When the word “satellite” is mentioned, what comes across your mind? Most folks would think of something large and unwieldy, full of mechanical bolts and nuts that only a rocket scientist can understand. Others would think of Soundwave from the Transformers movie, but the Strand-1 satellite here, is touted to be the real deal. Seriously, it was announced a couple of years back, and is finally on course for take-off later this month. Specially developed by Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and the Surrey Space Center (SSC) the Strand-1 is not large by satellite standards, and holds the distinction of being the world’s first smartphone satellite that has been housed around the chassis of a Google Nexus One handset.
The moment it hits orbit, the satellite will make use of specially developed apps in order to pick up scientific data. Initially, the control of the mission will be handled through a Linux-based computer developed by SSC with the University of Surrey. The small craft will test a couple of propulsion systems, one involving a Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment (WARP DRiVE), the other involving small pulsed plasma thrusters.
The Nexus One will be placed along the side of the inside of the satellite where its 5MP camera will be able to take pictures through a window on the rectangular shaped spacecraft. Strand is actually an acronym for Surrey Training Research and Nano satellite Demonstration. That’s right, ” nano satellite,” as this whole apparatus is only about 30cm long, and weighs about 4.3kg.
Obviously it has some rather customized software in it, but otherwise, “We haven’t gutted the Nexus. We’ve done lots and lots of tests on it; we’ve put our own software on it. But we’ve essentially got a regular phone, connected up the USB to it and put it in the satellite,” according to SSC’s lead engineer, Dr. Chris Bridges.
If all goes well, the scientific team will begin turning control over to the Nexus One where the mission will make history as the first phone to run a satellite in orbit. From there, it may begin running the “Scream in Space” app which will play videos of people screaming to test the notion, “in space, no one can hear you scream.” There is also an app to measure more practical information related to the magnetic environment.
The satellite is scheduled to launch on February 25th.