Researchers at Surrey Satellite Technology are prepping an Android device to launch with their Strand-1 satellite into orbit around the Earth later this year. In an attempt to see how well the device stands the conditions in space, as well as see if the device could be used as the powerhouse of a satellite, the team will be conducting many tests once it reaches orbit.
"Smartphones pack lots of components – such as sensors, video cameras, GPS systems and Wifi radios – that are technologically advanced but a fraction of the size, weight and cost of components used in existing satellite systems. And because many smartphones also run on free operating systems that lend themselves to online software developers, the creators of applications for smartphones could feasibly develop apps for satellites," lead researcher Dr Chris Bridges stated when questioned about the bold move.
While in space, a computer will test the vital statistics of the phone. Checking operation status and conducting tests such as radioing images and messages to Earth, if the phone passes these initial tests, the computer will shut down allowing the device to fully operate the satellite.
The smartphone "processing hub" cost less than £300 which allowed the entire satellite to come in under the price of a family car, says the team.
Bridges goes on to talk about what smartphone-powered satellites could mean for thus industry. "If a smartphone can be proved to work in space, it opens up lots of new technologies to a multitude of people and companies for space who usually can’t afford it. It’s a real game-changer for the industry."