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Space researchers at the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) have developed ‘STRaND-1’, a satellite containing a smartphone payload that will be launched into orbit around the Earth later this year. STRaND-1's lead researcher Dr Chris Bridges explains why a smartphone made an ideal satellite payload, “Smartphones pack lots of components – such as sensors, video cameras, GPS systems and Wi-Fi 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 (‘apps’) for smartphones could feasibly develop apps for satellites.” A powerful computer built at the SSC will test the vital statistics of the phone once in space. The computer will check which components of the phone are operating normally and when components malfunction in orbit for recovery. Images and messages from the phone will be sent back to Earth via a radio system. Once all the tests are complete, the micro computer will be switched off and the smartphone will be used to operate parts of the satellite. In fact, while the phone’s own camera will be used to snap images of Earth, a second camera will be mounted inside the satellites housing to gather imagery of the phone’s screen as the team operates the phone remotely. More information can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12253228


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