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Scientists launch smartphone into space

Scientists have launched a Google Nexus One smartphone into space to see if any noise can be picked up in the vacuum of space.

Testing the strapline from the 1979 movie Alien – ‘in space no one can hear you scream’, boffins from the University of Surrey launched the smartphone into orbit from India. The phone will play several audio files submitted online of people screaming.

Weighing 4.3 kg (9.5lbs) and measuring 10cm by 30cm (4in by 12in), the satellite has been developed by the University of Surrey’s Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).

The experiment, dubbed STRaND-1, is designed to test commercial off-the-shelf phone technologies in space.

During the first phase of the mission, the satellite’s attitude control system and a new high-speed linux-based CubeSat computer will control STRaND-1.

During phase two the STRaND-1 team plan to switch many of the satellite’s in-orbit operations to the smartphone, an Android-powered Google Nexus One, testing the capabilities of many standard smartphone components in a space environment. The smartphone has also been loaded with a number of experimental ‘Apps”, some serious and some just for fun.

One app, called iTesa, will monitor magnetic fields around the smartphone in orbit. Another app, called Scream in Space, will play videos of screams and will monitor any sounds picked up by the phone’s mic. The 360 app will take images using the smartphone’s camera and use the technology onboard the spacecraft to establish STRaND-1’s position.

Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, SSC Director said the “mission is a fantastic achievement and a great tribute to the hard work of the engineers involved.”

Strand-1’s progress can be tracked on Twitter.


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