02/26/2013 11:31 am ET Updated Feb 26, 2013

First Smartphone In Space, STRaND-1, To Test If Screams Are Audible In A Vacuum (VIDEO)

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or can they?

That's exactly what England's University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) hope to test, using a Google Nexus One, a smartphone built on the Android platform. The phone was successfully launched into orbit on Feb. 24.

This first smartphone in space, dubbed "STRaND-1," isn't for lost astronauts to check in on the lastest gossip or play "Angry Birds" in orbit. Instead, the device will test whether there's any merit to the phrase, "in space, no one can hear you scream," a tagline popularized by the 1979 sci-fi thriller "Alien." The phrase is based on the premise that, because space is a vacuum, there isn't enough molecular movement for sound to travel.

To test this, the phone has been loaded with screams, solicited via an online contest, that will be played in orbit. The phone's microphone will then register any vibrations produced, and report back.

Per the BBC, STRaND-1 will carry out numerous other tests, as well. An app loaded on the device will record the strength of Earth's magnetic field at various points, and a program that utilizes the phone's camera will establish the device's location above the Earth.

Perhaps more important, notes Engadget, will be the experiment's examination of the durability of commercial items in space, a rigorous testing environment by nearly any standard.

According to a press release, the entire apparatus will be controlled by two experimental types of thrusters: a 'Warp Drive,' built around small jets of water and alcohol; and 'Pulsed Plasma Thrusters,' a system designed to "exploit the natural properties of plasma to produce thrust and high velocities with very low fuel consumption," per Nasa.

After the experiments conclude, the phone will slowly drop into a lower orbit and will eventually combust when it enters the atmosphere, a process estimated to take less than 25 years. Until then, it looks like E.T. has a brand new way to "phone home."



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