SuitSat

January 28th, 2006 | researchmaterial

One of the strangest satellites in the history of the space age is about to go into orbit. Launch date: Feb. 3rd. That’s when astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) will hurl an empty spacesuit overboard. The spacesuit is the satellite — “SuitSat” for short.

“SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm,” explains Frank Bauer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Some of our Russian partners in the ISS program, mainly a group led by Sergey Samburov, had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites.” SuitSat is a first test of that idea.

“We’ve equipped a Russian Orlan spacesuit with three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power,” says Bauer. “As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground.”

Unlike a normal spacewalk, with a human inside the suit, SuitSat’s temperature controls will be turned off to conserve power. The suit, arms and legs akimbo, possibly spinning, will be exposed to the fierce rays of the sun with no way to regulate its internal temperature.

“Will the suit overheat? How long will the batteries last? Can we get a clear transmission if the suit tumbles?” wonders Bauer. These are some of the questions SuitSat will answer, laying the groundwork for SuitSats of the future…

(Thanks to R Stevens and Heidi MacDonald for sending this)


4 Responses to “SuitSat”

  1. One day, hundreds of years from now, some poor sod on night watch duty on a space station will gaze idly out the window.

    A figure that looks for all the world like the floating corpse of a centuries-dead astronaut will be drifting silently towards him, arms outstretched.

    He will shit himself in terror.

  2. I was saying last night that I really want NASA to put a fake skeleton inside the suit.

  3. Or, y’know, a real one. If that was a checkbox on the organ donor card, you’d better believe I’d check that fucker.

  4. “One day, hundreds of years from now, some poor sod on night watch duty on a space station will gaze idly out the window.

    A figure that looks for all the world like the floating corpse of a centuries-dead astronaut will be drifting silently towards him, arms outstretched.

    He will shit himself in terror.”

    No he won’t. The orbit will only last a month or two before it decays.