Android phone blasts into space aboard satellite

A 2010-vintage HTC Nexus One is the brains of a satellite launched into orbit Monday by the Indian Space Research Organization, dubbed STRaND-1.

STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research, and Nanosatellite Demonstrator), which weighs around 8 pounds, is the brainchild of UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, which designed the satellite both as a way to gauge how consumer-grade electronics would perform in space and to demonstrate pulsed-plasma thruster use on similar "nanosatellites."

According to SSTL, the Android phone aboard STRaND-1 will run apps that will collect scientific data, take pictures of Earth using its on-board 5-megapixel camera, and even control some satellite functions. Temperature monitoring will prompt the device to run load-intensive programs, heating the CPU and avoiding a frozen battery.

Along with its serious purposes, STRaND-1 will run an app called Scream in Space, which will put the long-held saying, "in space, no one can hear you scream" to the test by playing user-submitted videos and listening for any emitted sound.

SSTL didn't provide an exact unit cost, but said STRaND-1 is only a little more expensive than a "high-end family car."

Nexus One

The Nexus One won't take over for a couple of weeks, according to SSTL, as scientists on the ground verify that everything else aboard the satellite is working. Until the switchover, STRaND-1 is being controlled by the satellite's altitude control system and a Linux-based CubeSat computer.

STRaND-1 is one of six commercial payloads launched into orbit by the ISRO's PSLV-C20 mission, along with its primary cargo, the joint French-Indian oceanographic research satellite SARAL. There is, as yet, no word of a competing iPhone-powered satellite project, although both the iPhone and other Android-powered devices have already been carried into space by intrepid astronauts.

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