For photons you want them absorbed, so heavy metals are great.
But it's not possible to absorb nucleons. Instead you want to steal their energy. If you use lead they simply bounce loosing hardly any energy.
Instead you want very light elements - hydrogen especially. Then when they bounce all the energy gets transfered to the hydrogen.
Lead can make things worse because the nucleon can actually fission the lead atom emitting secondary radiation that is even worse than the original.
If you are shielding from electrons you can get Bremsstrahlung radiation if you use lead see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bremsstrahlung#Radiation_safety
In summary: Lead for photons, water (or other light materials like wax or plastic) for everything else.
Shoot various size coins at each other and watch how they interact, then try a coin against a wall.
If you have a very slippery surface try making a line of 3 coins (or more if it's super slippery) to bounce against each other.
I had always assumed that was the case and the article text was obvious, but if we can launch off the shelf Android devices into space with no problems then why are the other NASA projects utilizing such out of date hardware?
Assuming that you're referring to the stories about the Mars rover, Mars isn't geologically active enough to have its own equivalent of Earth's Van Allen belt, so the Martian surface is directly blasted by radiation originating from the solar wind. Any computer hardware going there will almost certainly need to be radiation hardened.
tl;dr: LEO != Mars
The closest to a mission goal I can find in the post is "This approach allows engineers to see what capabilities commercial technologies can provide, rather than trying to custom-design technology solutions to meet set requirements." So the only goal is to see _if_ they work.
Trust me, if other missions could get away with less shielding, they would. That's one reason why RBSP is being launched, so we can better understand the radiation environment in Earth's orbit, so future missions aren't undershielded or sent up with unneccessary shielding. But I doubt that most big-budget missions could get away with no shielding.
 Shameless plug/full disclosure: I have been working on this project for the last 2+ years, and am now one of its flight controllers. For updates, you can check rbsp.jhuapl.edu or http://spaceflightnow.com/atlas/av032/status.html
Why was the most important consideration by far for the processor in the previous NASA project was designed from the ground up to be radiation-hardned, but yet we can launch this no problem?
I just don't get it. I also don't appreciate the downvotes. I'm not trolling or looking to start an argument. I don't have dog in this race, I'm genuinely confused.
And in the case of real memory corruption, i.e. where cosmic radiation overwhelms the ECC controllers ability to correct the bit rot, well .. "reboot and retry" has been a standard for years, and will continue to work as a strategy as long as it is considered by the software architects of the system.
As I commented on a Curiosity article, I hope they eventually tend more towards using lots of commodity hardware running instructions in parallel and working off probability rather than any one processor having to be perfectly deterministic.
However, I'm guessing there are probably people who have simulated this and it probably hasn't worked out to be very economical for past missions. I think part of the problem is that the level of shielding required would really limit your payload to orbit. It's probably going to take a huge amount of material seeing as even the Space Shuttle couldn't act as a perfect buffer between computers and radiation.
From a NASA article:
"Designers also found out that laptops would crash when the shuttle passes through the "South Atlantic Anomaly," which is an area where the magnetic field draws in to Earth, again offering less radiation filtering for spacecraft flying through it."
Completely speculating here, but I would imagine that part of this experiment is to get operational experience with using standard grade electronics in space.
From the OP's article, the satellite has:
"...a watchdog circuit that monitors the systems and reboots the phone if it stops sending radio signals."
Anything with a human or with a high price tag attached to outages can't work with that caveat. If DirectTV's satellites did that, people wouldn't stay signed up for long. Imagine a Mars rover having to reboot every half hour... not very convenient.
But perhaps NASA might want to know if they can cheaply build "disposable" orbital experiments... i.e. ones that can complete their missions in a few hours. The sort of reliability where you just have to deal with the odd 30 seconds of rebooting every so often could be alright, especially if the payload can be stowed on a cargo ship and simply shoved out an air lock like the SuitSat.
Again spitballing, maybe they will find that things work out more or less OK if they send up five moderately shielded Raspberry Pis and they "vote" a la the Space Shuttle's flight computers. If so, maybe that opens up space experimentation to universities with smaller budgets to squeeze onto resupply/manned launches that happen to have a spare square foot of space.
 http://history.nasa.gov/computers/Ch4-4.html (search for "vote" to get to the specific spot detailing how this works)
You reap what you saw. It's kalled karma. In the tech-sector, Apple's main perception is now largely as the lawsuit-company.
Its getting to the point I don't even look at Android or Apple posts here because I know I'll start seeing the same memes yet again.
I think its time to stop going to HN, I don't see this improving anytime soon. I know, internet drama and all that but for once I would like to be able to read about the tech without the snark.
Reddit, Youtube, MSNBC, etc., maybe. HN? C'mon.
Also, to get the comment, you already had to have that awareness. It wouldn't make any sense to someone who doesn't know about the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit.
It wasn't the OP's intent, I'm sure. All of us get angry some time and mix things up and comment on unrelated articles. I've posted more unrelated/stupid comments that I care to count.
And by the way, I'm not remotely angry. I have a lot of arguments about the subjects and have argued with many about it (not passionately, but all of us were reasonable and not typical fanboys). But I don't want to see them reiterated over all HN stories, that's all.
I did learn one incredibly useful thing from this thread however, was that Boeing has a patent on specific orbital mechanics, you know, the kinds of stuff people use to write papers about in the scientific realm for centuries for free transmission of knowledge. I suppose the next step is actually patenting scientific discoveries, like publishing a theory of Quantum Gravity via the USPTO instead of via Nature or the physics preprint service.
You can get an injunction against self-driving cars that can do the newly patented three-point-turn (its not prior art because now it uses a COMPUTER system!), but you can't stop a driver from doing it!
Testing costs were orders of magnitude more than the cell phones. They ran tests with Thermal Vac, vibe and shock, and weather balloon. Each test required time at expensive test facilities and hundreds of hours.
Launch and operations will require additional hundreds of hours of labor to prepare and collect data. It will also require time on expensive range assets.
For example, a launch readiness review, where they determine if everything is ready to go, would involve a dozen engineers for a few hours. This meeting alone would cost more than the all the phones they bought to test on the ground and fly.
For instance, most other major options (elephant in the room being Apple), have onerous terms for their accessory development kits which would preclude that. Last I checked, Apple even keep the Dock port pinout "confidential" from people not in their accessory dev program, which would be a show-stopper since presumably this uses the dock/USB port for control.
All the sensors one might want on a Satellite (motions sensors, cameras, magnetic field detection) are all built into phones now. Android (or more to the point Android's Linux kernel) is specifically compiled to be compatible with most of that hardware. So less work for them as opposed to using another version of Linux.
I'm not sure I agree with the implied high priority placed on open source. The relative development costs of android, real-time linux, or even a commerical RTOS are noise in the flight software development budget. Reducing the cost is a more important driver to making space more accessible.
The big benefit, if these android cube sats fly successfully, would be to retire a lot of risks - thus opening the door for future programs to fly with android.