MacDirectory Magazine

Fall-Winter 2011

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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Page 106 of 115

INTERVIEW ODYSSEY SPACE RESEARCH: IPHONE'S FINAL FRONTIER >SPACE WORDS BY MATTHEW SCHILDROTH On July 8, 2011, NASA launched the final mission of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and on that shuttle went two of Apple's space-certified iPhone 4s running SpaceLab, a specially designed app for running experiments aboard the International Space Station. iPhone's historical voyage to space exists thanks to the hard work of the staff at Odyssey Space Research. In order to explore and learn more about this project, spoke with Brian Rishikof, CEO of Odyssey Space Research. MacDirectory > How did Odyssey Space Research first get involved in the program? Brian Rishikof > This is actually a homegrown idea initiated right here inside Odyssey. Notionally, it had been percolating in the back of our minds for a while, but we were waiting for a device with the right characteristics before taking it to fruition. MD > What made the iPhone the device of choice versus another smartphone such as an Android or a specialized device? BHR > Aside from the fact that I have an affinity for Apple stuff, iPhone 4 was the first device of its kind released with the necessary sensors and capabilities. This was back in June of 2010, when we really started taking it seriously. Most notably, iPhone 4 added a three-axis Gyroscope. Since we're a "Space Company" specializing in guidance, navigation and control, as opposed to an "App Company," the inherent features in iPhone 4 made it possible for us to capitalize on the idea and formulate an experiment that exploited our core competencies as well as the features of the device. As for considering specialized options, one premise of the entire project was to show what you could do with an off-the-shelf platform as opposed to something that is purpose built — which would be far too expensive. MD > How large of a company is Odyssey Space Research? Do you have a team of developers, or was the work done mostly by individual people? BHR > While Odyssey has a bit over 50 employees, the app- centric part of the project was really handled by only two people, Matt Benson and me, with some algorithm assistance from a math guru on our team. And it was only part time. But from a software "development" point of view, Matt did ALL the work and put in an extraordinary effort in addition to performing his "day job", which is developing flight software for NASA's next human space transportation system, the MultiPurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). I'd also like to point out that certification of the hardware platforms for spaceflight was a non-trivial element of the work involved. For that, we formed a relationship with a key partner called Nanoracks . They offer commercial access and services for small payloads to the International Space Station. Part of the U.S. segment of the ISS has been designated a U.S. National Laboratory, which makes it an ideal destination for such experiments. Nanoracks was a perfect fit for us and did an outstanding job, with equally outstanding cooperation from NASA. MD > How long did it take to engineer the app? BHR > I'm proud to say that our development team — Matt, a top notch engineer — created the app in record time. I'd say it went from idea to fully functioning app in just three or four months. And the flight hardware certification for spaceflight took place in the same three- to four-month period. MD > Since this was NASA's last mission, would other countries be able to utilize the app equally in their own missions? BHR > Usability of the app itself is not constrained but it is truly only experimental in nature, without any "inline" function. Any practical exploitation would require significant additional work and extension of its functionality. MD > Have a lot of people downloaded the app for themselves? BHR > Yes, thousands and thousands. I don't have an exact number off hand. It spiked on announcement and again around the flight. MD > What was it like to know your team's work was as important as it was in the mission? BHR >Well, with regard to the mission, I'd rather characterize our team's work as exciting, interesting, and potentially paradigm shifting. The mission itself and many, many other aspects of it were far more important. I think that the combination of the last Shuttle mission and the first flight of an iconic platform like iPhone 4 garnered a lot of attention, but it didn't make it more important. MD > What is the future of Odyssey Space Research? BHR > As I said, Odyssey is a "Space Company" and the bulk of our work focuses on future spacecraft and technologies, so we're fortunate to be participating on several other exciting projects. . . . The big project that NASA continues to run every day, of course, is the International Space Station — where our iPhones are right now — and access to the ISS will continue via international partners, to be augmented shortly by some U.S. commercial capability, whose development is sponsored in part by NASA. So, I'm not concerned about the future of having access to space with NASA's cooperation. I'm much more eager to see the experiments exercised on orbit and to get them back down to Earth so we can analyze the data. The results will define our next steps. ios/id441829040?mt=8 MacDirectory 105 M a c D i r e c t o r y

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