Mobile phones blast into space

Few corners of the globe are free from mobile phones, and now handsets are heading into space - where they could dramatically cut the cost of future space missions.

A team of researchers from the UK plan to send an Android smartphone into orbit on board a 4kg nano-satellite later this year.

The research team from the University of Surrey and Surrey Satellite Technology will use the mission to determine whether off-the-shelf mobile phone technology can operate in the harsh environment of space. Once in space, the phone will be bombarded by cosmic and solar radiation, and experience temperatures that veer between extreme heat and cold.

A computer on the ground will check whether the phone is able to operate normally in orbit, and if no problems are found the phone will be used to perform tasks usually carried out by the satellite's main avionics computer.