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STRaND-1 – world's first smartphone-based satellite set to launch


February 12, 2013

The STRaND-1 is a smartphone-based nanosat that is set to become the U.K.'s first CubeSat in space

The STRaND-1 is a smartphone-based nanosat that is set to become the U.K.'s first CubeSat in space

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The University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) are set to launch the world’s first smartphone-based satellite. Built around a Google Nexus One smartphone running on the Android operating system, the STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) satellite will also be the U.K.’s first CubeSat to go into space.

Weighing only 4.3 kilograms (9.5 lb) and standing 30 centimeters (11.8 in) tall, its one of a special class of satellites known as nanosatellites (nanosats), which are satellites with a wet mass between 1 and 10 kg (2.2 and 22 lb). Relying on a off-the-shelf consumer gear helped the team complete building and testing of the STRaND-1 in just three months. The logic is that smartphones already contain much of what a satellite needs, such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors. According to SSTL, the only things it lacks are solar panels and propulsion.

In addition to the smartphone, the STRaND-1 also packs a new high-speed Linux-based CubeSat computer developed by SSC. Its job is to operate the satellite during the first phase of the mission when a series of experimental “apps” will be put through their paces. Then, in phase two, the smartphone will take over as mission control back at the University of Surrey tests how the smartphone components stand up to the space environment.

Dr Chris Bridges, SSC’s lead engineer on the project, said: “A smartphone on a satellite like this has never been launched before but our tests have been pretty thorough, subjecting the phone to oven and freezer temperatures, to a vacuum and blasting it with radiation. It has a good chance of working as it should, but you can never make true design evolutions or foster innovation without taking a few risks: STRaND is cool because it allows us to do just that.”

The smartphone is just one of several firsts for STRaND-1. It will also carry a device called "WARP DRiVE" (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment), which uses a water/alcohol mixture for propulsion, along with a set of Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs) that use an electric arc to vaporize a solid propellant. Finally, the STRaND-1 will include the first 3D-printed part in space.

To be put into a 785 km (488 mile) sun-synchronous orbit, the STRaND-1 is scheduled to launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India on February 25 on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Using components harvested from consumer electronic devices runs in the STRaND family, with the STRaND-2 to include Kinect motion-control sensors to let the nanosats seek each other out and dock to form a new, larger satellite.

An animation of the STRaND-1 in orbit can be seen below.

Source: Surrey Satellite Technology Limited

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Just wait till they get the roaming charges. hehehe

Brian Mcc

Wet mass: the weight of a vehicle including cargo and propellant, when it has a 'full gas tank', as it were. Sun synchronous orbit: an orbit set up so that the satellite always passes over the equator at the same local time. For instance, it may pass the equator heading north 12 times a day, and each time, on the ground directly underneath it the time is 3 pm. Had to look both those things up. I guess i prefer that to a dumbed-down article.

Kim Holder

Kim Holder

Thank you for that well thought out post. I did not know what those terms meant before you told me. And the fact that you had the foresight to tell us before someone asked, further impresses me about you.

Yours is one of best and most intelligent posts, I have ever seen on Gizmag.

Well done.

It occurs to me that someone might think that with such effusive praise, that I might just possibly be saying this sarcastically.

Just so it's perfectly clear: I am not being facetious or sarcastic or insincere or joking in any way, shape or form.

I sincerely mean every bit of praise I gave, here.


Nice work to make a satellite from an Android box. As mentioned, most of the components are included with the added benefit of low power requirements and a powerful processor. I'm surprised no one thought of that one earlier. It's good to see co-operation between Britain and India too.

I also like the information provided by Kim. I had an idea of what wet mass was as it kind of speaks for itself but I had no idea what a sun synchronous orbit was.

Edgar Walkowsky
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