For the first time ever, NASA and the STRAND-1 satellite team are planning on sending an Andriod smartphone into space. At first glance, I thought to myself, “didn’t Google do this with the Nexus S way back in 2010?” After a little more reading I found that this was not the case. Google merely sent the Nexus S into “sub-space” at a maximum height of 107,000 feet high, three times higher than a commercial jet.
The new satellite however, will be the first smartphone (let alone Android) to orbit our big blue planet. Deemed the “STRAND-1,” this satellite will be running on Androids very capable operating system. As you can see in the the tear-down video below, in the very core of the satellite lies, what? You guessed it, (maybe,) a Nexus S smartphone.
Shaun Kenyon, the leader of the STRAND-1 sattelite team, is just one of many volunteers trying to put the great product we know and love in space. “You’ve got this thing in your pocket which has the same computing capability as a supercomputer did in the 1970s,” says Kenyon. “All of that electronics has got billions and billions of dollars of R and D in it, so we’re just trying to make use of all that research and see if those electronics will work in space.” Chris Bridges, a colleague of Kenyon’s goes on to state that Android smartphones already have almost all of the specifications for satellites we have come to know, including the accelerometer sensors that we use for gaming, it has still photo and video capabilities, and really all that’s missing are the solar panels.
Shaun Kenyon, Chris Bridges and the entire STRAND team had already been putting smartphones through rigorous testing including placing the phone in a vacuum, weather balloons at high altitudes, the heat of an African desert, the frigidness of an Alaskan winter and even in Kenyon’s home oven to observe it’s reactions to adverse conditions. According to Kenyon, “space should be a doodle.”
Set to launch later this year, the STRAND-1 will have a few simple, but highly impressive tasks to complete in the duration of its orbit. The satellite will use the phone’s camera to take “postcards from space,” which I can only imagine will be next to incredible, and it will attempt to debunk the myth that if you scream in space, no one will hear you. For the latter, the phone will use it’s own built in speaker to blast a series of “screams” measured by the phones own interior microphone. Bundled up into the satellite, STRAND also included a series of electronics allowing the phone to pick up on Wi-Fi signals, which could lead to drastic decreases in the size of larger, more comprehensive satellites in the future by creating a network of “intra-satellite links.” This project could make huge headway for change in satellites as we know them, as our smartphone supercomputers get more and more powerful.