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STRaND-1 "smartphone satellite" launches


February 25, 2013

STRaND-1 having its solar panels atached

STRaND-1 having its solar panels atached

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The world’s first space smartphone was launched into orbit today (Feb 25) atop an Indian Space Research Organisation PSLV rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. It’s part of the systems of the STRaND-1 spacecraft, which was sent into a 785-kilometer (488-mi) Sun-synchronous orbit where it will carry out a series of technology demonstrations under the guidance of the Surrey Space Centre’s ground station at the University of Surrey, UK.

Launched along with the twin BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) spacecraft, STRaND-1 is also the UK’s first CubeSat. It was developed by a team from the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). The 10 cm x 30 cm (3.9 in x 11.8 in) 3U CubeSat weighs 4.3 kg (9.4 lb) and is carrying out a training and demonstration mission. In addition to the Google Nexus One smartphone it has a Linux-based high-speed processor, attitude and orbit control systems, eight pulsed plasma thrusters, and a water-alcohol propulsion system.

The first phase will be controlled by the Linux processor as STRaND-1 carries out tests on its new experimental propulsion and control systems. In the second phase, the smartphone will take control in order to demonstrate how many smartphone systems can be readily adapted for satellite applications.

Being a smartphone, it of course has some apps developed from a Facebook competition.

The first is the iTesa, which records the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone while in orbit and will be used as proof of principle for future studies of magnetic oscillations in the upper atmosphere.

The STRAND Data app displays satellite telemetry on the smartphone's screen. Images taken of the display by an onboard camera will provide new graphical telemetry to interpret trends.

The 360 app uses images from the smartphone's camera to establish STRaND-1's position. These images will be available to the public on request along with a map showing where the images were taken.

For a bit of fun, the Scream in Space app from Cambridge University Space Flight uses the phone’s speaker to test the veracity of the Alien tagline, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The app will play video screams and the playback will be recorded by the phone’s microphone.

The satellite will undergo a commissioning process over next two weeks by the Surrey Space Centre’s ground station at the University of Surrey with the switchover to smartphone control scheduled for after systems tests have been completed.

One of the satellites two experimental propulsion systems is its WARP DRiVE (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment), which uses a water/alcohol mixture for propulsion. This will be used deorbit the satellite at the end of its lifetime.

According to SST, STRaND-1 can be tracked by radio amateurs with the downlink frequency available at AMSAT-UK.

Source: Surrey Satellite Technology

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

This maybe a silly question; but how can a mobile phone, or any other microprocessor work in the near absolute zero temperature environment?

Such equipment (on Earth anyway) are not guarantied to work in freezing temperatures... I assume that "real" satellites do have some kind of heating system keeping the electrical components at ideal temperature (whatever the ideal temperature maybe). So, what is the answer to this riddle?


Its actually quite simple. Moisture. On earth we have to deal with condensation from thermal differential. In space, there is no moisture to collect on the components. Actually it just helps the device to run more efficiently since heat is the #1 enemy to electronic component failure.

Raymond Johnson

Its Quite simple really. Water. We have it in our atmosphere and it reacts to variations in temperature to create problems like condensation. In Space the absence of moisture negates the problem of operating temperatures that are in the cold region of this issue. No Moisture to build up on the components means there is nothing there to short out the circuits with would cause failure. As a person who Overclocks CPU's as a hobby, there is no such thing as too cold for your CPU.(In theory....There actually was an issue called the Cold bug a few years ago but it was fixed with a bios update) We ran LN2 on our cpu's, of course we had to insulate the surrounding areas so condensation wouldn't flood the motherboard, but some pretty radical speeds were achieved.

My Next Goal in life, Overclock a CPU in the vacuum of space. (in the shade of course =P)


"it has a Linux-based high-speed processor, attitude and orbit control systems"

What kind of aTTitude Systems does it have? I am sure there are many parents of teenagers that would like to have those here on earth. ;-)

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