The HTC-made Nexus One turned out to be the first of many Google-branded Android devices. And while the handset is not commercially available anymore, not to mention officially supported when it comes to the latest Android OS version, it’s still an useful gadget, at least for some people.
The Strand-1 is one such Nexus One-based project and a pretty interesting one. The Strand-1, short for Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration 1, happens to be a satellite that will soon go into space to test various things, with the Nexus One and its collection of built-in apps being one of the features of the project.
In fact, the satellite was built around an unmodified (although it is running custom software), fully functional Nexus One smartphone, and will head to space from India, attached to the Isro Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle that will be launched on February 25.
The Nexus One’s mission is to take pictures of the environment using its 5-megapixel camera and use a variety of apps to test out, well, the space around it.
One interesting app that’s going to be found on the Nexus One is the “Scream in Space” app suggested by Cambridge University students. In case you haven’t guessed it by now, the app will play videos of people screaming in order to test that famous Alien tag line: “In space, no-one can hear you scream:”
A camera looking at the phone's own display will record the likely silent screaming faces in the videos.
More scientific uses for this camera include showing the satellite’s telemetry to another application. Additionally, the magnetometer of the Nexus One will also be tested during the six-month mission of the Strand-1.
But what SSTL is really testing with its Strand-1 mission are two propulsion systems that could be used in the future for large-scale projects:
One uses the ejection of a water-alcohol mixture to provide thrust. The system is tiny but has a grand name – Warp Drive (Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment).
The second propulsion technology on Strand is its pulsed plasma thrusters. These use an electric current to heat and ablate a material, producing a charged gas that can then be accelerated in one direction in a magnetic field to push the cubesat in the other direction.
Both propulsion systems produce only small amounts of thrust but are very efficient in terms of how much “propellant” they consume.
Why has the Nexus One been chosen for the project? Well, the company appears to be interested in using smartphone-like components in future space-related projects, so what better way to test the way they work in space than by actually sending a smartphone up there and see how it operates. The fact that the chosen smartphone runs Android isn’t random either, as the company is interested in testing open-source software for future projects.
The Strand-2 will take another popular device up into space, Microsoft’s Kinect, but that will happen at a later date.