Nexus One launched into space on CubeSat, becomes first PhoneSat in orbit (video)

Google's Nexus One has dreamt of space travel for a while now, but on Monday it was finally launched into orbit aboard a CubeSat dubbed STRaND-1, which was developed by Surrey Satellite Technology and the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Centre. STRaND-1 now holds the honor of being the first PhoneSat and UK CubeSat that has made it into orbit. Alongside the HTC-made handset are an altitude and orbit control system, two propulsion setups and a Linux-based computer with a "high-speed" processor. After the Tux-friendly rig conducts a battery of tests, it'll relinquish control of much of the satellite's functions to the smartphone, which still runs Android.

Not only will the mission test how commercial, off-the-shelf tech can survive in the vacuum and conduct experiments, but it'll squeeze in some fun courtesy of apps developed by winners of a competition held last year. An app called 360 will let folks back on terra firma request their own snapshots of earth taken with the phone's shooter and pin them to a map. Ridley Scott might like to say no one can hear you scream in space, but another application loaded onto the device will put that to the test by playing user-submitted shrieks and recording them with the handset's microphone as they playback. Hit the break for more details and a brief video overview of the satellite, or jab the more coverage links to partake in the app shenanigans.

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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 www.uk.amsat.org 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 https://twitter.com/SurreyNanosats and for more information visit http://www.sstl.co.uk/STRAND-nanosatellite

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. http://www.360app.co.uk/

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. www.screaminspace.com

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Nexus One launched into space on CubeSat, becomes first PhoneSat in orbit (video)