Space researchers at the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and SSTL have developed STRaND-1, a CubeSat containing a smartphone payload that will be launched into orbit around the Earth in 2013.
STRaND-1 is being built in engineer's free time and using advanced commercial off-the-shelf components, which fits perfectly with SSTL's innovation and low-cost philosophies.
How big is the spacecraft? What's the phone? What will the phone do? We've got all the answers for you here!
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STRaND-1 carries an amateur radion 9600 bps AX.25 packet radio downlink on 437.568 MHz. Frequency and telemetry information for STRaND-1 is provided on the AMSAT-UK
Firsts in space?
Being the first smartphone-operated satellite in space is just one of the many firsts that STRaND-1 is hoping to achieve. It will fly innovative new technologies such as a WARP DRiVE (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment)
, and electric Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs)
; both firsts to fly on a nanosatellite. It is also flying a 3D printed part - believed to be the first to fly in space!
STRaND-1 mission and spacecraft technology
STRaND-1 is a 30cm cubesat weighing 3.5kg. At the heart of the satellite is a Google Nexus One smartphone with an Android operating system. Smartphones are highly advanced and incorporate several key features that are integral to a satellite such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors - almost everything except solar panels and propulsion. During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will use a number a number of experimental Apps to collect data while a new high-speed linux-based cubesat computer developed by SSC takes care of the satellite. During phase two, the STRaND team hope to switch the satellite's in-orbit operations to the smartphone, thereby testing the capabilities of a number of standard smartphone components for a space environment.
The smartphone avionics suite is only one of the many technological advances packed into this 4kg satellite. To precisely point and manoeuvre, the satellite also incorporates advanced guidance, navigation and control systems.
STRaND-1 Space Apps
During the summer of 2011, the STRaND team ran a facebook competition to find apps to be loaded onto the phone. There are four winners making use of the technology of the Android smartphone, including the microphone, speakers, camera and display in conjunction with the satellite's conventional features - enabling STRaND-1 to do things in space that no-one has done before.
The winning apps
iTesa will record the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone during orbit. Used as a precursor to further scientific studies, such as detecting Alfven waves (magnetic oscillations in our upper atmosphere), the iTEsa app could provide proof of principle.
The STRAND Data app will show satellite telemetry on the smartphone's display which can be imaged by an additional camera on-board. This will enable new graphical telemetry to interpret trends.
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 public will be able to request their own unique satellite image of Earth through a website, where images can be seen on a map showing where they have been acquired.
The Scream in Space app will make full use of the smartphone's speakers. Testing the theory 'in space no-one can hear you scream, made popular in the 1979 film 'Alien', the app will allow the public to upload videos of themselves screaming in a creative way to an allocated website. The most popular videos will be played on the phone while in orbit and the scream recorded using the smartphone's microphone.
Want to know more?
STRaND-1 FAQsSTRaND-1 FAQs
Paper - STRaND1: presented at 1st IAA Conference on University Satellite Missions and CubeSat workshop, Rome 2011
Paper - STRaND-1: Use of a $500 smartphone as the central avionics of a nanosatellite (presented at the 62nd International Astronautical Congress, 2011
STRaND-1 in the news:
STRaND-1 phonesat ready for orbit
- BBC News website
Android reaches new heights
- Flight International
Space apps: smartphone at heart of satellite mission
- New Scientist
Mobile phone to blast into orbit
- BBC News website
Smartphone Powered Satellites are Destined for Space Travel
Android Powered Satellite Headed to Space
- Time: Techland