Science and Exploration - STRaND-1 Smartphone Nanosatellite

STRaND-1 - the World's first SmartPhone Nanosatellite

Space researchers at the University of Surrey's Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and
SSTL have developed STRaND-1, a nanosatellite containing a smartphone payload that will be launched into orbit around the Earth in 2012.

STRaND-1 is being built in engineer's free time and using advanced commercial off-the-shelf components, which fits perfectly with SSTL's innovation and low-cost philosophies. 

STRaND-1 is the first in a series of nanosatellite collaborations between SSTL and SSC - STRaND-2, a twin-satellite mission to test an in-orbit docking system based on XBox Kinect technology has just been announced. (May 2012)

Shaun Kenyon, Project Manager for STRaND-1 says

"What we're hoping to get out of this is some experience of using the cheap but very capable mobile phone technology used in space.  Mobile phones pack lots of components used in satellites - sensors, cameras, GPS, batteries, accelerometers, compasses, data storage - but at a fraction of the size, weight and cost.  What would be cool is to show that all of this capability, squeezed into something as small as a phone, can still work in space. 

"We're not taking it apart; we're not gutting it; we're not taking out the printed circuit boards and re-soldering them into our satellite - we're flying it as is and, in fact, we're going to have another camera on the satellite so we can take a picture of the phone because we want to operate the screen and have some good images of that as well."

"We have no real idea how much will work in space -  we are carrying out extensive ground testing, to be followed up by an in-orbit test campaign - but ultimately the goal at SSTL is always to build more cost-effective, but highly advanced satellite systems."


The phone will run on Android's powerful open-source operating system.  A powerful computer, built at the Surrey Space Centre, will test the vital statistics of the phone once in space.  The computer will check which components of the phone are working normally and will relay images and messages back to Earth via a radio system.  Once all the tests are complete, the plan is to switch off the micro computer and the smartphone will be used to operate parts of the satellite.


Dr Chris Bridges, SSC Project Manager for STRaND says

 "With the help of all the team, the smartphones we've worked with have undergone various software changes to transform the device from a standard phone to an optimised autonomous embedded system for satellite applications." 


The smartphone avionics suite is only one of the many technological advances packed into this 4kg satellite.  To precisely point and maneuver, the satellite also incorporates advanced guidance, navigation and control systems. 

STRaND-1 Space App competition

During the summer of 2011, the STRaND team ran a facebook competition to find apps which will be loaded onto the phone and will fly in orbit.  There are four winners making use of the technology of the Android smartphone, including the microphone, speakers, camera and display in conjunction with the satellite's conventional features - enabling STRaND-1 to do things in space that no-one has done before.


The winning apps

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 enabe new graphical telemetry to interpret trends.

Postcards from Space and 360 are joint winners, using an app that 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 a website, where images can be seen on a map showing where they have been acquired.

The Scream in Space app will make full use of the smartphone's speakers.  Testing the theory 'in space no-one can hear you scream, made popular in the 1979 film 'Alien', the app will allow the public to upload videos of themselves screaming in a creative way to an allocated website.  The most popular videos will be played on the phone while in orbit and the scream recorded using the smartphone's microphone. 

For more information visit 



Want to know more?


STRaND-1 factsheet

Paper - STRaND1 presented at 1st IAA Conference on University Satellite Missions and CubeSat workshop, Rome 2011

Paper - STRaND-1: Use of a $500 smartphone as the central avionics of a nanosatellite (presented at the 62nd International Astronautical Congress, 2011

SSTL Space Blog: find out about the pulsed plasma propulsion onboard STRaND-1

SSTL STRaND-1 press release

SSTL Space Blog: What's smaller than small? Nanosats

From Micro to Nano - seeking the business sweet spot - SatMagazine January 2011

STRaND-1 in the news:

Android reaches new heights - Flight International

Space apps: smartphone at heart of satellite mission - New Scientist

Mobile phone to blast into orbit - BBC News website

Smartphone Powered Satellites are Destined for Space

Android Powered Satellite Headed to Space - Time: Techland


Some of the SSTL STRaND-1 Project Team, from Left to Right:

Bob Dyer, Nick Holt, Dale Mellor, Mark Brenchley, Shaun Kenyon, Jonathan Gebbie, Rupert Taylor, Rosie Linehan, James Parsons, Andy Schofield


The SSC STRaND-1 Team 

Some of the SSC STRaND-1 project team from Left to Right:

Lourens Visagie, Prof. Craig Underwood, Shaun Kenyon (SSTL), Dr. Chris Bridges, Theo Theodorou, Prof. Vaios Lappas, Dr Herman Stein, Dr. Pete Shaw