Britain to send mobile phones into space

by PYB James | Jan 24, 2011

British scientists are planning to send mobile phone technology into orbit to test its durability and usefulness in the vacuum of space.

The Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) at Guildford will be sending an unknown make of phone running the Google-developed Android operating system into space.

The mission is dubbed the Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration, or STRaND-1. According to SSTL project manager Shaun Kenyon, the aim is to see “if the phone works up there, and if it does, we want to see if the phone can control a satellite.”

The satellite in question, a 30cm model from the Surrey Space Centre, will initially have the phone, and its onboard control technology modified from the open-source Android software, as a back-up, before being controlled by the high-street-bought unit completely.

The phone is being used without modification to try and research new, cheaper methods of operating satellites and other spacecraft. The mobile is said to cost less than £300, and is much smaller in size than most current control systems.

Kenyon stated that "we're not taking it apart; we're not gutting it; we're not taking out the printed circuit boards and re-soldering them into our satellite - we're flying it as is.”

The phone must be encased in the satellite to protect against the low temperatures and high radiation of outer space. The satellite itself will use global positioning, plasma thrusters and other advanced technology to obey the commands from the mobile phone.

SSTL science head Doug Liddle commented, “the open source nature of the software is very exciting because you can see how further down the line, once we've got the phone working in orbit, we could get people to develop apps for it.”

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