These satellites are powered by Google Nexus smartphones

Putting a satellite into orbit is a rather expensive endeavor that typically costs millions of dollars.

Fortunately, NASA is currently designing and testing a number of relatively inexpensive nanosatellite prototypes.

The satellites – dubbed PhoneSats – are currently powered by Google’s Nexus One, along with external batteries and a radio beacon. The phone is protected by an enclosure that measures 10 x 10 x 10 cm.

If the initial tests prove successful, NASA plans to launch PhoneSat 2.0. (Version 2.0), which will be equipped with a more powerful smartphone for the brains, specifically the Nexus S. It will also feature a two-way s-band radio, solar panels, and GPS receiver.

According to NASA, the satellites (currently) cost $3,500 each to build making them the lowest-cost (functioning) satellites ever to achieve orbit.

NASA plans to launch the smartphone-powered satellites into orbit aboard the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket later this year and is considering a PhoneSat moon mission at some point in the future. Personally, I don’t think a little smartphone-powered rover cruising the surface of the moonwould be very cool indeed.

The exact timeframe for the launch of these satellites is unknown, but it is expected to happen in late 2012. Perhaps as impressive as the $3,500 price tag (per satellite) is the fact that they are built using completely off-the-shelf components. As you may recall, Google has already put a Nexus S into space as part of a low-tech experiment.