The world's first satellite running off a smartphone is about to launch into space. The nanosatellite is called the STRaND-1, short for the Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator. It is a diminuative 11.8 inches tall and weighs just 9.5 pounds, and inside is a Google Nexus One smartphone.
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited reports, "A UK mission, jointly developed by the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), to send the world’s first smartphone satellite into orbit, is due to launch on 25th February."
Why a smartphone satellite? The researchers say it's because smartphones already have a lot of the advanced technological features they'd want in a satellite anyway, including "cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors – almost everything a spacecraft needs except the solar panels and propulsion."
In fact, here's the STRaND-1 showing the smartphone camera peeking out of the back:
And don't forget apps. Yes, even for space travel, there's an app for that.
SSTL reports, "During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will use a number of experimental ‘Apps’ to collect data whilst a new high-speed linux-based CubeSat computer developed by SSC takes care of the satellite. During phase two, the STRaND-1 team plan 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."
Here is an animation showing how the STRaND-1 will work:
The team was able to develop this satellite in just three months during their spare time, proving in part that with today's technology, we can try out new things with little cost or risk thanks to how advanced common gadgets like cell phones have become -- and yes, also 3D printing. This satellite will carry what is believed to be the first 3D-printed part into space.
SSTL’s Head of Science, Doug Liddle said “We’ve deliberately asked this enthusiastic and talented young team to do something very non-standard in terms of the timescales, processes and the technologies used to put the satellite together because we want to maximise what we learn from this research programme. I can’t wait to see what happens next!”