NASA Launches Nexus One Into Orbit, Controlling the First PhoneSat Unit


No one could have predicted that when the Google Nexus One was manufactured, it would soon be orbiting through space. Not only that, it would also be the central control unit for a highly sophisticated nano-satellite.

HTC and NASA announced back in October of last year that they were planning to launch a new generation of satellites called a nano-satellite, or PhoneSat which uses commercial off-the-shelf products.


A Google Nexus One was launched into orbit, outfitted in a CubeSat holding unit named the STRaND-1. The unit was developed by Surrey Satellite Technology and the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Center.

Believe it or not, the STRaND-1 is the first PhoneSat and UK CubeSat to be launched into orbit. Which also makes the Google Nexus One, the first phone to arrive in space. I'm sure astronauts have had phones with them on the space station and on space missions, but this is the first device actually IN space.

Before the STRaND-1 PhoneSat was launched, the Nexus One was tested extensively to ensure it could survive under space conditions. The Android flagship was placed in thermal-vacuum chambers, and also underwent extreme vibration tests and high-altitude balloon flights.


The STRaND-1 PhoneSat is also equipped with an altitude and orbit control system, two propulsion units, and a separate Linux-based computer powered by a "high-speed" processor. Once the satellite conducts some performance tests, it will activate the smartphone and let it take control of the unit.

The mission isn't all business though, there seems to be a bit of fun involved. Several phone apps designed specifically for the Nexus One will allow folks the opportunity to do some outer space experiments. For example, an app called 360 will let folks to tap into the PhoneSat and capture photos of earth, thanks to the smartphones camera, which are then pinned on an interactive map. Everyone else will then be able to browse photos, and see what the Earth looks like from various locations above.

Yet another program will check out Ridley Scott's famous assertion that no one can hear you scream in space. It will playback user submitted noises, screams, and cries into space and then record the sound with the handsets microphone. Thanks to the app, we'll have some idea of whether or not sound carries through space.


Interestingly enough, the apps were developed in a competition held last year to see what creative folks could draw up for the Nexus One controller unit.

We have some goodies for you below, at least if you're into this kind of thing. There's a short video of the PhoneSat in orbit followed by an official press release. Furthermore, hit up the source below for more information about the project.


World's first "phonesat", STRaND-1, successfully launched into orbit

STRaND-1, a nanosatellite carrying a smartphone, has successfully launched into Space from India today.

STRaND-1 will fly the world's first smartphone in orbit and is the UK's first CubeSat launched.
The satellite flies a Google Nexus One smartphone, a new Linux-based high-speed processor and attitude & orbit control system, and two novel propulsion systems (8 pulsed plasma thrusters and a water-alcohol propulsion system).
STRaND-1 is a training and demonstration mission 3U CubeSat (10cm x 30cm) weighing 4.3 kg, developed by the Surrey Space Centre and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.
Launched into a 785km Sun-synchronous orbit on ISRO's PSLV launcher, the spacecraft is an innovative 3U CubeSat weighing 4.3 kg and is the world's first "phonesat" to go into orbit, as well as the first UK CubeSat to be launched. Developed by a team from the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), STRaND-1 is a training and demonstration mission, designed to test commercial off-the-shelf technologies in space.


Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, SSC Director and also Executive Chairman of SSTL, commented "STRaND-1 from SSC and SSTL is an example of the real synergy of academic research linked to commercial development and exploitation that is the hallmark of Surrey. This mission is a fantastic achievement and a great tribute to the hard work of the engineers involved. The UK's first nanosatellite SNAP-1, also built by SSC & SSTL and launched in 2000, was the world's most advanced nanosatellite at the time – STRaND-1 continues that story with the latest technologies available to us in 2013."

Sir Martin added: "This launch is SSTL's first with ISRO, and I am looking forward to exploring opportunities for further launches and a wider collaboration on space projects in the future."

During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will be controlled by the satellite's attitude control system and a new high-speed linux-based CubeSat computer. During phase two the STRaND-1 team plans to switch many of the satellite's in-orbit operations to the smartphone, a Google Nexus One which uses the Android operating system, thereby testing the capabilities of many standard smartphone components for a space environment. The smartphone has also been loaded with a number of experimental 'Apps', some serious and some just for fun.


STRaND-1 is flying 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. The WARP DRiVE propulsion system is designed to deorbit the satellite at the end of its useful lifetime.

STRaND-1 is being commissioned and operated from the Surrey Space Centre's ground station at the University of Surrey and amateur radio operators can track it from all over the world. Details of the downlink frequency are available at and we invite radio amateurs world-wide to track STRaND-1. Commissioning is expected to take approximately two weeks, with the switchover to the smartphone and the Apps having to wait until all the other systems onboard the satellite have been fully tested.

You can follow STRaND at and for more information visit


The Apps on board STRaND-1 were developed by winners of a facebook competition held last year:

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 the website, where images can be seen on a map showing where they have been acquired.

The Scream in Space app was developed by Cambridge University Space Flight and 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 play videos of the best screams while in orbit and screams will be recorded using the smartphone's own microphone.

Source: Surrey Satellite Technology LTD