Smartphone fired into space to see if screams can be heard

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Media captionArtist's rendition of the satellite in orbit showing how the phone is fitted inside

A smartphone has been blasted into orbit from India by a team of researchers from the University of Surrey.

They hope to use a purpose-built app to test the theory, immortalised in the film Alien, that "in space no-one can hear you scream".

The phone will play out several of the screams submitted by people online.

The test will monitor the durability of standard commercial components in space.

It will also test two new innovative propulsion systems.

The first - named Warp Drive (Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment) - uses the ejection of a water-alcohol mixture to provide thrust.

The second technology is pulsed plasma thrusters. These use an electric current to heat and evaporate a material, producing a charged gas that can then be accelerated in one direction in a magnetic field to push the satellite in the other direction.

'Fantastic achievement'

The mission will see the so-called "smartphone-sat" - a world first - orbit the Earth for six months.

Image caption The technology has been developed at the University of Surrey

Weighing 4.3 kg (9.5lbs) and measuring 10cm by 30cm (4in by 12in), the satellite has been developed by the University of Surrey's Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL).

"This mission is a fantastic achievement and a great tribute to the hard work of the engineers involved," said Sir Martin Sweeting, director of SSC, and also executive chairman of SSTL.

At first, the Strand-1 satellite will be controlled by a standard onboard computer, but in phase two of the mission, a Google Nexus phone will take the reins - equipped with a number of special apps.

One of them, iTesa, is to record the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone during orbit.

The 360 app will take pictures using the phone's built-in five megapixel camera, and will act as a method of establishing the satellite's position.

Images captured by the app will be posted on Facebook.

Twitter tracking

The Scream in Space app, developed by Cambridge University Space Flight, makes use of several screams that were submitted by visitors to the project's website.

Image caption Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver, had the tagline: "In space no-one can hear you scream"

At various points, the app will play videos of the screams and monitor if the phone's onboard speaker picks up the noise.

The screams set for intergalactic broadcast include this ear-busting effort from Year 6 at Chudleigh CE Community Primacy School and this very dramatic "nooooooo!" from Richard Barrington.

The line "in space no-one can hear you scream" was the tagline for the hugely popular 1979 science-fiction thriller Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver.

In theory, because space is a vacuum there are no molecules, so sound cannot travel as vibrations are not carried.

Strand-1's progress can be tracked on Twitter, where at the time of writing it had just passed over Kenya.

Amateur radio enthusiasts are also encouraged to track the satellite, details of which can be found on the Surrey Satellite Technology website.

The team does not expect to get the smartphone back.

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