First the Japanese send a humanoid robot into space and now Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd. have announced the successful launch of the STRaND-1 nanosatellite, a small robotic spacecraft that's based on a Nexus One phone running the Linux-based Google Android operating system. The STRaND-1 is also believed to be the first satellite built using 3D printed components, and the first to use two new propulsion methods including Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPT) and WARP DRiVE (don't get excited, it stands for Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment). So what's that Nexus One phone up to?
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 STRaND team also ran a facebook contest to select some additional apps that were loaded on the phone for use during the flight including: iTesa, which will use the phone's sensors to record magnetic field data, the STRAND Data app, which will display telemetry data on the phone (another onboard camera will photograph the phone), 360, which will allow the public to request a photo of the earth via the phone's camera, and finally Scream in Space, an app generates screams using the phone's speaker to test the theory that in space, no one can hear you scream. Read on to see videos about the STRaND-1 probe and of STRaND-1 being launched on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV C-20