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Google Nexus One is the first smartphone in space as part of STRaND-1 nanosatellite

The LG Nexus 4 might be the Google phone of the moment, but it’s the Nexus One that kicked things off back in 2010 and it’s making headlines again today as it preps for a trip into space.

You read correctly, the first Nexus device is now taking point as part of the STRaND-1 mission where in which it’ll sit at the heart of a satellite, constructed in a joint effort by the university of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).

The satellite; named STRaND-1 is 30cms long, weighs 4.3kg and will house a Google Nexus One with which it’ll carry out its experiments. The CubeSat design in fact houses a separate Linux-based computer which will maintain control of STRaND-1 whilst a set of experimental apps are utilised, whilst phase two will see the Nexus One employ its hardware for a variety of experiments. Aspects like the phone’s cameras, accelerometer, processor and radio antennas will all be used for carrying out experiments.

Dr Chris Bridges, SSC’s lead engineer on the project, said, “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.

As Dr Bridges points out, STRaND-1 will be undertaking a number of firsts when it launches from Sriharikota, India on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) at the end of the month. Not only will the Nexus One be the first smartphone in orbit, but the satellite will contain what is possibly the first 3D printed component in space and make use of both WARP DRiVE (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) technology and feature Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs) on the nanosatellite.

Do you think the use of smartphone technology in space has a future, or do purpose built systems better suit experiments in space? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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