The Strand-1 micro-satellite (FAQ), controlled by an on-board Google Nexus phone, has been launched into orbit from India by a team of researchers from the University of Surrey. The world’s first “smartphone-sat” will orbit the Earth for six months.
They hope to test the theory, immortalized in the film Alien, that “in space no-one can hear you scream”.
The phone will play out several of the screams submitted by people online. The Scream in Space app was developed by Cambridge University Space Flight and will make full use of the smartphone’s speakers. The 360 app will take images using the smartphone’s camera and use the technology onboard the spacecraft to establish STRaND-1’s position.
The Surrey team will also monitor the durability of standard commercial components in space and test two new innovative propulsion systems.
The first – named Warp Drive (Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) – uses the ejection of a water-alcohol mixture to provide thrust.
The second technology is pulsed plasma thrusters. These use an electric current to heat and evaporate a material, producing a charged gas that can then be accelerated in one direction in a magnetic field to push the satellite in the other direction.
Weighing 4.3 kg (9.5lbs) and measuring 10cm by 30cm (4in by 12in), the satellite has been developed by the University of Surrey’s Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL). Amateur radio operators can track it from all over the world. Details of the downlink frequency are available at amsat-uk.org.
“This mission is a fantastic achievement and a great tribute to the hard work of the engineers involved,” said Sir Martin Sweeting, director of SSC, and also executive chairman of SSTL.
At first, the Strand-1 satellite will be controlled by a standard onboard computer, but in phase two of the mission, a Google Nexus phone will take the reins. Strand-1 is a 3U CubeSat, developed at Surrey Space Centre (University of Surrey) and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and launched in orbit through PSLV C-20 Rocket from India on February 25, 2013.