First UK smart phone-run satellite ready for launch

Alex Walls
February 7, 2013

The British-built Strand-1, which will be controlled by a Google Nexus One, is ready for launch.

The 30cm cube satellite weighs 4.3kg and is scheduled to launch on February 25th, piggy backing off the launch of an Indian space agency vehicle from Sriharikota, India.

It will be the first United Kingdom CubeSat launched (a type of miniature satellite) and will be the first entirely smart-phone run satellite, those involved said.

The Nexus One…in space

A collaboration between the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and commercial spacecraft manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), the project would initially use a number of apps on the Google Nexus One to collect data, while the satellite was babysat by a new high-speed linux-based computer developed by SSC, the SSTL said.

However the STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) team planned to hand the satellite’s operations over to the Nexus One and its Android operating system, testing out how the smart phone and its components ran in space, and ran a satellite.

SSTL said smart phones contain highly advanced technologies “and incorporate several key features that are integral to a satellite ‘ such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors ‘ almost everything a spacecraft needs except the solar panels and propulsion.”

The satellite will also test out new forms of propulsion, including one called the WARP DRiVe, which used a water-alcohol mix to provide thrust, the BBC reported.

The STRaND fact sheet states some of the demonstrations expected were whether the phone acted as a reliable onboard computer, whether it could interface with the satellite’s platform over WiFi only and how well the accelerometer data turned out compared with larger systems.

Curried shrimp, potted shrimp, irradiated shrimp

The Nexus One had been put through a number of tests, including freezing and oven temperatures, being put in a vacuum and being blasted with radiation, SSC lead engineer on the project Dr Chris Bridges said.

“It has a good chance of working as it should, but you can never make true design evolutions or foster innovation without taking a few risks: STRaND is cool because it allows us to do just that.”

The project had been developed by engineers and researchers at Surrey with the majority of design and developmental work carried out in their spare time.   The build and test phase had been completed in three months, SSTL said.

In space, no one can hear you scream, according to experimental analysis

The Nexus will also run the ‘Scream in Space’ app doing the news rounds recently, the BBC reported.

Cambridge University students created an app with uploaded videos of people screaming, which would be played at full volume in orbit and recorded, with pictures of each scream and sound files relayed back to earth to find out whether you really can hear people being devoured in space.

Cambridge University Spaceflight asked members of the public to submit their own scream videos via YouTube last year.

The specs

Google Nexus One

32GB data storage

1 GHz processor, 512MB RAM,

Embedded High Performance Computer Digi Wi-9C with IEEE 802. 11 capability,


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