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Astronauts turn spacesuit into satellite

ISS prepares to launch 'SuitSat'

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SuitSatAstronauts aboard the International Space Station will next week chuck an empty spacesuit out of the airlock and thereby create the world's first "SuitSat".

The Russian Orlan suit features "three batteries, a radio transmitter, and internal sensors to measure temperature and battery power," as Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center explains. Bauer adds: "As SuitSat circles Earth, it will transmit its condition to the ground."

Yes indeed, all you need is "an antenna (the bigger the better) and a radio receiver that you can tune to 145.990 MHz FM" to catch the 5-10 minute flyby as SuitSat passes over (you can calculate your next scheduled visit here).

What you'll hear is a 30-second transmission, followed by a 30 second pause followed by the message: "This is SuitSat-1, RS0RS" and a prerecorded greeting in five languages. The transmission ends with an English-language report on "telemetry: temperature, battery power and mission elapsed time".

The SuitSat idea is aimed mostly at kids and students. The multi-lingual message contains "special words in English, French, Japanese, Russian, German and Spanish for students to record and decipher". There's also Slow Scan TV picture tacked onto the end of the broadcast. Awards are on offer to correct decipherment of the words and identification of the picture. More details on that at the end of the NASA blurb.

SuitSat is due to be cast adrift on 3 February. There's more background technical info here. ®

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