UK to Launch First Smartphone-Operated Satellite
STRaND-1 cubesat during final assembly and test phase December 2012. Phone camera is visible through the porthole at the top of the stack.
Image credit: SSTL/SSC
The United Kingdom is getting ready to launch the world’s first satellite run entirely using a mobile phone. The Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration satellite (STRaND-1) was developed by researchers from the University of Surrey and will be fully controlled using a Google Nexus phone for part of its mission, which is expected to last six months.
The core of the STRaND-1 satellite is made out of an unmodified Nexus One smartphone that runs Google’s Android OS. “We haven’t gutted the Nexus. We’ve done lots and lots of tests on it; we’ve put our own software on it. But we’ve essentially got a regular phone, connected up the USB to it and put it in the satellite,” Dr. Chris Bridges, Surrey Space Center‘s lead engineer for this project, told the BBC. The smartphone’s 5MP camera will take pictures of Earth and the moon.
During the first phase of STRaND-1’s mission, a high-speed linux-based CubeSat computer will operate the satellite while the smartphone collects data using experimental apps. On its second phase, the satellite will switch operations to the smartphone to test the capabilities of standard smartphone components in space.
Besides being the first smartphone satellite, the STRaND-1 will also be the first to test two new propulsion technologies. The first is the Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment (Warp Drive), which uses the ejection of a water alcohol mixture to provide thrust. The second is the Pulsed Plasma Thrusters, which uses an electric current to heat and ablate a material to produce a charged gas that is then accelerated by a magnetic field to push the cubesat along.
The STRaND-1 is a joint project between the Surrey Space Center and Surrey Satellite Technology. It will be operated from the Surrey Space Center’s ground station at the University of Surrey. The satellite will be launched from India on Feb. 25.
A STRaND-2 is already in development.