A smartphone launched into space yesterday will orbit the earth for six months. The Nexus One has been blasted into the cosmos from India by a team of researchers from the University of Surrey. ‘But why?’ I hear you ask. Good question.
The reason seems to be threefold:
- To test the durability of everyday commercial components
- To test 2 new innovative propulsion systems
- (And most importantly) to test the theory made famous in the 1979 science fiction thriller Alien that ‘in space no one can hear you scream’.
The ‘smartphone-sat’, which weighs 4.3kg and is 10x30cm, will orbit the earth for six months, taking pictures of the earth and moon as it goes. Developed by the University of Surrey’s Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL), the handset, which is equipped with apps such as iTesa and 360, will record the magnitude of the magnetic field and will act as a method of establishing its own position (images captured during the orbit will be posted on Facebook).
During its journey the Scream In Space app will play videos of screams submitted online – such as this one by Year 6 at Chudleigh CE Community Primary School or this from Richard Barrington – and monitor if the phone’s on board speakers pick up the noise. The theory goes that because space is a vacuum and there are no molecules, sound cannot travel as the vibrations are not carried. Hmm, intriguing.
In addition to this highly technical experiment they are also testing these the two new propulsions systems:
- Warp Drive (Water Alcohol Resist Jet Propulsion De-Orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) which will see whether an ejection of water and alcohol can provide thrust.
- Pulsed Plasma Thrusters which will use an electric current to heat and evaporate a material, producing a charged gas that can then be accelerated in one direction to push the satellite in another.
The handset remains physically unaltered. Dr Chris Bridges, SSC's lead engineer on the venture, said:
"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," he told BBC News.
"This is about looking at the latest technologies that are out there and seeing whether they are up to the harsh challenge of space."
While Sir Martin Sweeting, director of SSC, and also executive chairman of SSTL said: "This mission is a fantastic achievement and a great tribute to the hard work of the engineers involved." Bravo!
What a wonderfully wacky world we live in, dear reader. A perfectly beautiful Nexus One has been released into space – never to be returned – to test whether the tagline from a fictional sci-fi ‘70s thriller is actually true. How very bizarre. Still, we’re looking forward to the findings, nonetheless. The progress of the Strand 1 Satellite – which stands for Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellie Demonstration - can be followed on Twitter.
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