Google is no stranger to having some of its devices up in space, what with the Nexus S and One each taking on different missions in years past. Up next: Project Tango. The search giant's smartphone, which packs 3D sensors that allow it to track and map just about anything around it, has been playing a role in NASA's Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellite program, otherwise known as SPHERES. As Reuters notes, these spherical satellites could one day "take over daily chores for astronauts or even handle risky duties outside of the vessel." Accordingly, on July 11th, NASA and Google are doing good on the promise to launch Project Tango smartphones into orbit, where they will be used as "the brains and eyes" of the bowling ball-sized, hovering robots at the International Space Station.

SPHERES Project manager, Chris Provencher, told Reuters they had been looking to add better processing power, cameras as well as a slew of sensors to the robots, and smartphones were the way to go. "This type of capability is exactly what we need for a robot that's going to do tasks anywhere inside the space station," he said about Tango possessing the right attributes to meet the program's needs. "We wanted to add communication, a camera, increase the processing capability, accelerometers and other sensors. As we were scratching our heads thinking about what to do, we realized the answer was in our hands [smartphones]."

[SPHERES image credit: NASA]

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Google Project Tango smartphones heading to space this week