The Tech Herald

Android smartphone to become satellite control system

by Steven Mostyn - Jan 25 2011, 19:56

Android heading for the stars. Image: liahiu/Flickr.

Many of today’s mobile phones boast a touch-screen interface, a Web browser, multimedia capabilities, front and rear digital cameras, on-board GPS, accelerometer technology, and even the ability to host video conferencing.

While that list of features may seem futuristic when compared to the phones of yesterday, are modern mobile handsets advanced enough to survive the inhospitable conditions of outer space?

Well, a team of British engineers from Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and the Surrey Space Centre is endeavouring to answer that question by sending an (as yet unspecified) Android smartphone into space.

Beyond merely testing the physical parameters of modern consumer electronics, the handset will actually be utilised as a control component inside a small orbiting satellite tasked with snapping photographs of the Earth.

According to SSTL project manager Shaun Kenyon, the ‘STRaND-1’ mission will use a standard off-the-shelf smartphone worth around $450 USD—plus the device won’t be in any way disassembled in order to integrate only select components.

“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,” he said in a BBC report. “We’re flying it as is.”

Although the phone will initially serve as back-up computer, the team hopes it will function well enough in space to eventually control all of the satellite’s core functions.

The STRaND-1 satellite mission is expected to launch later in the year.

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