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Mobile phone to be used in space
(24/01/2011 14:37:47)

Scientists are to send a mobile phone into space in order to find out whether its components still work in an airless and weightless environment.

A smartphone will be blasted into orbit as part of an unmanned satellite by researchers at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and the University of Surrey.

Scientists on the ground will monitor which components of the device continue to operate normally when they are above the earth.

SSTL hopes this will open up the world of space exploration to more people, as smartphone technology could potentially drive down the cost of building a satellite.

Dr Chris Bridges, lead researcher at the Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator (STRaND-1) project, said this could prove to be a game-changer" for the industry.

"Smartphones pack lots of components, such as sensors, video cameras, GPS systems and Wi-Fi radios," he commented.

Dr Bridges noted that while these are technologically advanced, they are relatively small and lightweight in comparison to those used in current space satellite technology.

He said applications that are typically used in high-end mobile phones could also be adapted to be used in space.

"The creators of apps for smartphones could feasibly develop apps for satellites," Dr Bridges added.

SSTL will send the mobile device into orbit later this year and use what has been described as a powerful computer to measure its responses to the non-terrestrial environment.

The smartphone will capture images of the skies while it is in space, which will be beamed back to scientists on the Earth.

In addition, the handset will control various functions of the satellite throughout its journey.

This comes shortly after Apple reported that sales of its iPhone handset have continued to increase over the last year.

Figures published last week showed that a record number of the devices were sold during the three months to December 25th 2010.

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