Surrey-based space boffins have put a Google Nexus 1 into orbit to see how an Android phone copes with the rigours of space - and whether they can hear it scream.
The handset hasn't been switched on yet. It's being carried in STRaND-1: a 4.3kg microsatellite that was itself carried into space by an Indian rocket, ISRO PSLV-C20, and is now happily in touch with the ground.
The STRaND-1 team, drawn from the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology, reckons it will take a couple of weeks to get the micro-bird commissioned after which they'll be booting up the Nexus 1 and (all being well) handing over control to the Android handset. The phone is physically unmodified but is running the boffins' software and is hooked up via USB.
Once in command, the Nexus 1 will take some snaps with its integrated camera and measure changes in the surrounding magnetic field using its built-in magnometer. It'll also play videos of people screaming and try to record the performance using its microphone and a separate camera. This, er, experiment was cooked up by Cambridge University students as a homage to the Alien movie tagline "in space no one can hear you scream".
The screaming is quite silly given the way sound fails to propagate through the vacuum of space (much to the annoyance of many a Hollywood director), but it serves to publicise the project. The second camera will also record another screen showing the satellite's telemetry.
The STRaND-1 is one of six microsatellites launched by ISRO PSLV-C20 (along with a proper bird designed for oceanological studies), and the only one from the UK.
When it's not fiddling with its smartphone, STRaND-1 will test out a WARP DRiVE, which disappointingly turns out to involve squirting alcohol mist to trigger reentry (hence the name Water Alcohol Resistojet Propulsion Deorbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) rather than anything likely to attract the attention of a passing Vulcan scout ship. But it could prove very useful to future microsatellites along with the Pulsed Plasma Thruster it will also be testing.
Radio amateurs may wish to pick up STRaND-1's transmissions from space, while the rest of us can drop into the Facebook page or watch the team's Twitter feed to see if the Nexus 1 can stand up to cosmic radiation and hard vacuum, and if the Vulcans are more observant than one might imagine. ®