Researchers in the UK are using a Google Android phone to create the first ever satellite powered by a smart phone.
The 11.8-inch satellite Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator (STRAND-1 ) will be launched into lower-earth orbit to take pictures of Earth on a mission later this year.
Researchers from the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology hope to show that the relatively inexpensive components of the Android phone can power a satellite.
Mission concepts engineer Shaun Kenyon told Time Magazine that the economic implications of the mission are huge.
“If these phones stand up to the extreme environments we see in space, it's amazing to think we could eventually leverage low-cost mobile technology to use in satellite production,” he said.
The three major challenges the STRAND-1 will face on its mission include temperature extremes, launch vibrations and heavy G-forces, as well as radiation.
The satellite will rely on its own GPS, guidance, and thrusters, but will use the phone as a backup to the main computer. Then, if all goes well, it will take over as the main "brain" and control the satellite's functions.
The phone's cellular radio won't be used, instead, the team will communicate with the phone using the satellite radio technology already in place.
A camera will be outfitted so the controllers on the ground can see the screen. This will allow the scientists to control the phone with their own custom software packages.
Android was picked as the best operating system because of its open-source nature and the ability to customize software.