Scientists from the University of Surrey in the UK are getting ready to launch their latest satellite, on February 25th. It’s called the STRaND-1, and it has a very interesting characteristic. It’s powered by a smartphone. A Google Nexus One to be exact.
The satellite, which is a 30cm CubeSat that weighs 4.3kg will be launched into a 785km sun-synchronous orbit. The launch will be taking place from India, and is the first UK CubeSat to be launched. The reason they are using a smartphone at the heart of the satellite is because smartphones have the highly advanced technologies and key features that are considered integral to the satellite. This includes the cameras, accelerometers, radio links and the high performance processors.
This is what Dr. Chris Bridges, who is the lead engineer for the STRaND-1, had to say to IET:
“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.”
Besides being the first UK CubeSat to be launched, the first satellite to be powered by a smartphone, the STRaND-1 will also have a couple of other firsts. New technologies such as a WARP DRiVE (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) and electric Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs) will also fly for the first time on a nanosattelite. It will also be flying a part that was 3D printed, which is believed to be the first.
SSTL’s head of science, Doug Liddle says, “I can’t wait to see what happens next.”