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World's First Phonesat, STRaND-1, Launched Into Orbit

Mon, 02/25/2013 - 11:06am
PD&D Staff

Developed by a team from the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), STRaND-1 is a training and demonstration mission, designed to test commercial off-the-shelf technologies in space. STRaND-1, a nanosatellite carrying a smartphone, has successfully launched into Space from India today.

Launched into a 785 km Sun-synchronous orbit on ISRO’s PSLV launcher, the spacecraft is an innovative 3U (10 x 30 cm) CubeSat weighing 4.3 kg and is the world’s first “phonesat” to go into orbit, as well as the first UK CubeSat to be launched.

Video: Smartphone-Based Satellite

Developed by a team from the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), STRaND-1 is a training and demonstration mission, designed to test commercial off-the-shelf technologies in space. 

“STRaND-1 from SSC and SSTL is an example of the real synergy of academic research linked to commercial development and exploitation that is the hallmark of Surrey,” says Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, SSC Director and also Executive Chairman of SSTL. “This mission is a fantastic achievement and a great tribute to the hard work of the engineers involved.”

During the first phase of the mission, STRaND-1 will be controlled by the satellite’s attitude control system and a new high-speed Linux-based CubeSat computer. During phase two, the STRaND-1 team plans to switch many of the satellite’s in-orbit operations to the smartphone, a Google Nexus One which uses the Android operating system, thereby testing the capabilities of many standard smartphone components for a space environment. The smartphone has also been loaded with a number of experimental ‘Apps’, some serious and some just for fun.

STRaND-1 is flying innovative new technologies such as a ‘WARP DRiVE’ (Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) and electric Pulsed Plasma Thrusters (PPTs); both ‘firsts’ to fly on a nanosatellite. The WARP DRiVE propulsion system is designed to deorbit the satellite at the end of its useful lifetime. 

STRaND-1 is being commissioned and operated from the Surrey Space Centre’s ground station at the University of Surrey and amateur radio operators can track it from all over the world.

Commissioning is expected to take approximately two weeks, with the switchover to the smartphone and the Apps having to wait until all the other systems onboard the satellite have been fully tested.

Follow STRaND at https://twitter.com/SurreyNanosats and visit http://www.sstl.co.uk/STRAND-nanosatellite for more information.

The Apps on board STRaND-1 were developed by winners of a Facebook competition held last year:

iTesa will record the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone during orbit. Used as a precursor to further scientific studies, such as detecting Alfven waves (magnetic oscillations in our upper atmosphere), the iTEsa app could provide proof of principle.

The STRAND Data app will show satellite telemetry on the smartphone's display which can be imaged by an additional camera on-board. This will enable new graphical telemetry to interpret trends.

The 360 app will take images using the smartphone's camera and use the technology onboard the spacecraft to establish STRaND-1's position. The public will be able to request their own unique satellite image of Earth through http://www.360app.co.uk/, where images can be seen on a map showing where they have been acquired.

The Scream in Space app (http://www.screaminspace.com/) was developed by Cambridge University Space Flight and will make full use of the smartphone's speakers. Testing the “no one can hear you scream in space” theory made popular in the 1979 film 'Alien', the app will play videos of the best screams while in orbit and screams will be recorded using the smartphone's own microphone.


The Surrey Space Centre (SSC), a Research Centre of the Faculty of Electronics and Physical Sciences (FEPS) at the University of Surrey, is a world leading Centre of Excellence in Space Engineering, whose aim is to underpin the technical development of the space industry through its advanced research programs. SSC, comprising more than 90 researchers and faculty specializing in small satellite techniques, develops new innovative technologies which are exploited by the space industry. It provides well-focused space engineering education, postgraduate and industrial short courses, training the next generation space scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and business leaders.

For more information, visit http://www.surrey.ac.uk/ssc/.

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