Surrey Satellite plotting sub-orbital Android flight
With all the news surrounding the Curiosity rover, space exploration is certainly a hot topic at the moment.
The BBC’s Richard Hollingham talks to Surrey Satellite engineer Shaun Kenyon about the Guildford-based company’s next satellite, STRaND-1, that has a smartphone at its heart – Google Android smartphone set for satellite launch
(We’ve also covered this topic before, of course – Surrey Satellite Technology announces Android apps heading for space – with the collection of apps that could run on the phone when launched)
The phone will sit at the heart of the 30cm- (11in-) long Strand-1 satellite, which will have a hole cut in the side for the camera. Apps include one designed to capture “postcards from space”, another will hope to prove conclusively whether it’s true that in space no-one can hear you scream. To do this, the phone will play screams and attempt to record them on its inbuilt microphone. Other apps will exploit the phone’s inbuilt magnetometer – used for its compass – to measure the magnetic field around the satellite. It will even use the wi-fi capability.
As Hollingham points out, putting smartphones in space isn’t exactly unique, whether by balloon or on a rocket, but they are looking for the first successful sub-orbital phone flight, with another mission falling to earth…
Apparently STRaND-1 is also facing competition from the NASA backed US project, PhoneSat, which will be “packed with apps” and is due for launch early next year.
What does STRaND-1 stand for? Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration.
From the Surrey Satellite website:
The phone will run on Android’s powerful open-source operating system. A powerful computer, built at the Surrey Space Centre, will test the vital statistics of the phone once in space. The computer will check which components of the phone are working normally and will relay images and messages back to Earth via a radio system. Once all the tests are complete, the plan is to switch off the micro computer and the smartphone will be used to operate parts of the satellite.
Exact launch dates are still not confirmed.