Smartphone Controlled Satellite To Be Launched in a Fortnight

Mankind was doomed the moment the first remote control was invented. Now that the Brits are planning to launch a satellite controllable via a Google Nexus smartphone, it is clear as day that the road to perdition has been paved.The development of the STRaND-1 satellite started more than 2 years ago, judging by this news report from 2011. Given that it was created by Surrey Space Centre in association with the Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, it should not surprise anyone that its name is in fact an acronym that stands for Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration.

The Google Nexus phone is about to take a six-month walk on the wild side, and by that I mean in the outer space, of course. This particular smartphone has been chosen by the aforementioned team of scientists (Google advertising much?) to represent the brain of the STRaND-1 satellite. The phone will be pressed against a side panel of the 30 cm long, 4.3 kg satellite, so that its 5MP camera can take pictures of the Moon and of the Earth. I don’t want to criticize them, but these scientists seem to be a bit behind as far as technology go, as 13MP cameras are rather common now on smartphones.

Dr Chris Bridges, the Surrey Space Centre’s lead engineer, stated the following in an interview for BBC: “We haven’t gutted the Nexus. We’ve done lots and lots of tests on it; we’ve put our own software on it. But we’ve essentially got a regular phone, connected up the USB to it and put it in the satellite. [...] 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.”

Doug Liddle, head of science for SSTL added: “We’ve deliberately asked this enthusiastic and talented young team to do something very non-standard in terms of the timescales, processes and the technologies used to put the satellite together because we want to maximise what we learn from this research programme.”

To prove that the developers are all about improving their previous work, the work on STRaND-2 has already begun. Maybe they will pick a more advanced smarphone for the reiteration of the Nexus satellite. Supposing everything goes according to the plan, STRaND-1 will be launched in two weeks from now, on February 25 from Sriharikota, India. As this is a first and the smartphone runs Android, I can only finish this post in one way: take that, Apple!

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