A group of researchers at the University of Surrey and Surry Satellite Technology have announced a new project to build satellites out of spare cell phone parts and a Kinect camera. The STRaND project will build two shoebox-sized satellites powered with the processors from Google Nexus phones. Each will use Kinect’s camera technology for spatial awareness to help them as they attempt to dock to one another.
In a statement on the project’s website, Shaun Kenyon, STRaND project manager, writes:
“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 story reaffirms the general truth that Kinect is more interesting as a low-cost tool for research and experimentation than it is a gameplay device.