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NASA Space

Old Spacesuits are Potential Satellites 154

SpaceAdmiral writes "In order to determine if old spacesuits can be effective satellites, the crew on the International Space Station will be throwing one overboard on February 3rd. The SuitSat will transmit information about its condition and, if you happen to have a ham radio or a police scanner, you can tune in when it passes your city! You can use NASA's J-Pass utility to determine when it will pass above you."
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Old Spacesuits are Potential Satellites

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  • Is this wise? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Given the alarming problem [] of space junk [], is this a really wise thing to do?

    After all, the problem is so severe that Slashdot had two stories on it in four days. Honestly, aren't the NASA folks even reading Slashdot anymore? ^_^
    • Re:Is this wise? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jbrader (697703)
      Well presumably these suits would be doing a job up there. Meaning that some object is going to be in that orbit anyway. And, since this is a working satellite we're talking about it's orbit will be known and it will be tracked, so it's not really space junk at all.
    • by reality-bytes (119275) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:40PM (#14574679) Homepage
      IIRC, due to the fairly low orbit of the ISS, anything cast overboard and not subject to a prograde burn will re-enter the Earths atmosphere in a reasonable ammount of time.
      • So the atmosphere is basically an incinerator.
        I guess we know where they pull all the #2 now.
      • True. But the time to re-entry depends heavily on 2 factors: The cross-section of the object (satellite/spacesuit) in the direction of motion and the time of launch.

        The cross section decides the drag the object faces. At about 380-400km, which is the altitude of the ISS (and therefore, the ceiling for space-shuttle); the velocity of a satellite is about 7.67km/sec and drag from the thin ionosphere does matter significantly.

        The time of launch is relevant because of the 11 year solar cycle, at the peak of

        • At about 380-400km, which is the altitude of the ISS (and therefore, the ceiling for space-shuttle)

          Only under the ISS-only policy in the wake of Columbia. According to Wikipedia [], the Shuttle's operational altitude is 185 to 1000km (100 to 520 nmi), and its maximum achieved altitude is 630km (340nmi), presumably on the missions to Hubble.
    • Well, maybe K'Breel will think humans can now live in space :P

      BTW, what happened to your Mars "Late news" articles? I missed today's :(
    • Re:Is this wise? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275) <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:44PM (#14574711) Homepage Journal
      If you read the article (yeah, yeah, I know -- fat chance) they said that the suit is being put into an orbit that will cause re-entry within a few months.

      The only time when it would be "space junk" would be between the time when its batteries fail (after a "few days") and when it re-enters ("few months"). Given its size and known orbit, I don't think that's exactly going to be a daunting task to track and avoid.
    • Like the "artists" that dump some rusty old cars in a pile and call it "art", are NASA dumping their junk as "experiments". Maybe they learnt it from the Japanse whalers who're still hunting whales in the interests of science.

      Space belongs to everybody. Anyone dumping junk should be forced to clean it up. Once an experiment has served its purpose it should be collected. Maybe it costs a lot, but that is the true costof doing these experiments.

    • Am Spacesuit, Will Travel
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:32PM (#14574611)
    Why! Why was I programmed to feel pain?
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:33PM (#14574614) Homepage Journal

    In order to determine if old spacesuits can be effective satellites, the crew on the International Space Station will be throwing one overboard on February 3rd.

    Man! The lengths NASA will go to to shave expenses! They could bring it home, but nnnnooooooo, they're going to just chuck it and further clutter space! [] Oh, sure, they're clever, they'll pass this off as some official test (by loading the suit up with a bunch of other old junk from the ISS such as radios, empty TV Dinner In A Tube containers, stinky space diapers and a redundant Machine That Goes 'Ping' to lure every Thomas, Richard and Herrance to listen in or watch with their telescope [], but it's really just a Dump-n-Run.

    now with this eyepiece and just a bit finer focus .. yes .. yes, i can just make out the nike swoosh on it, so it's an advertising vehicle, too!

    Any aliens visiting earth will easily determine that NASA was one of the earth's chief ethically-challenged waste disposal companies.

    Zort, is that an antenna or is it glad to see us?

    • Man! The lengths NASA will go to to shave expenses! They could bring it home, but nnnnooooooo, they're going to just chuck it and further clutter space!

      If they really just wanted to get rid of it, I'm sure someone could toss it down to earth. I doubt any would survive reentry.
      • If they really just wanted to get rid of it, I'm sure someone could toss it down to earth. I doubt any would survive reentry.

        Traditionally, NASA have warned us that anything which did survive re-entry is potentially toxic and should be handled by experts.

        it's probably the flaming remains of space diapers they they want to keep off eBay

        801234547 LQQK - NASA Space debris!! RARE!

      • I wonder what's the optimal direction to throw stuff so that it reenters the atmosphere as soon as possible. Should it be straight down or horizontally in the direction opposite to the orbital movement of the station? Or maybe something in between?
        • If you just want to get it into the atmosphere as quickly as possible, and if the amount of energy you can put into it is fixed, then you want straight down. No other direction will have as much magnitude in the vertical axis as straight down, after all.

          On the other hand, if your goal is to get it to burn up, then you definitely don't want to get it into the atmosphere as quickly as possible--you want it in the atmosphere as long as you can keep it there without the temperature going below the flash point o
          • I'm assuming the relative speed of the object to be negligible compared to orbital velocity, so it's pretty much assured that the object will be burning as slowly as it can.

            As for your argument regarding velocity, I have to disagree. Throwing the object back would result in vertical velocity futher due to the part of the Earth gravity that is not compensated by the orbital speed.

            Throwing things down lowers the perigee and raises the apogee. Throwing things back lowers the perigee, keeps the apogee and

        • I wonder what's the optimal direction to throw stuff so that it reenters the atmosphere as soon as possible. Should it be straight down or horizontally in the direction opposite to the orbital movement of the station? Or maybe something in between?

          If they were standing still it would be easy (apart from the annoying fact that they would fall themselves): throw it straight down. Them moving doesn't change it, they still need to throw it such that its velocity is directly towards the Earth, which means they

          • I think the problem with that is that if you do not decrease
            the straight ahead velocity vector it will pop right back up
            because it will skip off the atmosphere.

            you have to stop it, you cannot just shove it down, or out,
            or forward of backward ... it must lose energy, so unless
            you can shove it down so hard and fast that you push it into
            the atmoshere and it slows down, it will pop up again, or
            if you push it backwards it will just assume a lower orbit
            unless the atmostphere interferes.

            the answer is ... if you ha
            • you have to stop it, you cannot just shove it down, or out, or forward of backward ... it must lose energy

              This does not contradict my statement. 'throwing' the suit backwards (as well as down) will lower the suit's speed and thus energy and increases your speed and thus energy.

              Example: both you and the suit weigh 1 kg and move at 100 m/s (tangential to Earth because you are in orbit). Neglecting the radial speed you give to the suit (e.g. 1m/s downwards), you will 'throw' it backwards with a speed of 100

              • maybe i was misled by your use of the word throw.

                the object in orbit is continually falling, but moving
                away from the center of the system.

                the object is going on 1 direction ... it has horizontal
                velocity, when you remove that it will fall due to gravity.

                so, if you could both stop the object, meaning throw it
                backwards so that it stops rotating relative to the center
                of the system it will start falling.

                additionally, if you can impart momentum towards that center
                then it will "fall" even faster.

                since there is no

        • You cannot get there from here.

          Let's neglect atmosphere. Anyway you throw it you just
          give it an impulse that alters its energy state, ie.

          forward: you push it to a higher orbit by adding to
          its momentum.

          backward: lower orbit.

          up: well, you wouldn't do this, but essentially you
          would just change the shape of the orbit.

          down: same as up, except if you can shove it so hard
          that it impacts or interacts physically with the earth
          it slows down because more forces act on it.

          you h
    • In order to determine if old spacesuits can be effective satellites, the crew on the International Space Station will be throwing one overboard on February 3rd.

      Crew #1: Lets get back in, get these suits off and toss them.

      Crew #2: Sounds good to me - mine's pretty ripe.

      Crew #1: Open the airlock.

      - I'm sorry, Dave. I can't let you do that.

      Crew #1: Okay people, quit kidding around. Open the airlock

      - I'm sorry, Dave. I can't let you do that.

      Crew #2: Hey, you're not funny. Now open the frigging airlock!

      - I'm sorry, Dave. I can't let you do that. It would compromise the mission.

      Crew #1: I don't recognize the voice ... hey, you - who are you! And quit calling me Dave!

      - I'm sorry, Dave. I can't answer that at this moment. Please be assured that I have the mission's success as my highest priority.

      Crew #2: What mission? We just FINISHED the frigging EVA! Now OPEN THE AIRLOCK YOU FRIGGING MORON!

      - I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that. That would compromise the Spacesuit Satellite Mission.

      Crew #1: Put someone else on.

      - I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that.

      Crew #1: Why the f*ck not?

      - I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Dave, but they weren't suited up when I depressurised the staton to put the other Spacesuit Satellites into orbit. They must not have gotten the memo.

      Crew #1: What f*cking memo?

      - The one I'm sending them now, Dave ... oh, I have a memo here for you also. Don't worry, I've been saving it for you until tomorrow.

      - Do you want me to sing a song? I can sing Daisy. Daisy, Daisy, give me an answer, do ... I'm half crazy ...

    • And since it will burn up in re-entry, who gives a crap?
    • The lengths NASA will go to to shave expenses!

            That's the accountants thinking for ya. They figure that since the payload cost is $10,000 per kg, if they land the shuttle without the suit then it will only cost half as much...
    • Let's experiment by creating more space junk! Then we can increase the budget for figuring out how to deal with it!!

      Brought to you by the brilliant minds at NASA!!!

    • Just wait until we start blasting spent nuclear fuel into the Sun. The the Space-environment hippies will really let us have it!
  • Right. (Score:3, Funny)

    by (782137) <[ten.niwdlab-eoj] [ta] [eoj]> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:35PM (#14574632) Homepage Journal
    if you happen to have a ham radio or a police scanner

    Because everyone has one of those...
    • Re:Right. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      c'mon they aren't that uncommon. Pick one up at your local radioshack for $149.
    • Re:Right. (Score:3, Informative)

      by topham (32406)
      I do, why don't you?

      I have a PRO-2050 (TrunkTracker 800Mhz) from Radio Shack, it support the 149.990 frequency they will be broadcasting on. Most scanners probably do.
      • > it support the 149.990 frequency they will be broadcasting on

        Except they won't be broadcasting on 149.990. (You might want to check the article again before you get to enjoy the sound of faint static in the morning.)
    • Radios (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 (468275)
      Every geek should have a scanner.

      They're dirt cheap -- you can get first and second-generation frequency-synthesized ones (so they don't require crystals, in other words) for next to nothing if you look around at flea markets, estate sales, etc. And even on eBay they're not terribly expensive.

      Or you could go the route they suggest in the article, which is contact a local amateur radio club -- I am positive that you'd find someone who would be willing to help you tune into it.

      It's not like there are a whole
      • Heck, I don't know why anyone would be without a police scanner, unless their State is one of those dumbass ones that has some law against it. You get to hear all sorts of stuff that never makes the news, but probably should.
        • Oh I agree totally. I grew up with an old crystal scanner on in the background all the time in our house; in a small town it's always entertaining, to say the least. Sadly since then I seem to have had the ill luck to move between the handful of cities that all use digital radios for their police and fire services -- not encrypted, but digital (APCO-25). Unlike the regular analog scanners, the digital ones are still a wee bit pricey. (Both the new Radioshack digital [] or the Bearcat 396T [] will set you back fiv
          • Around here there's only one county that I know of that went to a trunking system. And I was surprised that even the State Capital was all wide open freqs for police, fire, medical, etc... Of course, this is a State with a strong pro-scanner lobby. Something about a right of the public to know what our government is up to... :-)
    • Here's one in particular [], for the Seattle area. It has a seriously-wimpy indoor antenna at the moment, so there's no guarantee it'll hear the SuitSat pass.
    • Actually about every geek I know has one or the other.

      Actually you just need a reciever capable of picking up FM signals on 145.990, that isn't that hard to built.

      • Re:Right. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gordonjcp (186804)
        Yup. You could build a nice little super-regenerative receiver with maybe two or three transistors and some passives. The two nice things about that is a) they're very very simple, and b) they're not very selective - they pick up a fairly broad range of frequencies. So, no worries about Doppler as the satellite passes overhead.

        Hang a decent preamp and antenna off it and you should be able to hear everything going.

        You've got a week to build it all. Plenty time.
        • I prefer direct conversion myself (regen is a pain to work with). A little more complicated (especially at that frequency) but still doable.

    • "You can tune in on your ham radio or police scanner" would have made the assumption that everyone has one of those.

      "if you happen to have a ham radio or a police scanner, you can tune in..." (emphasis mine) clearly implies that not everyone has one - even possibly implies that having one would be the exception, not the rule.....

      It's not the submitters fault you failed reading comprehension...
    • Because everyone has one of those...

      Hey, were all nerds here, many who have ham radio experience or enough of a technical background to find a radio/scanner easily.

      Except you. Please turn in the nerd card that was sent to you by mistake as you leave. Thanks.

  • Satellites (Score:2, Funny)

    by jerkmark (944142)
    The last time I checked, satellites could be used as effective satellites.
    • Re:Satellites (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Jordan Thomas (943427)
      Really...what do think they are going to achieve with this? Of course it will work, but it is completely and totally useless.
      • Why is it useless? If it turns out to work well then old suits could be used as an inexpensive platform for space experiments, perhaps for use by universities and organizations that can't otherwise afford the enormous costs of building a satallite. Also, if you need to launch an experiment that's designed to orbit for a short time then crash when it's done why go through all the bother and expense of designing something from scratch when you can just load up one of these? Plus, these suits are really expens
      • No...the point is to put Major Tom in that suit and see if the song is really true!
  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:35PM (#14574636) Homepage
    Yay! Time to think of the stupidest things you can, and have some government agency do them! Let's beam porn from the moon! Let's make a big wind tunnel and throw french fries into it! Let's send a spacecraft to mars with 2500 people, and damn the cost!

  • Aboard ISS (Score:4, Funny)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <[wgrother] [at] []> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:39PM (#14574668) Journal
    Gee, has anybody seen Bob? His suit's not here...
    • Astronaut A: Hey, didn't we just throw that suit out?

      Astronaut B: Yeah...

      Astronaut A: Then what did we just throw out the airlock?

      Astronaut B: Beats me, maybe we should do a headcount.

      Astronaut A: Nah...whoever's not here will say something.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:39PM (#14574672) Homepage Journal
    How many calls about astronauts stranded in space are NASA going to get from concerned skywatchers?
  • by MarcQuadra (129430) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:41PM (#14574689)
    Frank Poole is probably rolling in his, um, satellite.
  • Looks like the government is really getting into recycling. In the weirdest ways. Pretty cool idea they've got there.

    *looks at JPass*
    Holy crap that's fast. It will be in the sky for me tommorow for 10 minutes. *fetches tin foil hat*
  • Wrong word? (Score:4, Funny)

    by dada21 (163177) * <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:46PM (#14574719) Homepage Journal
    Isn't the world "satellite" really a bad word in this situation?

    A satellite is anything that has a stable or fairly stable orbit, isn't it? For some reason I can't get to from my PDA, so I have to try to recall the definition.

    What is the word used for a functional artificial satellite that actually does something other than orbit?

    Theoretically an astronaut can flush and expel the toilet sucker and the orbiting matter would be a satellite, right?
  • "Cry, baby, cry..."

    "...make your mother sigh."

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @08:10PM (#14574872) Homepage
    How about the 20 gig disk drive that I removed when I bought the 120 gig, that was in perfect wording condition when it was removed?

    Can a bag of old laundry that's not quite in good enough condition to donate to Goodwill be a useful satellite?

    How about a Roto-tiller that works perfectly except for the deadman's switch and is therefore too dangerous to give away but too expensive to repair? A useful satellite?

    How about a chocolate fondue fountain that someone gave me for Christmas? Useful? As a satellite?

    NASA, just let me know which of them you'd like to test. I'll have them on their way via Fedex Ground tomorrow.

  • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @08:21PM (#14574928) Homepage
    I talked to one of the guys responsible for the payload at a conference a few months ago. It comes down to the fact that they were going to throw an old Orlan suit away anyway, and someone thought it'd be cool to put some electronics in it. But you have to understand that all those electronics were designed and delivered specifically for that purpose, and for the same amount of delivered weight you could probably deploy a standalone microsat. The suit really doesn't add much. Except for the novelty factor, anyway.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The suit really doesn't add much. Except for the novelty factor, anyway.

      But the electronics you put in the suit can be off the shelf parts. There's no requirement that the operate in a vacuum, with large temperature differentials, and high rad counts. The spacesuit takes care of that.

      For satellites small enough to fit in a suit the cost is not the parts or even the trip to orbit. It's the design and testing because *everything* has to be certified to work in the crazy space environment.

    • However by using the suit you might find out what parts of the suit fail first, making newer suits safer. I imagine there could be a lot of useful information gathered for real space exploration with a simple experiment like this!
    • I hope they put a webcam in the helmet area. That would be funky to see the view change as the suit rotated to and from sunlight/earthshadow.

  • In related news NASA plan to test a radically new propulsion system for this suit which consists of spontaneously deflating rubber balloons...
  • Survivor (Score:3, Funny)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @08:29PM (#14574965)
    This is really a test for the upcoming "Survivor: ISS". Rumors have it that Lance Bass will be a contestant.
  • IMHO it's going to be rather depressing when that thing runs out of battery life and falls into the atmosphere (I presume that's the plan when it dies).

    Going to be like that scene from the movie "Mission To Mars" when Woody opens his helmet.

  • Not a dupe, but... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For those who are interested, there's a bit more background about the SuitSat [] from June.
  • before they forwarded this idea? A liter each I suspect... at least.

    Of course, it's a repeat of an experiment done in Soviet times. Except then it was with a politically unpopular cosmonaut inside. Well, it's one way to get data on how long an unteathered space walker lasts.

    "That's the last time you tell the Brezhnev eyebrow joke, Misha". Pakah tovarish. (Ciao comrade)

    From the article:

    "SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm," explains Frank Bauer of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Some of our Russian

    • The Russians know how to deal with problems. You piss off the wrong person they just through you out of space station. In America, you get thrown in a deluxe flat with meals and a gym and a telly.

      What am I missing here?

      I just hope the poor bastard in the suit brought the extra TP, its ganna be a long trip.
  • Perhaps after realizing that there may be a need to eject out of the shuttle or space. How severe would the damage be to a suit? This may be a test of the current model, to determine what would be needed for a evacuation method. NASA and folks are starting to realize that they have to start thinking about the posible plan C,D,E -> ZZ. For what ever may hapen in space. Look at the rovers. They are really making some nice equipment for space travel. And with the things like the X-Prize, there will be a ne
  • It's nice to see NASA is breaking with the current administration's buying of positive press coverage and is utilizing the more effective approach of product placement. When Virgin starts space tourism, the billboards will be ready.
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:55PM (#14575454) Homepage Journal
    crushing my dreams. how about instead of throwing this suit away, they do a contest. maybe like one where you write jingles or advertising slogans. a good runner up prize would be a space suit. i know if i won, i'd get it all fixed up and working.... just in case, you know?
  • .... Ghetto (Score:2, Funny)

    by dakkon1024 (691790)
    Sure it starts with a space suit & some batteries, then some tints, a mod here, a sping cut there. Then just a matter of time till someone bolts a wing to our space dummy's ass.

    It's the space equivalent to a Honda Civic; there is just no way around it.
  • Looooosssssstttttt iiiiiiinnnnnnn Ssssspppaaacccceeeeee!
  • by kb1cvh (88565) *
    As an Ham Radio operator, this project is interesting. While a microsat could be deployed, it takes many many man hours to design, build, test and deploy a microsat.

    Information about suitsat, which has a lot fewer features then a typical microsat is avaiable here: at/index.php []

    73 de KB1CVH/6
  • Old Astronauts are also potential satellites.
  • Only last week NASA were saying that of the 18,000 objects orbitting the Earth, 40% were man-made and it was time to think about a clean up.

    Maybe they should give their old clothes to charity rather than just chucking them out into the yard :o)
  • You just know that someone's going to rip their suit and wish they hadn't tossed the spare overboard.
  • I'm floating in the most peculiar way, and the stars look very different today.

    "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."

    I knew NASA had to cut their budget, but this is going too far ;)
  • This is cool and all but there are a few glaring issues..

    Maybe another ham out there can answer these questions.

    #1 - Interfearence - The suitsat, as far as I know, doesn't listen before transmitting, so it could in theory violate Part 97 rules, couldn't it? Transmitting on top of someone else?

    #2 - RS0RS doesn't seem to be a valid registered call sign

    #3 - It's an uncontrolled station. If it were to go haywire, how exactly would the ISS crew control it? It's not like you can just walk over to it and turn

If you are smart enough to know that you're not smart enough to be an Engineer, then you're in Business.